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The public debate about pornography, like most, lacks any Christian angle

It’s hard to argue some moral points without a thelogical explanation

By on Monday, 24 June 2013

David Cameron has called on Google tp do more to rid the internet of child pornography, Martin Keene/PA Wire

David Cameron has called on Google tp do more to rid the internet of child pornography, Martin Keene/PA Wire

The Moral Maze on Saturday evening reflected an acute current debate: what should we think about pornography on the web? This quest is a source of great unease for some, particularly in relation to children, and merely mild disquiet for others. Whenever I have mentioned this subject in a blog – in response to some item in the news – the posts in response have reflected the division in society at large, between those who find it abhorrent and those who assert there is “no proof” that it causes people to act out violent sexual fantasies in real life.

The Moral Maze team was the same: Giles Fraser, a C of E vicar in a London parish, was quite clear that hardcore pornography was a form of abuse, the strong exploiting the weak. Melanie Phillips of the Daily Mail was equally forceful: it degrades adults as well as children and the only moral response is to recoil in disgust at some of the images presented. Against them were Clare Fox and Matthew Taylor, as representatives of the tolerant, liberal viewpoint: there is no proven link between pornography and actual behaviour and any censorship would curtail the rightful freedom of adults to enjoy their “adult” activities as they so choose.

As I listened, I longed for a straightforward Christian response to the whole question: that men and women have an inherent dignity as children of God; thus their sexual relations have an intrinsically sacred quality quite different from the mating of other species; so it follows that any kind of pornography which treats people merely as objects of gratification rather than as persons with hearts and souls, will degrade their dignity as human beings.

Indeed, I wish an articulate Catholic apologist could join the Moral Maze team from time to time; not to “preach” at the assembled company and their listeners but to explain why it’s hard to argue about the morality or otherwise of certain questions without bringing in a theological dimension. Arguing from reason alone, in a pluralist society where everything is seen from a subjective and relativist viewpoint, is not enough. “That’s your opinion; this is my opinion.” How often have we heard that tired old conversation-stopper?

At the same time as the Moral Maze was being broadcast, St Patrick’s in Soho Square – an area renowned for all the 57 varieties of human behaviour on display within its boundaries– was having its Saturday “Night Fever” event: this means that the church is lit with candles, gentle liturgical music is played in the background, the Blessed Sacrament is exposed, Confession is available and young volunteers go out into the surrounding streets and invite strangers to come and light their own candles in the church. The idea comes from the Gospel invitation: “Come and see.”

A surprising number accept the invitation to come into the presence of Christ. It might be that a few of these waifs and strays respond to the grace of the encounter and thus discover the true way out of their own personal moral maze through which they have been stumbling. And to return to the subject of pornography: who seriously wants to be lost in a thicket of violent and depraved images that is so easily accessible on the web?

  • teigitur

    One thing is for sure, Ms Phillips. You would be a long time waiting for a” Christian response” from the BBC’s seemingly resident Vicar.

  • elder

    HAHAHA… I had to stop reading when this article mentioned the well being of children. Cause as catholic priest we like to rape children. They are our favourite. Gay and raping children, that is the catholic way. We like to watch too. And touch other priests while touching. Disgusting humans, we deserve no pity, we are disgusting.

  • ConofChi

    Sad person

  • Kevin

    Brilliant. You have it exactly right. I’m not sure about the “Night Fever” event, but that’s not your doing. (How are you supposed to focus on Our Lord when the very invitation puts the Bee Gees into your head?)

    As for the “no proof” crowd, that is obviously a red herring. There is no proof that coercion causes a man to commit a crime. No-one ever suggested there was. We allow for it as a defence, however, based on the sympathetic understanding that our will may be subverted by extreme pressure and we would not like to be judged in such circumstances.

    Similarly, the presentation of anything in a positive light may obviously make it appealing to the viewer. In paragraph three of your article you explain lucidly why this is not desirable in the case of pornography.

  • scary goat

    Good article. Indeed, this is the problem…with porn…and everything else. Without the objective understanding of good/evil everything descends into chaos. When I was a youngster it was the start of it…it was the trend to mock the fuddy-duddy tv censors…oh how far we have come! Really smart move ….now you daren’t let your kids watch tv unsupervised. It’s most parents’ nightmare that their kids will stumble across something on the internet that is unexplainable. Who on earth in their right mind wants to watch porn? It’s degrading filth. It takes all the beauty out of loving relationships and reduces everything to ….I don’t even know what to. Ok, we all have “instincts”….but how beautiful to be loved…to make a nice family…how empty and lonely to be a “sex-toy” as if that’s all that matters. How do you convince people that a fleeting pleasure isn’t what life is all about….when they don’t have any notion of life being about anything? No purpose, no nothing?

    That’s what people don’t seem to understand…the Catholic Faith isn’t about going to church on Sunday to say thank you to God….it’s a whole way of life…an integral system that makes sense….in everything. Oh, how it gets on my nerves when I hear things like “I’m a spiritual atheist”….the inevitable consequence of atheism is nothingness. When people think porn is harmless, who are they kidding? It gives people a distorted view of what sex is…this is harmful to anyone…and most particularly to youngsters’ soft minds. Not to mention the people who make the porn….they may think they are consenting adults (and child porn is just too sick to even contemplate) but what sort of damaged lives must those people have…how does it affect them with time…they must lose all comprehension of what a real loving relationship is about.

