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Pornography is the cancer of our times

People are shedding their embarrassment over speaking up

By on Monday, 28 January 2013

Automatic net porn filter rejected

I read a thought-provoking article on LifeSiteNew last October 24. Written by Fr Michael Shields, pastor of the Church of the Nativity in Magadan, Russia, it was entitled “Pornography is the silent “cancer” of our time.” Fr Shields wrote, “Pornography came to Magadan like a cold wind, blowing through the city and leaving behind openly pornographic magazines and videos strewn across newsstands and book stores. It arrived all at once.” He compared this new “cancer” to cigarette-smoking: how people were at first ignorant of its bad effects on health; how it was tolerated until “slowly society changed as people learned that cigarettes can cause cancer. Movements began to ban cigarette smoking in public places. Signs warning of the dangers appeared on packages and billboards…Over time, a smoking culture changed into a non-smoking culture.” Fr Shields concluded his article by stating soberly, “We are in a similar time right now – tolerating a very terrible cancer that is eating away at our society and destroying homes, marriages and souls…”

One might add that it is also destroying young peoples’s lives. I had filed this article away, but given the spate of articles and media interest in the subject of children and pornography this last week – Allison Pearson in the Telegraph on Thursday, Catherine Pepinster on Thought for the Day on Friday, and Cole Moreton in yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph, for instance – it seems timely to re-read Fr Shields and ponder his words.

Pornography is a difficult subject for the secular, liberal society that we live in to tackle. On the one hand it insists that adults, anyone over the age of 16, are free to do whatever they want with their bodies and that any form of censorship is wrong; that anyone who calls for restraints on behaviour is narrow-minded or a bigot; and that as long as one’s conduct “doesn’t hurt anyone else” it must be tolerated. This freedom to do as we please as regards sex must never be questioned. On the other hand, it insists on unworkable schemes to protect children from the merest and remotest possibility of paedophile attacks and conducts retrospective witch hunts on alleged past sexual predators. Both these stances are confused, contradictory and hypocritical.

What struck me, on reading Moreton and Allison Pearson, is their sense of embarrassment in having to relinquish their liberal credentials when it comes to the corruption of young people by pornography. Moreton wants us to know, “I’m not a prude, but…” and Pearson writes, “It’s not often that I unleash my inner Mary Whitehouse, but the way young girls today are expected to conform to a hideous porn culture makes me want to don a pair of glasses with upswept frames and get myself one of those battleaxe perms.” (Note her mention of the easily caricatured physical appearance of a good and brave Christian woman who tried to draw the country’s attention to this growing problem as early as the 1960s.)

But it was what Pearson went on to say later in her article that particularly caught my attention: “I spent three minutes looking at YouPorn yesterday and I felt like I needed at least three years in a darkened room listening to the B Minor Mass to reconstitute my soul. What the hell would this writhing abyss look like to a 14-year-old…?” As far as I know Pearson is not someone of religious faith; yet confronted by sheer evil she looks instinctively towards the kind of spiritual beauty exemplified by Bach in order to cleanse herself from its destructive effects.

This is not a surprise to a Catholic. We know we are fallen creatures; that Hell is real (and starts in this life); that our souls, according to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, refer to “that by which [man] is most especially in God’s image”; that the Mass is not just a peak aesthetic experience but actually enacts the deepest drama of our redemption; and perhaps most importantly in this context, that only the grace of sacramental Confession can truly cleanse those same souls once they have been in contact with pornography. (I should add here I have never watched YouPorn, even for reasons of journalistic research, for the simple reason I know it would be very bad for me, like drinking poison. Not for nothing does the Church warn us to “carefully avoid occasions of sin.”)

