Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

Retailers’ sexualization of girls boosts child porn and human trafficking: MEP report

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
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ROME, June 26, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A grassroots movement, led by parents but including business, is building at the pan-European level to counter the hyper-sexualization of children, especially young girls, in the fashion industry and media. Retailers in Britain have admitted that they have “gone too far” and are cooperating with a program that allows parents to register complaints directly to a business association, Anna Kuchta, an organizer at the European Union told LifeSiteNews.com today. 

“The conjoined explosion of music video culture, the internet, the computer games, and the commercial targeting of youth as sexual beings is having an intensely noxious effect on youth culture,” she said.

Kuchta said that the MEPs and governments are becoming aware that the sexualization of children is inseparable from hypersexualization of culture as a whole. And awareness is also growing of its connection to the associated growth of the multi-billion-Euro human trafficking and child pornography industries.

Earlier this month, a European Parliament group led by Polish MEP Joanna Skrzydlewska held hearings on the problem of the sexualization of children. The EU conference focused on a wide range of problem material not only from TV but also from video games, the Internet, newspapers, magazines and music videos. Skrzydlewska said the problem is “nothing more than imposing the sexuality of adults on young children, teenagers and especially girls when they are not ready for it emotionally, mentally or physically.”

Kuchta, Skrzydlewska’s parliamentary assistant, said that the problem has been slow to dawn on businesses, but now that more concerns are being raised they are taking steps to curtail inappropriate materials reaching young girls. Gaining the cooperation of retailers, she said, is a major step forward, since this is where the cultural rubber hits the road.

“Honestly speaking, there has been lots of response from businesses,” Kuchta said in a phone interview today. “British retail companies have created an association and a code of good practice.” They have also created a website, called Stop Shop, where they can respond directly to parents’ concerns.

There came a moment, Kuchta said, when the business leaders saw that they had gone too far and could “see that push-up bras for 12 year-olds is inappropriate”. Although the movement in the EU was originally sparked by the work of U.S. psychology researchers, Kuchta said it has really taken hold of the public mind in Britain, where the government is making the problem a priority.

A parents’ NGO based in Paris has contacted the EU Parliamentarians saying that progress is also being made in France, where government regulation already exists. The French group, Kuchta said, is working towards creating cooperation between parents, schools, business and “civil society”. The group is working on a public campaign, featuring popular pop and TV stars and the fashion magazine Marie Claire.

“The worrying phenomenon of the hypersexualization of our environment has noxious effects on young people. What is more, the hypersexualization of public spaces relies on and reinforces well established sexual stereotypes, according to which girls should be not only pretty and skinny but also sexy and hot and the boys should play the macho role and dominate the girls,” Kuchta said.

“From a very young age, girls are treated as sexual objects, their development is not respected, and the lines between childhood and adulthood are blurred.  Children, especially girls are the targets of marketing specialists who sell them age inappropriate products so they will become lifetime customers.”

In the past it was adult women who felt the imperative to look “sexy”. Now this imperative is in danger of being adopted by younger and younger girls who will inevitably face the same feelings of inadequacy, failure to live up to an unrealistic ideal.

Skrzydlewska, whose doctoral dissertation was on the subject, says that many young women now believe that “the only confidence worth having is sexual confidence” and in fact, “it seems that what this hyper-sexualized society is selling to girls is actually a caricature of sexual confidence”. Hyper-sexualized images and messages are having a profound impact, researchers have found, with girls becoming more concerned with how others perceive them than with their own interests and desires.

This self-objectification fits well, she said, with the current media focus on self- improvement, not in the form of learning new skills but of enhancing one’s physical appearance.

“By all aspects of sexualisation we are stealing childhood from children by pushing them to become ‘little adults,’ and by making them experience emotions that are difficult to deal with at their young age.” Children do not possess the ability to interpret them correctly and critically and the result is poor self-esteem, depression and even dangerous eating disorders, she said.

Pornography shapes young people’s sexual knowledge but does so by portraying sex in unrealistic ways, she says. Moreover, pornography “is increasingly dominated by themes of aggression, power and control, blurring the lines between consent, pleasure and violence.”

According to researcher Dr. Linda Papadopoulos, there has been a marked increase in the number of sites that “infantilize women” which results in changes in perceptions of child pornography among adults. When girls are dressed to resemble adult women, people may associate adult motives and even a sense of adult responsibility onto the child. Depicting young girls dressed or made up as sexually mature older women may serve to normalize abusive practices such as child abuse or sexual exploitation.

