23: Pornography and Obscenity: A Threat for the Dignity of the Human Person


The impact of pornography on society is progressively increasing. Its effects are threatening life by eroding and destroying the dignity of the human person. The tragic message of pornography, especially when directed towards children, is that people exist for the sexual satisfaction of others. Catholic social doctrine cannot accept this, especially because it disregards fundamental truths about the human person that say human life is sacred and has social value.

Cardinal Bernardin calls us to remember that God has made us in His own image and likeness. Therefore, as a violation of human dignity and a debasement of the human person, pornography is equally a debasement of God. We have the duty to protect human life in all circumstances and at all stages of its development. We are exhorted to face the fact that life-diminishing issues – such as prostitution, pornography, sexism and racism – can become life-threatening and easily lead to violence. Human life is diminished when people, especially children, are exploited to produce pornography.

Violence, degradation, and humiliation are simply not compatible with the true sexual nature of the human being. We need strong strategies to check the rampant pornography. We need to understand what laws can prohibit and where morality is necessary. A well-reasoned approach to the problem is needed to strike a balance between freedom and to restrain uncritical approaches that run the risk of grossly oversimplifying the problem. We need to stress that human values consist in more than physical attractiveness. For example, the value of actors, writers and film makers is greater than their ability to meet particular demands of their audience. An integral vision of human sexuality is a gift we can offer our sex-saturated society.