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Bought With a Price: Every Man’s Duty to Protect Himself and his Family from a Pornographic Culture

As many of my readers know, one of the primary areas of my law practice is family law.  Unfortunately, family law deals with many very deep and profound problems in the family structure which result in custody disputes, abuse, divorce, and other related issues.  A common problem which often underlies these issues is the use of pornography.  Recently my friend and my former parish priest, Fr. K. Brewster Hastings from my old church St. Anne’s in Abington, PA, emailed me about a new publication issued by the Most Reverend Paul S. Loverde, Roman Catholic bishop of Arlington, Virginia called Bought With a Price: Every Man’s Duty to Protect Himself and his Family from a Pornographic Culture.

Pornography is an enormous blight in our society and plays a significant role in the diminishment of the American family and sexuality in general.  The problem of pornography has become so prominent that Bishop Loverde felt led to prepare a comprehensive published essay on the subject.  You can find the entire piece in .pdf format here.  You can read more about it here.

Instead of summarizing the piece, I will let its author do the talking for me.  Accordingly, here is a statement from the Bishop about his publication:

“Seven years into his addiction to online porn, John wrote to tell me of his struggles. His addiction began when he misspelled a word in an online search and was taken to a hardcore porn site. When I received his letter, he was nineteen. If anything, his exposure to pornography at the age of twelve was later than some: studies reveal our children’s first exposure is even younger.  With the release of Fifty Shades of Grey, I wonder what we are saying to John and his female peers. I wonder what our decision to objectify women in situations of sexual violence—and to support the industry which fuels it—says about us and about our society? Though by the entertainment industry’s standards this movie is not classified as pornographic, it normalizes the intertwining of sex and violence, that old pornographic standby.

I have not had the privilege of a sheltered life. As a young priest and campus minister in the ’70s, I saw the early fruit of the sexual revolution: broken relationships, devaluation of sexual union, and rising divorce rates. In the lives of those I served, I saw prolonged adolescence, rising numbers of fatherless children, more addictions, and isolation. I listened, counseled, and tried to listen some more. With the dawn of the Internet, we awoke almost overnight to new dangers. Men began to chase online fantasies through progressively more explicit images, ones in which men were violent and controlling of female subjects. Virtual fantasies now broke apart real marriages, careers, and families. Wives stumbled upon their husband’s online history. Young adults lost their jobs viewing porn online at work. Children imitated what they saw in adults and began “sexting” one another—the end result of which was suicide in several cases.

By the mid-2000s, I was fed up with the silence surrounding this issue. In 2006, I wrote Bought with a Price, a pastoral letter aimed at empowering men and women to protect themselves and their children from porn. Since publishing that letter, I have been welcomed into many lives. Victims and addicts often share their stories with me—through letters and conversations. So too, many have confided their stories of hard-won freedom in overcoming addiction. With each new victim’s face, name and story, I find the $97-billion-a-year global porn industry less anonymous. The Internet and cable TV providers—the “white collar pornographers” who guarantee 24/7 access to porn in our homes—strike me as more culpable. It troubles me that many adults will watch Fifty Shades of Grey. My greater concern, though, is for the children like John whose entire moral ecosystem will be marred by the cultural mainstreaming of porn. I suppose we have the option of shrugging our shoulders, ignoring it, or cracking a joke. But I challenge every adult to reflect on this cultural moment from the perspective of a father or mother of young children.

Anyone listening to Pope Francis has heard his call to resist unjust social conditions and go to the margins: to the poor, weak, and defenseless in our “throwaway culture” marked by a “globalization of indifference.”

At the margins, I see twelve-year-old John fighting an addiction he did not seek. I see our daughters and sisters and wives viewed as objects for pleasure, victimized, and even trafficked. And I see a predatory porn industry that is nothing short of euphoric over these developments.

“There’s a greater sense of optimism,” a leader in the porn industry was quoted as saying earlier this year. “I believe the companies that have stood the test of time . . . have figured out a way to stay viable. I would say it’s a new era for the industry.”

It is most certainly a new era. The time has come to join our children at the margins and to defund the industries that prey so viciously and unjustly upon them.

The choice before us is stark. It is anything but grey.”

Jury Duty!

Believe it or not, I have been called for jury duty.  I have to report by 8:15am tomorrow morning.  The last time I was called was April 2008.  In 2008 I had been licensed to practice law for nearly 6 years so I had no expectation to last more than a few hours because, when the attorneys on the case learned I was an attorney too, I fully expected them to disqualify me.  Much to my surprise, I was not rejected but invited to serve on a jury in Philadelphia!  My service was to observe and issue a verdict on a personal injury case.

I do not have much interaction with juries and, to be perfectly straight forward, I never had a whole lot of faith in the average person making legal decisions, sometimes as profound as life and death.  I have to admit, though, that my lack of faith was entirely without warrant.  I was surprised to see that though the jury I sat on was a relatively normal cross-section of the people of the great City of Philadelphia, the folks I met on that jury all took their role on the jury seriously and truly considered the information and evidence presented.  Indeed, I have to say, that the folks on the jury I served on where much more perceptive than I was in many ways. I spent my time trying to “issue spot” (which is lawyer-speak for discerning the legal issues at play in a given situation) while many on the jury took a very practical approach and were able to discern very real and insightful things about the people testifying, things which I was probably not perceptive enough myself to notice.  Of course, when they pointed these things out the became obvious to me, but it took the other members of jury to do it for me.  So, suffice it to say, the members of the jury truly came together from their varied backgrounds and views and perceptions and were able to develop a picture of the case that I believe was accurate and credible.

I have to say that my experience on a jury has given me confidence to say that while mistakes are sometimes made – it cannot be helped with a bunch of imperfect humans – the jury process is reliable and, I would say, can, for the most part, be trusted to give us the best decisions possible in a given case.  A trial by jury has survived and been honed for centuries for a reason and we should be grateful that the Founders of the United States were wise to keep the tradition of trials by jury alive and well in this country.

So, I am excited to see what jury duty will have in store for me tomorrow.  The odds are I will not be selected on account of being a lawyer, but that is what I said in April 2008 and I still go selected, so anything is possible!

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