Henry Herx, Catholic film critic, scholar and head of US Bishops’ film office – obituary

Henry Herx, Catholic film critic, scholar and head of US Bishops’ film office – obituary September 11, 2012


I wrote a blog post for the National Catholic Reporter today noting the death of Henry Herx. Click here to access the story.

As soon as I sent that off I received an email from James Wall in Chicago. Jim is a contributing editor to The Christian Century magazine and from 1972 – 1999 was the editor of the magazine. I met Jim at the City of Angels Film Festival in 2000 at a screening of John Ford’s The Searchers. I did not realize that Jim was a greater fan of the film that I was. Since then we have become friends and we keep in touch.

You can access Jim’s blog here: WallWritings

Jim was friends with Henry Herx and together with Ron Holloway were early ecumenical collaborators in film criticism and assessing cinema through the lens of the Gospels.  He sent me  his tribute to Henry and said I could share it with you:

From James Wall:

Dear Rose,

I suspect you saw this NYTimes obit on our friend and colleague,  Henry Herx.

Henry died on August 15. The obituary ran on September 8. He died from complications related to liver cancer.

We all know what a huge contribution Henry made to the church-film industry relations. He was THE Catholic who guided the US Catholic Conference of Bishops in the early and middle years of the ratings system. He was a film scholar of the first rank. He certainly taught me a great deal about the history of film. His taste in film shaped how I felt toward the art.

Henry was my partner for many years as the Catholic representative to the Appeals Board of the Motion Picture Association of America.  We owe him a great deal for helping Father Patrick J. Sullivan, SJ proceed through those early steps of ecumenical involvement with the industry.  Thanks in great measure to Henry, film industry leaders who had previously seen Catholics as the Legion of Decency, began to have a different understanding, thanks to the scholarship and love of film Henry brought to the table.

We have been missing his presence in this project since he retired from the USCCB office of film. Now we will miss his presence among us.

I was delighted to see the NYTimes give him such a prominent and respectful send off. The obit focused on his film reviews, and displayed no knowledge of his involvement in the ratings history.  We can live with that, but it does leave out a solid piece of his contribution to connecting church and cinema.

To the Times’ credit it did take note of the start of Henry’s partnership with Ron Holloway, in Chicago, as they created the Catholic Center for Film Study.  The two young men asked me several years after they have created the Center, to join the board as a Protestant representative.

They left the Center in my hands when they both moved away, Henry to  New York to work for the Catholic Office for Film and Broadcast, and Ron to Berlin, where he became a major presence in film there. Without the two of them in Chicago, however,  the writing of film study guides stopped. I still have mimeographed copies ….

— Jim

Click here for current information about film reviews from Catholic News Service

Thank you, Jim. May Henry and Ron rest in peace. R



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