VATICAN CITY—It is probably not a coincidence that Pope Benedict XVI used the occasion of a visit from the new German ambassador to the Holy See on Monday to give a “lecture” on the ills of pornography, among other venal sins. Only last week it was “revealed” that Weltbild, Germany’s largest Catholic-owned publishing house—and the country’s largest bookseller after Amazon—“has been selling thousands of pornographic novels with titles such as Sluts Boarding School and Lawyer's Whore with the full assent of the country's leading bishops,” according to The Independent.
"Only a society which unconditionally respects and defends the dignity of each human being, from conception to natural end, can call itself a human society," Benedict told Ambassador Reinhard Schweppe. "It is a critical problem which, due to materialistic and hedonistic tendencies, seems to be on the increase, above all in the Western world."
The problem stems from a lack of mutual respect. "A relationship which fails to take account of the fact that man and woman have equal dignity represents a grave affront to humankind," he said. "The time has come to take an energetic stance against prostitution and the widespread availability of erotic and pornographic material, also on the internet."
In addition to proclamations by the Holy Pontiff, money also speaks. According to The Independent, Welbilt, which was acquired by the Germany Church 30 years ago, has since become the country’s leading publisher “with the help of some €182m of Catholic Church tax levied on believers.
“To increase its profits, in 1998 the company merged with five other publishing houses that market pornographic titles," reported the paper. "One of them is Droemer Knaur, which is 50 percent church-owned. Another is Blue Panther Books, which was excluded from the list of participating publishers at this year's Frankfurt Book Fair allegedly because of the pornographic content of its titles.”
Speaking of which, AVN is of the opinion that both of the sample titles mentione above, Sluts Boarding School and Lawyer's Whore, lack a certain imaginative flair. We expected to see more colorful titles from a religion with such a long and literary tradition.
That said, in making his comments calling for an end to pornography, His Holiness may have been expressing our frustration with the Casablanca-like denial by the German bishops in response to the outing of their profitable sideline. Puhleeze.
In attempting to explain the situation as "a filtering system failure" that mistakenly allowed the books onto the market, the bishops strain credulity beyond even that which they normally do not possess, but then they add with a finality that is as precise as it is vague, "We will put a stop to the distribution of possibly pornographic content in [the] future." (In adding the “possibly,” though, do they not risk equally offending the author of a book taken off the market that turns out not to be pornographic?)
At any rate, the underlying message that the bishops were “shocked, shocked” to find out such activity has been taking place is also countered by claims made by Bernhard Müller, editor of the Catholic magazine PUR, that Weltbild has been profiting from porn for at least a decade with the Church's full knowledge.
“Mr Müller said that in 2008, a group of concerned Catholics had sent bishops a 70-page document containing irrefutable evidence that Weltbild published books that promoted pornography, Satanism and magic,” reported The Independent. “They demanded that the publisher withdraw the titles.”
The paper also reports that the bishops tried to sell the publishing house in 2009, precisely to stave off any future embarrassment, but failed to get their asking price. That just further proves that when it comes to money and Catholics, the wages of sin actually come with a market value attached.
Needless to say, we do not agree with the Pope that porn inherently provides undignified portrayals of women, but considering the mendacious ways of the German Catholic bishops, we would have liked to see the Pope do more than just lecture the ambassador. A public spanking, on the other hand...