A shocking lack of decency abounds

By  Michele Faux, Catholic Register Special
  • March 25, 2008

My mother and I had just settled in front of the television to watch a movie. Foolishly (at least it seems so, afterwards, to my teenage self), I mentioned that the movie had been condemned by the Legion of Decency. I promptly found myself looking for something else to do. There wouldn’t be any TV for me that night.

I don’t think the OFF button gets used too often in today’s homes. In the school staffroom, we often discuss the adoption of TV morality by our children and students. That credo can be summarized as “it’s only wrong if you get caught.” I lament the models we allow our young people to emulate. I especially mourn the absence of decency.

One day, in a classroom, I heard lewd-sounding snickers coming from a group of male students. I realized they were looking at pictures on one boy’s cell phone and understood by the comments, that he was showing them naked pictures of his girlfriend. This boy really cares for his long-term girlfriend yet would be shocked to think that her posing or his sharing is wrong.

Another day, I broke speed records when I heard sex sounds played loudly on a classroom laptop. The student had turned the volume up on purpose for just that effect. He was watching a You-Tube video of a car that uses orgasmic sounds as an alarm. He thought the video was hilarious. I wondered about the owner of the car and the people who had created and sold that alarm. They would probably say it was just a joke and anything that gets a laugh can’t be bad.

A few years ago, a group of teacher friends and I persuaded another teacher to accompany us to a local comedy club. She had been a widow for several years and wore her sadness so visibly that we thought she could use a laugh. I had attended a show at the same club the week before. It was a fund-raiser for a children’s sports team and the comedy was clean and hilarious.

Too bad we were a week late. The night with the widow contained the filthiest joke telling any of us had ever heard. We were all embarrassed and the widow has never joined us socially again.

You don’t need a Facebook account to understand that a lack of privacy often accompanies the lack of decency. A teacher told me of a pregnant student who passed around her ultrasound pictures. After all the oohing and ahhing, she announced that she was “getting rid of it” that week.

The Legion of Decency has been absorbed by an office of the American bishops. Today there is an Office for Film and Broadcasting which publishes movie reviews and ratings. Maybe modern Catholics would ignore the guidelines. I do wonder if we have replaced something with nothing.

Recently, at Mass, I listened to a passage that said our celebration of the birth of Christ is also a celebration of the birth of innocence and the birth of dignity. I’m longing to celebrate and rebirth can’t come too soon.

(Michele Faux, a mother of five, is a Contributing Editor to The Catholic Register.)

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