Papadopoulos cites studies showing a link between pornography use and sexual behavior. One study conducted in the US shows that 29 per cent of high school students said that pornography had influenced their sexual behavior. A European study showed that 53 per cent of young men said pornography had “ inspired” their sexual behavior.

The EU report, not yet available in English, says that pornography has led the way to more men looking at children as objects of sexual desire, “especially after they clicked on the pop-up ads for teen porn” which lead eventually into real child porn.

“For some men, the teen sites were just a stepping stone to the real thing, as they moved seamlessly from adult women to children,” the report says.

Home Office research suggests that the porn and child porn industries and human trafficking are growing in tandem. In 2003 up to 4,000 women were victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation in the UK and in 2009 the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre estimated that the potential number of child trafficking victims was 325.

The link between pornography and organized crime is a long and established one. Together pornography, human trafficking and prostitution contribute to a network of exploitation that fuels the global sex trade, Kuchta said. According to the UN, global profits from the trafficking of human beings currently stand at around US $7 billion, equivalent in monetary terms to the global trade in drugs.

Simply put, the porn industry has created a market for children, which is being supplied by human trafficking, she said.

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Vatican’s doctrine chief: ‘Absolutely anti-Catholic’ to let bishops conferences decide doctrine or discipline

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By John-Henry Westen

VATICAN, March 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Cardinal Gerhard Ludwig Müller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has rejected outright the idea floated by Germany’s Cardinal Reinhard Marx that various bishops’ conferences around the world would decide for themselves on points of discipline or doctrine. 

“This is an absolutely anti-Catholic idea that does not respect the catholicity of the Church,” Cardinal Müller told France’s Famille Chrétienne in an interview published today

The question was raised because Cardinal Marx, the head of the German Catholic bishops’ conference and a member of Pope Francis’ advisory Council of Nine, told reporters that the German bishops would chart their own course on the question of allowing Communion for those in “irregular” sexual unions.

“We are not a subsidiary of Rome,” he said in February. “The Synod cannot prescribe in detail what we should do in Germany.”

Vatican Cardinal Müller remarked that while episcopal conferences may have authority over certain issues they are not a parallel magisterium apart from the pope or outside communion with the bishops united to him.

Asked specifically about Cardinal Marx saying that the Church in Germany is “not a subsidiary of Rome,” the head of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said pointedly “the president of an Episcopal Conference is nothing more than a technical moderator, and as such has no special teaching authority.”  He added moreover, that the dioceses in a particular country “are not subsidiaries of the secretariat of an Episcopal conference or diocese whose Bishop presides over the Episcopal Conference.”

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The CDF head warned that “this attitude makes the risk of waking some polarization between the local churches and the universal Church.” He did not however believe that there was the will for Episcopal conferences to separate from Rome.

The important interview also saw Cardinal Müller contest the notion that the pastoral practice or discipline could change while retaining the same doctrine. “We can not affirm the doctrine and initiate a practice that is contrary to the doctrine,” he said.

He added that not even the papal Magisterium is free to change doctrine. “Every word of God is entrusted to the Church, but it is not superior to the Word,” he said. “The Magisterium is not superior to the word of God. The reverse is true.”

Cardinal Müller rejected the notion that we would have to modify Christ’s unflinching words totally forbidding divorce and remarriage.  We cannot “say that our ministry should be more cautious than Jesus Christ Himself!”  Nor could we, he added, say that Christ’s teaching is out of date or that “we need to correct or refine Jesus Christ because He lived in an idealistic world.” 

Rather, the cardinal said, bishops must be ready for martyrdom.  Quoting Jesus he said, “Blessed are you when people insult you and persecute you, and if we speak all kinds of evil against you because of me.”

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‘Groundbreaking’: Kansas may become first state to ban dismemberment abortions

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By Ben Johnson

TOPEKA, KS, March 26, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Kansas will become the first state in the country to ban a procedure in which unborn children are dismembered in the womb, if Gov. Sam Brownback signs a bill that recently passed the state legislature.

The state House passed a ban on dilation and evacuation (D&E) abortions, called dismemberment abortions in common parlance, by 98-26 on Wednesday.

The Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act, which had already passed the state Senate in February 31-9, now heads to Gov. Brownback's desk.

Brownback, a staunch defender of life, is expected to sign the act into law.

"Because of the Kansas legislature's strong pro-life convictions, unborn children in the state will be protected from brutal dismemberment abortions," said Carol Tobias, president of the National Right to Life Committee, which has made banning dismemberment abortions a national legislative focus.

The procedure, in which an abortionist separates the unborn child's limbs from his body one at a time, accounts for 600 abortions statewide every year.