Like Pearson, I want to protect the innocence of children, and these days my grandchildren. Not being technological, I cannot suggest ways this might be done effectively, either on the internet or on mobiles – indeed, if it is possible. But like Fr Shields, I see it not just as a very serious social or psychological problem, but as a spiritual cancer that, in his words, is “destroying souls.” In his article he is talking of adult male addiction in particular; but he would agree that children and young people will imitate the adults around them, adults who are shaping today the society that these young people will inherit tomorrow. If adults demand freedom from moral constraints over their own behaviour, what example are they giving to the next generation? Moreton and Pearson are rightly appalled at the corrosive effect on children by easy access to pornography. But where were journalists like them when Mary Whitehouse was fighting her lonely battle against the sophisticated liberal intelligentsia of her day? I suspect they were mocking her seeming prudery, provincialism and lower middle-class values.

  • OldMeena

    Please read my replies, especially to “skyptical chymist”.

  • OldMeena

    I’m not sure of the context at this comment. I probably meant pornographic. It began as innocent activity and habit in the ancient world but was converted into what we NOW understand by pornography by the early Christians.

    As a senior teacher (academic work: mathematics) with pastoral duties relating mainly to 14 to 18 year old girls I fully understand the meaning of the terminology and have attended several courses at university on the issues involved and the effects on young people. I have also had years of actual experience – “in the field”.

  • polycarped

    I can see you might be reasonably adept with a dictionary but i think you need to work harder on the common sense bit before advising others, especially if you are Catholic. Try examining your conscience carefully, even after your ‘moderate’ viewing. Consumption of pornography is not harmless – for anyone involved – at all. I agree with you 100% that parents must indeed do their job (I do all the things you mention) but to suggest that even a minimal level of porn consumption is harmless is a load of twaddle frankly.

  • OldMeena

    Please see some of my other replies.

    I am very well-informed of the issues.

  • JabbaPapa

    Why should I not point out that the article is about pornography, and that Meeny’s blatant misunderstanding of the very meaning of that word makes the entirety of her reactions to it more than suspect ?

  • Acleron

    So Mary Whitehouse was ignored and society fell apart. But strangely it still appears to be more vibrant, more diverse and much more equal than the pseudo-moralistic Victorian society that she and Francis Phillips want to revisit on us.

  • kittydeer

    This person trolls this blog taking an opposite view to almost everything that is Catholic in nature. She/he should stick to Dawkins but I suppose Meena has an itch that can only be stratched on a Catholic website

  • kittydeer

    She/he has nothing better to do, look at the length of his/hers replies.

  • JabbaPapa

    it still appears to be more vibrant, more diverse and much more equal

    … the sad thing is that you probably even believe that.

  • Scyptical Chymist

     Yes Nesbyth – please do as OldMeena says and make up your own mind.

  • Angela

    Indeed. If the internet had been around in Victorian times there would have been a plague of pornography.

  • Acleron

    I can understand your comment, even though, unlike yourself I have no need for fabrication. Life expectancy, health and wealth have all improved since the Victorian era and indeed since Whitehouse’s time. That’s not to say it cannot be improved, an obvious area is the unfair privilege afforded some people. Trying to move backwards to a time that disadvantaged so many of society is manifestly wrong.

    Pornography has always been available, it was just restricted to the wealthy, the old ‘do as I say, not as I do’ system. Pornography that is the result of coercion, mainly women, is also wrong but we have laws to correct that. Convincing other countries to also treat women as equals and not second class citizens should be the aim. But what is preventing many countries from enacting such laws? Yup, it’s religion.

  • Nesbyth

    I have written nothing to suggest that my mind is not made up.
    As for OLDMEENA, she trivialises this subject.

  • Peter

    No, it is just that he can’t usually be bothered to listen to prayers. Reminds me of George Bernard Shaw’s answer to Dame Laurentia McLachlan OSB when he asked her to get the community at Stanbrook to pray for him, an atheist. “I imagine your prayers are the only prayers that don’t get on the Heavenly nerves.”

  • PornTRUTH

    Ever wonder why there is so much sexual misconduct in our
    society? Just like Big Tobacco, the pornography industry doesn’t want the
    public to know the dangers and effects of their product. You have been told
    that watching porn is normal, harmless and that everybody does it. You have
    been lied to. Find out the TRUTH. Then make your choice.