Nearer to Porn, Further From God, Sez the Archbishop
Pontiff lectures on evils of smut
Posted Mar 12th, 2008 06:15 PM by Mark Kernes
— It's said that even a stopped clock (analog, not digital) is right twice a day — and so it was with The Most. Rev. George H. Niederauer, Archbishop of San Francisco, and his views on pornography.
Niederauer spoke as part of the Charles E. Miller Symposium at St. John's Seminary last evening, and the talk was attended by about 250 Catholics, priests, seminary students and other interested citizens.
Niederauer began by disclosing that he is on the board of the Religious Alliance Against Pornography (RAAP), founded in 1986 by William Cardinal Keeler, Archbishop of Baltimore, and Dr. Jerry Kirk, a Presbyterian pastor who's now RAAP's full-time director and a frequent speaker at anti-porn events.
"RAAP saw as its challenge the metastasis of pornography from its beginnings in bookstores and movie theaters on the wrong side of town to a billion dollar a month industry, first in video and then beyond," Niederauer explained. "RAAP's mission is to raise consciousness of member congregants, especially parents, both nationally and locally to help interfaith groups to organize local coalitions for education in the nature of pornography's challenge, and to organize appropriate interaction with local and government leaders."
And what is "pornography's challenge"? Niederauer quoted the Bible to answer the question.
"Who shall ascend the mountain of the Lord and who shall stand in his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to what is false," Niederauer intoned from Psalm 24, adding from Matthew 5:8, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God."
As Niederauer sees it, one of the problems with porn is that it makes people not only impure, but it takes their minds off their duty to God.
"Another helpful translation of the phrase 'pure in heart' is 'single-hearted,'" Niederauer said. "To be single-hearted is to be undivided in our love for God and for our sisters and brothers in the human family. We are called to be wholly centered in God, with no secret chambers and closets where he is not Lord. Because each human person is created in the image and likeness of God, he or she has a dignity that we are called to respect and value single-heartedly. That dignity is God's gift; hence it is not granted by any government or group. Therefore human sexuality is God's gift."
Needless to say, pornography is a misuse of God's gift, because sexuality allows humans to be "co-creators with God" — and if you aren't using sex to make babies, you're misusing the gift.
Niederauer even implied that having orgasms also violates God's gift.
"Adults who use pornography can find its insidious influences creeping into their marriages," he warned, "as sexual intimacy, meant to be a free gift of self, becomes more a search for personal pleasure."
Of course, that means that at least half the population has the wrong attitude toward sex and porn. Niederauer quoted statistics revealing that 25 percent of all data requests on the internet are for porn, that half of all hotel guests order in-room porn, and that "70 percent of 18- to 24-year-olds visit porn sites in a typical month, and two-thirds of men in their 20s and 30s make regular use of porn sites. One-third of visitors to porn sites are women, and one in six women struggles with addiction to pornography."
"Persons of faith are not immune to pornography addiction," he continued. "In an article in Catholic Woman ... it was reported that during 2006, 53 percent of men belonging to the Christian group Promise Keepers admitted to having viewed pornography in the previous week."
Not only that, but the former Dean of the Harvard School of Divinity was found to have his computer chock full of pornographic images.
"Pornography is evil because it debases the priceless worth and dignity of each human being and the gift of human sexuality given by a God who shares his loving and creative power with us, his human children," Niederauer intoned, quoting the priest who eventually became Pope John Paul II that, "Between human persons, the opposite of love is not hate; the opposite of love is use. Love is totally willing the good of the other, and in God's plan, that is the only proper response to another child of God in the human family. If I don't love someone, I am more likely to use him or her for my own pleasure or profit or whatever."
Apparently, Niederauer is unable to separate the concepts of love and sex as many are able to do, so therefore, if one can't love someone, one can't have sex with him/her either.
"Pornography assaults human dignity and commodifies people and human sexuality," Niederauer declared. "Pornography starves the human soul in its spiritual dimension."
That, of course, is the Christian view — one shared by several other religions as well — but not the view of, for example, many Hindus, Buddhists, Pagans and atheists, many of whom find the act of sex itself to be a reaffirmation of their own spirituality, and who celebrate depictions of sexuality.
Niederauer also took the mass media, particularly Hollywood, to task for polluting the mental environment.
"We live in a sexualized culture," he said. "It's like smog. It builds up to the point that you don't even notice it, you don't even know why your eyes are burning but they are. An image that helps for me is junk food ... there is junk food for the mind, for the eyes, for the ears, for the imagination, for the memory, just as surely as there is junk food for your arteries, and it will have an effect on your mind, memory, imagination that the junk food has on your arteries, It will clog them and make you unhealthy."
But could there be porn that isn't "junk food"? Niederauer almost implied that there could be, in quoting what he referred to as a "startling remark" in one of Bishop Finn's pastoral letters, that "pornography reveals too little of the human person, not too much."
Does that mean that in a film depicting fully-formed, loving characters involved in situations that viewers could relate to, it would be permissible for those characters to be seen having hardcore sex with each other?
Sadly, that question was never asked.