In his famous interview published on September 30th in America and elsewhere, Pope Francis mentioned the life and sexuality issues and then noted, “The Church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently.”
I certainly agree that the pastoral ministry of the Church should not be obsessed with sexuality. However, what is to be said about the media obsession? We subscribe to the weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal because we like the book reviews and editorials. It is not the sort of newspaper that one would normally associate with the word “sexy.” I won’t call the paper or even the Review section “obsessed” with sexual issues, but they do reflect our culture. Let’s take a look at the last three issues in October.
The October 12-13 issue started with an interesting article by Scott Adams, the author of Dilbert, adapted from his new book, How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big. On page 5, there was a good review of Abuse of Discretion: The Inside Story of Roe v. Wade. How many secular papers will review this book?
But then the sex stuff starts with a review of two books on the subject of Norman Mailer (1923-2007). We learn that he “made it his mission to experience, and write about, aspects of sex and violence that were considered taboo in mid-century America,” and also that he was “opposed to any form of birth control and masturbation, too.” I congratulate him on the latter. Thus he had nine children with some of his six wives. The text is not at all titillating, but books about famous people let us know about their sexuality.
A few pages later, a review of two books on composer, conductor and pianist Benjamin Britten (1913-1976), tells us that at about age 17 or so he discovered he was a homosexual and had a long partnership with a tenor. At the bottom of that page was a review of a book by Linda Ronstadt and a brief mention of her non-marital relationships with “several high-profile male companions over the years.” Again, nothing racy in the writing, but just another example of the near omnipresence of references to immoral sex in the lives of the rich and famous.
Every issue of the “Review” carries a list of five books on a particular theme, the compiler usually an author. That week’s list by Ian Buruma was “on novels of sexual obsession.” Enough said.
The next week’s issue carried a review whose title says it all: “ ‘Johnny Carson’ by Henry Bushkin A tell-plenty memoir by Johnny Carson’s lawyer depicts the star as a nasty, addictive womanizer.”
The issue of October 25-27 reviewed Patrick Leigh Fermor, a biography of that writer by Artemis Cooper who informs us, “Some readers will be unsurprised to learn that the handsome war hero was a serial philanderer” and that some of his prostitutes were paid for by his wife.
My point in all of this is that sexual immorality is practiced and talked about very widely. Certainly the Church and its representatives cannot respond to every person and book that presents evil as normal because that would surely become boring. At the same time, it would be remiss not to regularly preach the divine truth about human love.
Bottom line: The media is continually obsessed with sexual sins. The Church has to respond occasionally.
John F. Kippley, October 30, 2013