Monday, March 30, 2009

Sex Offender

NJ girl, 14, arrested after posting nude pics

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — A 14-year-old New Jersey girl has been accused of child pornography after posting nearly 30 explicit nude pictures of herself on — charges that could force her to register as a sex offender if convicted.

The case comes as prosecutors nationwide pursue child pornography cases resulting from kids sending nude photos to one another over cell phones and e-mail. Legal experts, though, could not recall another case of a child porn charge resulting from a teen's posting to a social networking site.

The office investigated and discovered the Clifton resident had posted the "very explicit" photos of herself, sheriff's spokesman Bill Maer said Thursday. "We consider this case a wake-up call to parents," Maer said. The girl posted the photos because "she wanted her boyfriend to see them," he said.

The teen, whose name has not been released because of her age, was arrested and charged with possession of child pornography and distribution of child pornography. She was released to her mother's custody.

If convicted of the distribution charge, she would be forced to register with the state as a sex offender under Megan's Law, said state Attorney General Anne Milgram. She also could face up to 17 years in jail, though such a stiff sentence is unlikely.

This story is shocking for several reasons.

The first, and most obvious, we ought to be shocked at the state our society when a fourteen year old girl wants her boyfriend to see "very explicit" pictures of herself and so posts them on a forum that is on view to the public at large. When I was young, such photos were considered blackmail material, now they are, evidently, something to be proud of.

Secondly, I have to wonder what the N.J. officials were thinking when they arrested her. Aren't laws against child pornography there to protect children? Plainly, this girl is profoundly disturbed (or simply well adjusted to a profoundly disturbed society) and she cannot be held culpable for this kind of self-destructive behavior. Certainly such photos must be suppressed, possibly the state needs to intervene in this poor girl's life, but the last thing she needs is to be forever stigmatized as a "sex offender" when her only crime is to be such a child of her times.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Marriage Without Duty is Loveless

I often read Dan Savage’s sex advice column in the Chicago Reader. He is an homosexual, while most of his correspondents are heterosexual, and so his answers to them are sometimes quite hilariously wrong. This week, however, he was tragically wrong.

“Sexless and Desperate” wrote in saying that she had been married for about four years and had one child with her husband. S+D’s problem was that, while she had a perfectly normal desire for frequent coition, her husband almost never wished to have marital relations. She added that he would rather masturbate to pornography, which he does about three times a week.

Mr. Savage responded that, while he would normally simply advise the woman to end the relationship and find a more eager partner, since the couple has a child he thinks it would be better that they stay together. He then advised S+D to seek and open relationship with her husband. “So long as you’re a good and loving partner and co-parent, and so long as your family is your first priority, you should be free to seek safe, sane, and non-disruptive sex elsewhere.”

Of course, from an atheist/secular/queer perspective, this must seem like perfectly serviceable advice, but the real answer is staring us right in the face. The wife should simply insist that her husband stop masturbating.

• First off, masturbating counts as cheating. Despite what our secular society says, masturbating is a fundamental violation of chastity and a betrayal of the marital bond. S+D’s husband has no more of a “right” to masturbate than he has to keep a mistress or patronize prostitutes.

• Secondly, any fool should be able to figure out that the husband is simply dissipating his sexual energies on self-abuse and, if he were to cut that out, he would soon enough seek satisfaction from his wife.

• Thirdly, pornography has obviously given the fellow a distorted idea of what sex ought to be like. Real, human, intimacy is difficult, messy, and demanding. Moods, emotions, and the desires of another person come into play. It requires effort. One of the evils of pornography is that it turns sex into a consumer item, an easily available self-indulgence. Pornography is absolute poison to human intimacy.

• Finally — no mention of duty? S+D has a right to sexual intimacy with her husband. The fault here is entirely his and he should be made aware of it.

Am I the only one who finds it hugely ironic that secular humanists call Catholic expectations of chastity “unrealistic” when they fail to see how totally unworkable their own sexual mores are?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

An Unacceptable Truth?

I am baffled.

I understand why fundamentalists reject Darwin: their literalist Bible fetish is all they have and Darwin stands foursquare against the version of creation (actually two different versions) in the Book of Genesis. As a Catholic, and not chained to biblical literalism, so evolution isn’t a theological issue to me, but at least I understand why it is to fundamentalists.

But Global Warming — why do an over-whelming number of Traditionalist Catholics reject the possibility of greenhouse gasses causing climate change?

I can see no theology behind this, nor have I ever heard any such reasons cited. The facts would seem to be pretty straightforward:

• An overwhelming preponderance of scientists believe that carbon emissions from industrial activity are causing potentially catastrophic climate change.

• The only scientists who don’t are bought-and-paid-for by energy companies.

Facts are facts and why the facts themselves should be subject to a Liberal/Conservative divide is beyond me. Liberals and Conservatives both agree that teen-age pregnancy, STD’s, poverty, terrorism, war, and economic collapse are all problems, even if they disagree profoundly over what to do about them. Why Conservatives should discount the very existence of this problem is beyond me.

Could it be — wishful thinking?

Most Traditional Catholics live a suburban life-style that is highly dependent upon automobile transport and high-energy consumption. Such a life-style would be morally unjustifiable were they to accept the scientific consensus on global warming. It would be, as Al Gore has said (to much derision) —An Inconvenient Truth. One that requires radical changes in the kind of life they lead.

Is it uncharitable of me to think this? Perhaps, but just the other day I was talking to a friend from church. He’s pious, a conscientious grandfather, good sense of humor, intelligent, a fine fellow all around. But he said to me, in all seriousness, that he felt it was pointless to conserve oil because he thought oil was a natural product, continuously being produced beneath the earth’s surface. Wow — is that wishful thinking or what?!?!

I would really like to see comments on this, because it just baffles me.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

An Insight Worthy of Spengler

If we could take Christ off the cross and put him over to one side, and then put the cross without Christ on the other side, we would have the picture of the world. Who picks up Christ without the cross? Our Western, affluent, Christian civilization. No discipline, nor mortification, no cross, no self-denial. Who picks up the cross without Christ? Russia, China. The ascetic principle of Christianity has moved to the totalitarian states: discipline, order, law, commitment to a common end. But neither side has the answer. The cross-less Christ is weak, effeminate, and can never save us, because there is no mention of sin. The Christ-less cross allows Dachau, Auschwitz, the squeezing of the lives of individuals like so many grapes to make the totalitarian wine of the state. The world problem and our own person problem is this: Will Christ find the cross before the cross finds Christ?
-Servant of God Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

Small Mortifications

Back when I was a godless communist, we all drank our coffee black because “lathering” your coffee (i.e. putting in cream and/or sugar) was bourgeois consumerism. The communist analysis of this has actually proven correct, as the rise of Starbucks illustrates. Our urban bourgeois (the so called “Yuppies”) have become ever more extravagant consumers of coffee, having long since abandoned simple “lathered Java” for espressos, cappuchinos, and “coffee drinks” that are confected with steamed milk and gooey syrups, topped with cascades of whipped cream and garnished with slivers of chocolate. Why, I feel positively echt proletarisch every time I drink black Joe straight from the pot.

Imagine then, how pleased I was to read the other day that Opus Dei numeraries drink their coffee black as a mortification. I had never really thought of this lingering trace of communist discipline in my life as a mortification, but that’s exactly what it had been right from the start, and it got me to thinking about the place of small mortifications in my life.

Of course, anyone with kids can name a dozen small mortifications they endure each day for their kids. Wife-mate used to like to soak in the tub for hours with a good mystery novel; it’s been years since she’s been able to do that. Frequently I would scarf down a whole pint of Haggen-Datz at one sitting, but now, not only can’t we afford the good stuff, but I pretty much just let the kids have ice cream for dessert while I content myself with another apple. If something for dinner is good, then my kids eat it right up; but if it is bad, then I’m the one that will have to finish the leftovers. Who gets to use the bathroom last? Who has to clean up the vomit? Who gives up his sweater when the afternoon turns cold and someone has forgotten hers? Do I even need to answer these questions?

The mortifications involved with having kids are perfectly natural, and that’s part of what makes them good for you. But they’re also things we do without thinking, they cease to be mortifications because we do them automatically. Similarly, many good habits cease to be mortifications: by now I don’t know if I would even want to put cream and sugar in my coffee.

Contrariwise, mortifications lose their value when they are done for show. Saint Benedict had it right when he corrected a monk who always took the worst piece of fruit in the bowl, for that was false modesty; he should take the first piece his hand fell upon, neither picking the best nor the worst.

I think that in our lives we need to look for mortifications, may of which are right there if you would only see them. The stairs we could take instead of the elevator, the trips that could be made by walking or bicycling instead of driving, the time that could be better spent in prayer than in listening to the radio — there are probably a thousand little things that we could take up as little crosses throughout the day.

This lent, I want to find them.

What mortifications do you find in everyday life?