    And we see this in everything…remove Faith from society and what do you get…it all goes down hill from there. Everything becomes savagery. Everything becomes empty. Everything stops being beautiful and becomes ugly.

  • Julian Lord

    we are disgusting

    Speak for yourself.

  • Julian Lord

    Excellent post, scary.

  • Scheveningen

    Francis, Do you regard Clifford Longley as an “articulate Catholic apologist” as he is a regular panel member?

  • guestguy

    What do you think Jabba, is elder “phil”?

  • scary goat

    It’s actually regular guest posters who see fit not to register with a stable name, appear to be using more than one name, and who regularly cause trouble who are putting themselves in a suspect position. :-/

  • lucio apollyon

    Pornography degrades the gift of sex that God gave us when He made us. Pornography degrades the intimacy between man and woman in marriage, distorts the love in a married couple by making something beautiful and natural into a perverted act. I was once at a newsagent and I was shocked when I saw an attractive woman purchasing pornographic magazines. Ladies – pornography makes you an object – you are an individual: raise your voice against it. For the sake of your own person, of your husband (whether actual or future) of children and of marriage.

  • Julian Lord

    probably, yes

    The post is redolent with his particular obsessions

  • $24570317

    “…and most particularly to youngsters’ soft minds.”
    Unfortunately it is not only youngsters who have soft minds.

  • $24570317

    “…. but to explain why it’s hard to argue about the morality or otherwise of certain questions without bringing in a theological dimension.”. (4th paragraph)

    Yes, it can be very hard, but, even in your own terms, it is something that has to be done.
    Why not have a go yourself?

  • scary goat


  • Piripiri Chicken

    I remember an article featured on an American Catholic website, not so long ago, where one porn addict told his story and felt there was no way out of it because it was destroying his life and his relationships with loved ones. He then turned to his long lost Catholic faith and began regularly reciting the Holy Rosary – seriously! He tried it and, like any bad infection, he overcame his porn addiction.
    Was it St Paul who said that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit?

    Our Blessed Lady’s name is nails on a blackboard to the devil and how often has the Holy Rosary been called ‘the great weapon against evil’?
    When people talk of addictions, drink and drugs are automatically mentioned and the physical and mental damage it does to them as well as to those around them.
    Porn addiction is no different. It is a real problem, a real addiction and should be treated as such.

  • $20596475

    Programmes like the Moral Maze are not religious broadcasts so why should a religious viewpoint be expected? Surely the discussion has to be based upon facts that all the participants can agree upon and then proceed from there. If a religious construct was introduced, of whatever flavour, then there would be no common ground from which to examine the argument.

    That is not to say that religious people cannot take part, as one obviously did. However their contribution needs to be from a strictly moral view which avoids religious claims.

  • AugustineThomas

    I think her point is that secularists like you are incapable of putting up a coherent argument against pornography so there MUST be a defense that emanates from religion. (Clearly the Christian religion is the most proper–having given safety and security to so many ignorant godless secularist heretics like yourself. You do realize that a great many of you have just copied Christian, especially Catholic social thought but removed Crist and thus initiated your own new godless secularist civic religion? You are neo-pagan-Romans.)
    And the only reason there can’t be common ground is because there are so many immoral secularists like yourself who riot and socially lynch religious folk when you don’t get your way and then hypocritically try to blame them for the contention.

  • AugustineThomas

    Lets all say a prayer for the angry spirit who is responsible for this ugly post!

  • $20596475

    You are wrong in almost every particular. The debate was not about how to argue against pornography. It was about what we thought about pornography on the web. There will be a variety of opinions on this from non believers, some of whom I am sure are quite capable of sustaining powerful arguments, both for and against.

    The idea that everyone gets their “safety and security” from the Christian religion is just nonsense. In truth the reverse is true. Christianity has usurped what has evolved in every human being and claimed the credit. Non believers have just as strong morals and to suggest otherwise is both wrong and insulting to many good people.

    I am not immoral and have never rioted or lynched anyone. Can you see how rude your suggestion is? I believe in freedom of expression, for all, and democratic decision making for society. We can all take part, but no group can have a veto.

  • $24570317

    I think you are extremely offensive when you claim that another person (whom you “know” only from his postings here) is immoral.
    Surely you can see that you owe majorC an apology.

    PS: It is also quite wrong to say that he is “Godless”.

  • AugustineThomas

    You’re right. I apologize to him for making an ad hominem attack.

    He could be incredibly moral and just extremely ill informed.

  • ostrava

    The question is not “Is porn good or bad” – it is “Wjat do we do about it?” and especially “How far do we go in restricting it, when the technical measures by which we could do so could also be used to prevent access to anything else the State does not want us to see?”.

    And that is a more nuanced question, is it not? Do we want the sort of controls the Chinese place on web-users? Or the Saudis where an attempt to visit an Israeli website will fail and may well earn you a raid from the religious police?

    If we welcome the opportunity the web provides for people to defeat that sort of tyranny do we accept that it will also lead to the proliferation of porn, of Holocaust denial (CH sometimes has to remove that from postings!) and all sorts of other nasties, where removing it after is often too late?

    Not easy. The printing press, the camera, and the digital camera caused the same problems in their day/

  • Ronald

    Yes, he is on the programme from time to time. He represents the “acceptable catholic” view as far as the BBC is concerned: that is to say, a liberal who is seeking to alter the Catholic Faith as received. It is the Tablet view.