Salient: Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 26, No. 9. 1963.
Woolly Catholic Report Pressures Community
Woolly Catholic Report Pressures Community
The Catholic Youth Movement has undertaken a survey of some 22 bookshops in Auckland and discovered that they were selling photography-glamour books to the public. They (the CYM represents about 600 Catholic leaders) construe these magazines as pornographic and relate certain sections of the Indecent Publications Act 1910 as a backing of their claim.
Firstly, I should like to mention that the report is written in a very woolly and loose fashion: "Indecent literature is a threat to moral, mental and physical health. It debases the true meaning and function of sex; it leads to morbid preoccupation with sex, and it incites to immoral and anti-social behaviour."
Loose phrases and meaningless adjectives based on historical and hysterical supposition. The statistical evidence is negligible. The effects on behaviour and "morals" have not been examined by the CYM. They presuppose. They have concerned themselves with "pictorial art" and have not taken into consideration the multitude of comparatively "worse" publications around town.
Thirdly, there is the question of the publications themselves. Assuming that they do present the body in all aspects on paper, we are faced with the question—what is beauty and what is improper? Is the body not beautiful in all its forms and representations (when photographed by some of the world's most distinguished photographers)? The CYM agrees that in the "content of a hundred or more photographed subjects of a different nature" the pictures under contention would qualify as art. So there we are!
The "research"—which was undertaken "when one of our members produced copies of three photographic magazines which were being read and circulated by the apprentices at his workplace"—is ambiguous. Staff in shops have given statistical evidence in age claims which is of a highly dubious nature.
Naturally, adolescents are going to seek this material—harmless in itself—when our society imposes such strict taboos on sex at the adolescent stage of life.
Recently, the Catholic Youth Movement undertook a survey of "indecent literature' which it claimed was on public sale in Auckland bookshops. There has been a vast amount of publicity given to their report—now in circulation—and we now present a criticism by Murray White. Later in the year, Salient will be publishing a report on "indecent literature in general."
Outlet must be found somewhere. And if we are so myopic as to refuse sex education, sex play and freedom to the young adult, whom can we blame but ourselves for this "attitude of decay" as the CYM puts it.
This report is ambiguous in more ways than one. The Catholic Church lays down: "As in eating and drinking, so in the sexual act, you must not abandon yourselves Without restraint to the impulses of the senses" (Pius XII), and it is dogma that the sexual act is primarily for purposes of procreation.
"The chief purpose of sex is social; only secondarily are its purposes oriented to serve individual goals. Catholicism believes that the current tendency to exalt the personal goals of sex is evidence of 'rugged individualism' in marriage" (Alphonse Clemens, Associate Professor of Sociology, Catholic University of America).
So if the Catholic Church is uniformly against senses and sex in general terms (but not in the specific procreative sense) why this concern over the sale of a few harmless magazines? Could it be that they are interested in the matter for self-gain?
If so, it is most improper. The Catholic Church is one of the greatest pressure groups in existence. They admit they are trying to pressure legislation. On whose behalf are they acting as moral adjudicators?
To end the report they have appended a list of statements by "Leaders of the church and community." States a Senior Lecturer of the Auckland University Psychology Department; "One can never rule out the possibility that such photographs may influence the occasional susceptible person who might otherwise remain fairly normal." This is indeed nebulous. Just look at the specificalities: "possibility." "may influence," "occasional," "susceptible." "might otherwise." "fairly normal." Is this proof, or in any way logical (psychologically), let alone conclusive reinforcement of the Catholic Youth Movement's Report?
One final interesting sidelight: immediately following the publicity given to the CYM and its campaign, one Wellington bookshop (a subsidiary of New Zealand's largest publishers) removed its entire stock of "glamour-photography" books. Had they suddenly sold out? No, they were still available, under the counter. This was a simple response—not to the bettering of public morals—but to plain pressure.—M.W.