Saturday, January 28, 2006

Deus Caritas Est

So, the rottweiler German Pope has produced his first encyclical on the themes of love and charity.

For some it’s a conservative “Table d’Hote” menu when they want, but presumably don’t really expect, the “a la Carte” version that will validate their own liberal views and/or lifestyle choices. Others complain that he didn’t tackle more philosophically challenging but relatively obscure theological subjects of church dogma. However, Hans Kung has given it a guarded welcome as a good start, while urging the Pope to go further.

Rome wasn’t burnt in a day, as Nero was apt to say, so there may well be further shifts in future encyclicals.

I’ve only read extracts and analysis published in the press, but it seems to be a promising start from a Pope who was painted by the media as an arch-conservative, cold but highly intelligent man. I also think it’s interesting that, rather than demonstrate his considerable intellectual muscle by tackling some intricate theological conundrum, he has chosen to go back to basics on themes, and in language, that are relevant to and can be understood by ordinary people, even if they won’t necessarily agree with his analysis and/or conclusions.

On the topic of sex he says “Eros (erotic love), reduced to pure ‘sex’, has become a commodity, a mere ’thing’ to be bought and sold, or rather, man himself becomes a commodity.” This is self-evidently true, you only have to consider the label “The Sex Industry” which is now in common use to describe prostitution, pornography, lap-dancing etc.etc..

This term has been promulgated by a media which owns and profits from the distribution of pornography and a by so-called liberal society which believes that there should be no restraints on personal freedom. By calling it an “industry”, those who benefit financially also seek to sanitise and normalise it in society and prevent the silent majority from bringing undue political pressure to bear in having it outlawed or overly regulated.

It’s widely accepted that many of the women involved are effectively enslaved, trafficked and traded across borders and between brothels and pimps, and that youngsters are groomed and abused almost routinely to sustain the conveyor belt of new flesh, but all this seems fairly irrelevant to much of society.

I propose a test: You should use the term “Sex Industry” if you are happy that your mother might work part time in a massage parlour, your wife or sister as a prostitute or an extra in porn movies, your daughter in a lap-dancing bar or with a web-cam installed in her bedroom. Substitute father, husband, brother, son where appropriate. If you consider these to be perfectly acceptable career choices for your nearest and dearest, then it genuinely is the “Sex Industry” to you.
However, if you’d hate to find them involved in any of the above, revert to calling a spade a spade. Please.

Footnote: Published as a letter in the Irish Independent.

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