Nationally, it is “the most prevalent method of second-trimester pregnancy termination in the USA, accounting for 96 percent of all second trimester abortions,” according to the National Abortion Federation Abortion Training Textbook.

“It’s just unconscionable that something happens to children that we wouldn’t tolerate being done to pets,” Katie Ostrowski, the legislative director of Kansans for Life, told The Wichita Eagle.

Leading pro-life advocacy groups have made shifting the debate to dismemberment a national priority, with similar legislation being considered in Missouri and Oklahoma. Mary Spaulding Balch, J.D., who is NRLC's director of state legislation, called the bill's passage in Topeka “groundbreaking.”

"When the national debate focuses only on the mother, it is forgetting someone," she said.

The abortion lobby has made clear that it is uncomfortable engaging in a public relations tussle on this ground.

Elizabeth Nash, the senior state issues associate of the Guttmacher Institute, said that dismemberment is “not medical language, so it’s a little bit difficult to figure out what the language would do.”

On the state Senate floor, Democrats tried to alter the bill's language on the floor by replacing the term “unborn child” with fetus. “I know some of you don’t believe in science. But it’s not an unborn child, it’s called a fetus,” said state Senator David Haley, D-Kansas City.

If the bill becomes law, the abortion industry has vowed to fight on.

Julie Burkhart, a former associate of late-term abortionist George Tiller, said the motion's only intention is “to intimidate, threaten and criminalize doctors.”

“Policymakers should be ashamed,” she said, adding, “if passed, we will challenge it in court.”

Gov. Brownback has previously signed conscience rights protections and sweeping pro-life protections into law.

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How NOT to move beyond the abortion wars

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By Anne Hendershott

March 26, 2015 (CrisisMagazine.com) -- A few years ago, when an undergraduate student research assistant of mine—a recent convert to Catholicism—told me that he was planning to meet with a well-known dissenting Catholic theology professor who was then ensconced in an endowed chair at a major metropolitan Catholic university, I told him: “Be careful, you might end up liking him too much.” I jokingly told my student not to make eye contact with the theologian because he might begin to find himself agreeing with him that Catholic teachings “really allow” for women’s ordination and full reproductive rights—including access to abortion.

I was reminded of that conversation this week when I began reading a new book by yet another engaging Catholic theology professor at a major metropolitan university who also claims (pg 6) that the argument he puts forward in his book, Beyond the Abortion Wars, is “consistent with defined Catholic doctrine.” Written by Charles Camosy, associate professor of theology at Fordham University, the new book purports to be in line with Catholic teachings and promises “a way forward for a new generation.” But, Camosy delivers yet another argument for a woman’s right to choose abortion when confronted with an unborn child that he has described—in the past—as an “innocent aggressor.”

Indeed, Camosy has spent much of his career trying to convince us that he knows Catholic teachings better than the bishops. Criticizing Bishop Olmsted for his intervention and excommunication of a hospital administrator for her role in the direct abortion at a Phoenix Catholic hospital, Camosy suggested in 2013 that “the infamous Phoenix abortion case set us back in this regard.” Implying that Bishop Olmsted was not smart enough to understand the moral theology involved in the case, Camosy claimed that “The moral theology in the case was complex—which makes the decision to declare publicly that Sr. McBride had excommunicated herself even more inexplicable. The Church can do better.” For Camosy, “Catholics must be ready to help shape our new discussion on abortion. And we must do so in a way that draws people into the conversation—not only with respectful listening, but speaking in a way that is both coherent and sensitive.”

This new book is likely Camosy’s attempt to “draw people into the conversation.” But, there is little in his book that is either coherent or sensitive. Claiming to want to move “beyond” the abortion wars, Camosy creates an argument that seems designed to offend the pro-life side, while giving great respect to those who want to make sure abortion remains legal.

Especially offensive for pro-life readers will be Camosy’s description of the abortifacient, RU-486 as a form of “indirect abortion.” The reality is that RU-486, commonly known as the “abortion pill,” effectively ends an early pregnancy (up to 8 weeks) by turning off the pregnancy hormone (progesterone). Progesterone is necessary to maintain the pregnancy and when it is made inoperative, the fetus is aborted. For Camosy, who claims that his book is “consistent with settled Catholic doctrine,” this is not a “direct” abortion. To illustrate this, Camosy enlists philosopher Judith Jarvis Thompson’s 1971 “Defense of Abortion”—the hypothetical story of the young woman who is kidnapped and wakes up in a hospital bed to find that her healthy circulatory system has been hooked up to a famous unconscious violinist who has a fatal kidney ailment. The woman’s body is being used to keep the violinist alive until a “cure” for the violinist can be found. Camosy makes the case—as hundreds of thousands of pro-choice proponents have made in the past four decades—that one cannot be guilty of directly killing the violinist if one simply disconnects oneself from him. Likewise, for Camosy, simply taking the drug RU 486 is not “directly” killing the fetus. He writes:

The drugs present in RU 486 do not by their very nature appear to attack the fetus. Instead, the drug cuts off the pregnancy hormone and the fetus is detached from the woman’s body…. Using RU 486 is like removing yourself from [Judith Jarvis Thompson’s] violinist once you are attached. You don’t aim at his death, but instead remove yourself because you don’t think you have the duty to support his life with your body…. Some abortions are indirect and better understood as refusals to aid (pp 82-83).

Perhaps there are some readers who will find Camosy’s argument convincing, but I am not sure that many faithful Catholic readers will agree that it is consistent with settled Catholic doctrine.

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As one who is hardly a bystander in the abortion wars, I wanted to like this book. As an incrementalist who celebrates every small step in creating policy to protect the unborn, I had high hopes that this book would at last begin to bridge the divide. A decade ago, in my own book, The Politics of Abortion, I joined the argument begun by writers like Marvin Olasky in his Abortion Rites: A Social History of Abortion in America, that it is more effective to attempt to change the hearts and minds of people than to create divisive public policy at the federal level. I share Charles Camosy’s desire to end the abortion wars—but this war cannot end until the real war on the unborn ends. This does not mean that the two sides cannot work together—battling it out at the state level—where there is the opportunity for the greatest success. But, complex philosophical arguments on whether RU 486 is a direct or indirect form of abortion are not helpful to these conversations.

Camosy must know that we can never really “end” the abortion wars as long as unborn children are still viewed as “aggressors” or “invaders” and can still be legally aborted. Faithful Catholics know that there is no middle ground on this—the pro-life side has to prevail in any war on the unborn. It can be done incrementally but ground has to be gained—not ceded—for the pro-life side. Besides, Camosy seems a bit late to the battlefield to begin with. In many ways, he seems to have missed the fact that the pro-life side is already winning many of the battles through waiting periods, ultrasound and parental notification requirements, and restrictions on late term abortion at the state level. More than 300 policies to protect the unborn have been passed at the state level just in the past few years. The number of abortions each year has fallen to pre-Roe era levels—the lowest in more than four decade.   Much of these gains are due to the selfless efforts of the pro-life community and their religious leaders. Yet, just as victory appears possible in many more states, Camosy seems to want to surrender by resurrecting the tired rhetoric—and the unconscious violinists—of forty years ago.

While it is disappointing, it is not unexpected considering Camosy’s last book lauded the contributions of Princeton’s most notorious professor, Peter Singer—the proponent of abortion, euthanasia and infanticide. Claiming that Singer is “motivated by an admirable desire to respond to the suffering of human and non-human animals,” Camosy’s 2012 book, Peter Singer and Christian Ethics: Beyond Polarization, argues that, “Though Singer is pro-choice for infanticide, on all the numerous and complicated issues related to abortion but one, Singer sounds an awful lot like Pope John Paul II.”  In a post at New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good, a progressive organization led by Rev. Richard Cizik (a former lobbyist for the National Association of Evangelicals who was removed from his position because of his public support for same sex unions, and his softening stance on abortion) Camosy wrote that he found Singer to be “friendly and compassionate.”  Camosy currently serves on the Advisory Board of Cizik’s New Evangelical Partnership—where he has posted Peter Singer-like articles including: “Why Christians Should Support Rationing Health Care.”

One cannot know the motivations of another—we can never know what is in another’s heart so it is difficult to know why Charles Camosy wrote this book. It must be difficult to be a pro-life professor at Fordham University—a school known for dissenting theologians like Elizabeth Johnson. But, if one truly wants to advance a culture of life in which all children are welcomed into the world, it would seem that inviting Peter Singer to be an honored speaker to students at Fordham in 2012 is not the way to do it, nor would claiming that RU-486 “may not aim at death by intention.” Perhaps it is unwise to continue to critically review Camosy’s work from a Catholic perspective because it gives such statements credibility—and notoriety. But, as long as Camosy continues to claim that his writings and policy suggestions—including his newly proposed “Mother and Prenatal Child Protection Act”—are “consistent with defined Catholic doctrine,” faithful Catholics will have to continue to denounce them.

Reprinted with permission from Crisis Magazine. 

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