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Media frenzy is focused wherever cameras are aimed and RSS feeds bring up top headlines, so we all learn to direct our attention to the gasping story of the moment. We’ve gone from Tiger Woods to….Pope Benedict.

Hold it. Let’s have a moment of serious reflection.

I’m getting so many headlines in my inbox and newletter feeds, it’s hard to keep up with it all. But for my money, the best analysis wrapping it all in one reflective piece right now is this commentary by Michael Cook. It goes beyond the usual papal or Church bashing to something much deeper, wider and more sinister.

The scandal of clergy who sexually abused children is diabolically real. It has to be confronted humbly and courageously by the bishops who run the Catholic Church. Clergy who are found guilty should be punished. Higher-ups who shielded them should resign.

There is no doubt that Pope Benedict is ready to take a tough line on this…

However…

The huge, unreported story is that we are in denial about a widespread, deliberate, systemic encouragement of people not to control their sexuality. It’s as if a health department allowed witch doctors and Reiki therapists to edge out surgeons. Or as if a defence department allowed its tanks to rust. Fundamental principles of a civilized society like sexual restraint, fidelity in marriage, and nurturing families, are being undermined. The mind-numbing list of politicians caught with their pants down, the tsunami of pornography, sky-rocketing teen sex – all these are warning bells about the consequences of creating a hyper-sexualised culture…

What kind of society are we creating if we actively encourage children to treat sex as  entertainment and encourage men to remain in a constant state of arousal? Sex is not a toy. Without clear moral standards, it is a natural passion which easily becomes an unnatural addiction. Does anyone seriously believe that in 30 years’ time there will be less sex abuse after giving children classroom lessons in how to masturbate?

Of all our social institutions, it seems that only the Church realizes that a crisis is brewing for which we are going to pay dearly in the years ahead. As Benedict told American bishops:

“Children deserve to grow up with a healthy understanding of sexuality and its proper place in human relationships. They should be spared the degrading manifestations and the crude manipulation of sexuality so prevalent today. They have a right to be educated in authentic moral values rooted in the dignity of the human person… What does it mean to speak of child protection when pornography and violence can be viewed in so many homes through media widely available today?”

Who has taken that to heart since Benedict delivered that impassioned appeal in his U.S. visit in April 2008? Covering it in Washington at the time, my producer and I went over all the pope’s lines of the week’s addresses, and marked the ones that jumped out at us. That one did.

To whom else did it jump out?

The bandagon is rolling to pile on to bash the pope, and the clever media response is ‘oh, the Vatican is responding by blaming the media’. Let’s do some serious soul-searching on this, and ask what we can do for our own self-discipline, for our families, and our responsibility to the church in the modern world.

Serously, we are being watched. Practice virtue. It’s Holy Week. Good time to start over.

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