HACKENSACK, N.J. – Henry Herx sat through 10,000 movies. To him, moral content was as important as artistic merit.

That’s because the reviews he wrote were read and trusted by the Catholic movie-going public.

Herx, of Ramsey, N.J., retired in 1999 as director of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Office for Film and Broadcasting.

He died on Wednesday, at age 79. The cause was cancer, his son Joseph said.

The Catholic Church and Hollywood have long had a contentious relationship. Lacking faith in the film industry’s ability to police what ends up on the screen, the U.S. bishops introduced their own movie rating system in 1936.

Into the fray later stepped Herx, whose fascination with Hollywood was rooted in the second-run films he watched in his youth in Chicago.

For more than 30 years, Herx prepared the bishops’ movie ratings and wrote reviews that were distributed by the Catholic News Service. He also edited movie guides, including “Our Sunday Visitor’s Family Guide to Movies and Videos,” in which he evaluated thousands of titles through the prism of Catholic doctrine and took stock of sexual content, violence and offensive language.

Herx, who held bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Loyola, a Jesuit Catholic university in Chicago, seemingly had little patience for Hollywood, if his comments to the Catholic News Service were any indication.

“It’s time to get a little more serious about the art of what they’re doing instead of the self-indulgent twaddle that comes out,” he said in an interview upon his retirement.

But Herx never walked out on self-indulgent twaddle, or anything worse. He once remarked to his son how the reviewing team of Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel admitted to bailing on a particularly awful movie.

“My father was very upset at that,” Joseph Herx said. “No matter how bad a film is, he felt his job was to sit there and watch it and give an honest review.”

Sister Mary Ann Walsh, director of media relations for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, worked closely with Herx at the Office for Film and Broadcasting when she was the Catholic News Service’s media editor. (The film office became part of Catholic News Service two years ago.)

“Henry understood Hollywood, and his judgment was impeccable,” she said. “He saw the trends and made us realize that we had to review broadcast television as well.”

As an example of his insight, Walsh pointed to Herx’s favorable review of “The Full Monty,” the small-budget 1997 British flick about six unemployed, working-class men who, needing quick money, form a striptease act.

Noting that the men were uncomfortable as strippers, Herx saw the movie as a triumph of the human spirit — and said it had more to offer than that year’s blockbuster, “Titanic.”

“He recognized the movie was about, among other things, modesty,” Walsh said. “He didn’t give it a knee-jerk reaction.”

Herx’s organization assigned “The Full Monty” a rating of A-IV — adults, with some reservations.

Herx is survived by his children, Katherine Herx, Margaret DeLibero, Joseph Herx and Jeffrey Wu; four siblings and four grandchildren.

His wife, Marilyn, died in 2005; a daughter, Lyz Herx-Kenselaar died in 2008; and a son, Stephen Herx, died in 2009.