Emmitsburg Council of Churches

For kids to be kids,
adults must be adults

Father John J. Lombardi

"Beauty, a kind of mirror of the Divine, inspires and vivifies young hearts and minds, while ugliness and coarseness have a depressing impact on attitudes and behavior." -Pope Benedict XVI

Manipulation. In part, that's what life is about. Let me clarify that: and Salvation, too.

In this Bulletin Mediation we're going to focus on some of the manipulations around us today-and also some salvific solutions. These ideas came to me recently while glancing over a Gettysburg Times Op-Ed article, which caught my attention, entitled: "For kids to be kids, adults must be adults," by Betsy Hart. In this excellent (must-read for parents) article, Ms. Hart describes how some young girls today are posing semi-clad, in various websites, MySpace, etc,, and, also how "Some say its OK for girls to go wild" (in an ABCNews.com site). Such girls are dressed (or not so) in bikinis displaying themselves provocatively for viewers and how, as Sheila Marikar wryly says, "For the most part their behavior is not cause for alarm; it's a necessary step in growing up". Huh?! Hart then quotes a Columbia University journalism expert (Columbia is the "Vatican of journalism"): "By dressing provocatively and posting salacious photos on social networking sites young women are trying to accomplish a time-honored goal of adolescence: establishing their independence."

Really? And, Bar adds-get this: "As the Marikar story was being posted two men were arrested on charges that they raped a 14 yr old girl they pursued thru MySpace."

Read: Manipulation. Not "adolescent development"! Counter this manipulation, we Catholics must note, salvation is offered. The word Salvation means, literally "healing". And vis-B-vis our "manipulation theme," salvation may come from the realization of the "ABC's" of contemporary life-Attraction By Contrivance. Translation: many today are being allured by evil and need help from Jesus Christ. The realization of manipulation is the first step toward liberation. Many young girls are manipulated by a so-called "adolescent development" thru the contrivance of computer savvy entrepreneurs-"soft pornographers". This form of pornography and manipulation is being mainstreamed, airbrushed-by "experts" and naVve adults and unsuspecting elite; and rapes and exploitation occur. It is real and becoming widespread.

Now, notice, there are three errors and exploitations in the above-story: 1-Sexploitation-of the young-by turning them into sex objects, away from persons, human beings due respect of dignity; 2-some "experts" are saying this is "healthy" (becoming sex-objects-?)-this is the "new enlightenment" proposed; 3-the computer-internet is used, misused for this end.

Ever since the Garden of Eden (Gn. 1-2) manipulation has occurred. Satan manipulated Adam and Eve into knowledge apart from God.

Thing is: Christianity-and Catholicism in particular-is often critiqued and decried for holding back "women's rights" (and so forth) and this is, shall we say, " the fourth exploitation" (in addition to ones above). In fact, since Jesus Christ Himself gave dignity to women, choosing the Virgin Mary as the Mother of God, and her Immaculate Conception of purity as a model of human dignity; and since He traveled with women as disciples, and saved women from unjust practices (cf. Jn. 8), and since Catholicism-Christianity has upheld women like Mary Magdalene (first witness of the Resurrection), Saints Teresa of Avila, Catherine of Siena, Edith Stein (St. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross) as doctors of the Church, and Mother Teresa and Mother Cabrini and triumphers of the poor and women... can't people see the Church as protectors of women and their dignity, as in fact she genuinely is? While so-called "progressivists" like the expert at Columbia (above) and on the Internet align with and promote a false "adolescent expression" and "pornography at any cost"-and view the Church as "conservative throw-backs" when in fact she is really a "conservationist" of women's dignity, just who is the real helper-and, exploiter-- of women?

I just glanced thru a book by one of our Mt St Mary's professors, D. Kirk Davidson, called, provocatively: "Selling Sin," subtitled, "The Marketing of Socially Unacceptable Products." The book includes chapters on tobacco, firearms, gambling, alcohol and pornography. In this book we can see how people are being manipulated thru the ABC's of strategic sin: allured by contrivance away from salvation and healing by these dubitable practices.

Just what is a manipulation, exploitation, you ask? It is: someone (or a group or corporation) who has a harmful intention to alter the natural dignity of one's life and make this seem normal, attractive--liberating.

