Catholic Bishops Have Now Entered the ‘Crackdown on Porn’ Act

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Republicans are desperate to find anything—ANYTHING—to distract the nation from the federal government’s abject failure to control the spread of the novel coronavirus as it continues to run rampant in urban America and quickly spread outward with each retraction of stay-at-home orders—and now their pals at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have voted to give them a leg up in that sleight-of-hand: They’ve sent a letter to Attorney General William Barr, urging him to “confront the ongoing harms wrought by the pornography industry and to protect its victims.” The letter, dated April 30, asks Barr to trample the rights of adult content producers by “enforcement of obscenity laws, investigation of pornography producers and website owners for criminality, national leadership in encouraging states and localities to develop rigorous policies against the industry and in the service of survivors, and more.” The two-page letter, signed by the Archbishops of San Francisco and Oklahoma City, as well as the Bishop of Tulsa, OK, references the letters previously sent by four Republican Congressmembers, as well as the one from Sen. Ben Sasse, calling on Barr to bring back the federal Obscenity Prosecution Task Force which was disbanded by President Obama, enforce federal obscenity laws, and to pay special attention to Pornhub, which right-wing religious groups have accused of turning a blind eye to child porn posted on the site, as well as videos of trafficked women. Pornhub has stated publicly that it is constantly looking for and removing such material, which Pornhub VP Corey Price stated represents “significantly less than one percent” of the site’s content. Drawing on Pope Francis’ calls for solidarity in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, the letter’s signatories claim that “Pornography is the antithesis of this. Rather than remembering and loving our fellow humans as brothers and sisters, it objectifies them—often directly exploiting them—and diminishes the health of users’ relationships with others.” The evidence for this? A quote from the Conference’s own 2015 screed, Create in Me a Clean Heart: A Pastoral Response to Pornography—in other words, no evidence at all, short of noting that “at least 15 states” have passed resolutions deeming porn to be a “public health crisis.” For example, the 2015 document defines pornography as “removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world.” It adds, “Deliberately viewing pornography is a grave sin against chastity,” and “a grave sin against human dignity.” [Emphasis in original.] “This isn’t the first time we’ve seen porn or BDSM (Bondage, Discipline, Sadism and Masochism) used as a pretext for censorship by the Catholic church; it’s been the same anti-sex story they’ve been selling for centuries,” wrote Kink.com spokesman Michael Stabile in an email to Jonathan Berr of Forbes.com. “The Bishops aren’t concerned with violence or exploitation. They’re concerned with people embracing sexuality without shame.” The Conference letter brands performers as “direct victims” and claims that even “consenting adult performers may be compromised by desperate circumstances while, for others, consent is completely absent,” and that “Unprecedented, unlimited, and anonymous access to pornography via modern technology has led users to seek more and more extreme videos. “Thus, non-enforcement or lax enforcement of obscenity laws against producers and distributors may provide a gateway for this demand to metastasize, increasing the incidents of trafficking, child pornography, other abuse, and broader unjust conditions,” the letter argues. “Pornography use hurts the user by potentially diminishing his or her capacity for healthy human intimacy and relationships.” Trouble is, as Stabile noted to Berr, “divorce, teen pregnancy and sexual assault rates have all plunged in the past two decades, even as access to porn has dramatically increased.” Of course, the last time the Justice Department tried an obscenity case—against John Stagliano and Evil Angel in 2010, a prosecution left over from the George W. Bush era—it failed miserably, even though former Deputy Attorney General Patrick Trueman, founder of Morality in Media, claimed to Berr that, “If you did 3 or 4 cases a year over the next two years, you would virtually wipe out the illegal online porn industry.” However, anyone who’s been keeping up with current events understands how unlikely it is that any attempted obscenity prosecution anywhere but in deep rural America could succeed—but as we said, anything to distract from the multiple failures of Donald Trump. The Conference’s letter may be found here; its Create in Me a Clean Heart: A Pastoral Response to Pornography may be found here.

written by: Mark Kernes

source: Catholic Bishops Have Now Entered the ‘Crackdown on Porn’ Act | AVN