Sexual Obsession in the Media

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









Same-sex marriage discrimination is not unjust

The Cincinnati Enquirer has been running a series of briefs on candidates for City Council.  Each candidate responds to the same series of eight questions.  The second question is this: “Would you support efforts to repeal Ohio’s ban on same-sex marriage?”  It was a relief on Wednesday morning to read the response of candidate Melissa Wegman as follows: “Because the definition of legal marriage is contained in the Ohio constitution, any change to that definition must be approved by Ohio voters, not Cincinnati City Council.  Factual, non-emotional, and to the point.

The liberal candidates have been tripping over themselves in their haste to state support for such efforts, and most of them cited “discrimination” as their reason, as they seek the votes of the same-sex sympathizers.  If they fear all discrimination, they should not seek to be on City Council, for every legislative body exists to discriminate in favor of something or against it.

Discrimination is the business of law, and most discrimination is not unjust.  For example, to stay in the area of sexuality, laws against prostitution are not unjust discrimination against working women.  Laws and rules against teachers having sex with their students are not unjust discrimination. Laws against parents having sex with their children are not unjust discrimination.  There is a natural- law basis for all of these laws as well as the experience of centuries.  The same is true about laws that limit marriage to heterosexual couples.  Marriage exists primarily for man and wife to have and raise children who have an inherent need of a male father and a female mother.

To the natural-law basis can be added the traditional Christian belief about the sanctity and exclusivity of heterosexual marriage based on the words of Jesus when he was questioned about divorce and remarriage:  “From the beginning of creation, God made them male and female” (Mark 10: 2ff).  There is a divinely established order of creation, and men and women have a right to marry within, and only within, that divine order.  To believe and to uphold the traditional biblical teaching of heterosexual marriage is not an example of unjust discrimination.

John F. Kippley

October 23, 2013

Pope Francis re: Hospital, not Hospice

In his famous interview with editors of several Jesuit magazines, Pope Francis talked about the Church as a field hospital.  The analogy of the Church as hospital goes way back in history and has been used to explain the presence of less-than-virtuous people in the Church.  It’s a commentary on the teaching of Jesus that he has come to save sinners, not just the saints.  The analogy works well when sinners admit they are sinners.

But a hospital is different from a hospice.  In a hospital patients admit that something is wrong with them or they wouldn’t be there.  Patients expect that the efforts to heal them may be painful and the medicine might be bitter.  In a hospice, there is no hope of radical change.  The whole emphasis is on keeping patients comfortable until they die.

The “Church as hospital” analogy falls short when the “patients” think they are all right and in no need of bitter medicine or painful surgery or therapy.  That’s what we have today.  The “healthy” patient and the “sick” staff situation developed when many priests dissented from Humanae Vitae and encouraged their parishioners to think that Humanae Vitae was in error and that they could use unnatural forms of birth control.  They were allowed to think, without challenge, that they were right and the teaching of the Church was wrong.  The situation has become acutely worse today with active homosexuals saying that sodomy is morally permissible and the Church must change its teaching to accept their sodomy.

The Church is not a hospice.  It does not exist to make people comfortable in this life.  As a hospital, it admits all who want to be cured of their self-centered sinfulness.  As a patient in the Church-hospital, the sinner must be willing to change his (or her) ways, take his penitential medicine, and undergo a lifetime of therapy to walk the narrow path with the Lord Jesus.