The manipulations are all around us today: the drug culture rising in suburban areas and schools (promising, as Pope Benedict acutely termed it, an "artificial paradise" of ecstasy) Imams alluring youth into militancy; materialism (as in: "You are what you possess"; larger vehicles and "McMansions" for smaller commuters). There is a rising "computerology" (overuse or harmful use of modern technologies); mass-media bias (read Bernard Goldberg's book, "Bias"); harmful educational systems (i.e., illicit sex education). In some bio ethics today, some scientists and ethicists are creating a drastic dualism by their language: saying a developing human being (tissue, fetus, etc) is not really a human person--a full persons (yet) and therefore can be exploited, cloned or harvested for body parts. And, dare we describe it this Super Bowl weekend, spotty sports scenarios whereby so many cities basically sell themselves-and sell out the poor, really-in trying to attain and entertain professional sports teams, and, to boot, many of the stars are seldom heroes in the Christian sense. Today, also, "busybodyism (as in: "You are a 'productive human being' if only you keep active") manipulates us, as well as proposals of "alternative families" and anti-family attitudes. The cosmetic industry is also a manipulation whereby companies try to alter your looks and appearance and "re-create a new you". Building booms bust us and God's Land. It's been said that Wal Mart has planned, or is planning to build a huge store just south of Mary's Mountain. They were rejected from Thurmont and, despite huge stores in nearby Frederick and Gettysburg they planned building right in one of our most beautiful valleys below Catoctin Mountain. Do we really need more shopping? Lastly, various forms of entertainment which promise thrills and emotional gratification galore, and in the end, leave us dry and still desirous.

Note: manipulation is the opposite of authenticity: there is a Plan of God for each human being, a design or "form" or vocation He wants us to follow or protect (authentic dignity), to know and pursue. The multi-nationalist abortion-procurer Planned Parenthood manipulates the poor thru "women's rights", etc.

The schemes are not always so explicit. I recently read in the following advertisement for a new computer technology which promises so much, (too much?): "On the human network, people everywhere are experiencing a new kind of day. Encyclopedias update themselves every minute. Movies appear wherever there's a screen handy. And a phone can double as a train ticket or a lift ticket. Welcome to a place where wikis, collaborative applications and social networks are making us smarter, better and faster. Welcome to a network where anything is possible. Because when we're together, we're more powerful than we could ever be apart."

This promises a hope of gigantic fulfillment. Now, the computer, Internet or any modern technology is neither ultimately good or bad in itself, but precisely good or bad by how we use it. As a matter of fact, I am typing this Meditation on a laptop computer: technology used for good (I hope!). But: I wonder just where are the healthy-critiques of technologies whereby we warn the young and others of the harms which may sometimes pervade them-sexploitation and so forth, rather than saying "It's all good" or else plead naiveté?

Ms Hart herself doesn't just expose the manipulation scheme but offers a kind of salvific help, with a book called: "It Takes a Parent: How the Culture of Parenting is Hurting our Kids-and What to Do About It," which shows how parents can love their children, enlighten and discipline them and bring them thru adolescence in healthy and decent ways, not manipulations. Likewise, regarding healthy sexuality, Pope John Paul II described in many talks a "theology of the body" whereby the human form is praised and seen as an "extension" and "language" of, and designed by, God and not to be used in false, futile, flirty ways (exploitation). Regarding the rising phenomenon of busybodyism, in a helpful book, "In Praise of Slowness," by Carl Honore, we see both manipulative schemes of modern life and doable solutions of actually enjoying a slower, more contemplative life (Cf. Mk. 6:31).

Sports: instead of ultra-rich and sassy stardom so many seek in baseball and basketball today, think of Pat Tilghlman who gave up a valuable contract in professional football and went to Afghanistan and was killed there serving his country…Against the manipulations of crass food producers (genetic manipulators, cloning) many are turning to more natural, less-processed foods. See the excellent article in New York Times Magazine, Jan 28, on "UnHappy Meals," by Michael Pollan-whereby you can save tons of dieting (and grocery) money by keeping it simple (his suggestions after yrs of research): "Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants…whole fresh foods." ...Counter the abortion manipulation, there is healing: A friend just completed a Pro-Life rally in one of the most abortive cities in our land, San Francisco. Against all odds, these marchers carried posters which the local bishop lauded-"Abortion Hurts Women". That was instantly liberating--and healing to many there. Some 20,000 folks marched for life, and tv-news items appeared altering peoples' thinking. Local high schools have since considered curriculum to help women choose life. So, remember--manipulation can change-if you, like these folks, work for it!

Now, oppositely, happily here's a salvific message and spin which I just got via email by a creative biblical reader. The word "Valentine" is spelled throughout the most famous Bible phrase, St Jn 3:16 "For God so loVed that He gAve His onLy BegottEn SoN That whosoever believeth In Him should Not perish but have Everlasting life." Get it? Well, this is a great, inspirational, salvific solution using technology for good and not manipulation! Pass it on!

So, regarding healthy sexuality, technology, adolescent development, discipleship, here are some conclusions (or "starts") to guide you:

  1. Know that some are out to change you, to lead you away from God or human dignity: Realization is the first step to healing from harms.
  2. Protect yourself, your children, your family (monitor computer usage, etc)
  3. Use technology and human development systems in right and healthy, not harmful, ways. Let's all realize there are multiple manipulations in our world today, and, also healthy Salvation, as Pope Benedict says: There is Beauty, which is a "mirror of the Divine" -the Way Of Jesus Christ.

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi