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By Peter Novecosky, OSB

Abbot Peter Novokosky

Pornography: a culture change

A recent conference at the Vatican brought together city mayors and church leaders to discuss climate change. The initiative from the Vatican, in conjunction with the United Nations, was spurred by Pope Francis’ recent encyclical on the environment.

The conference also addressed another change in today’s global climate — the increase in human and sexual trafficking. This scourge affects millions of people worldwide, mainly the poor and powerless.

Another aspect of this cultural change was highlighted at a recent conference in Washington, as reported by Catholic News Service. It addressed the growing use of pornography. 

Pornography is one of the most influential cultural changes brought about by the Internet. Pornography is sexualizing the innocence of today’s young children, causing a race to adulthood before the end of childhood, the conference was told. Young girls are being bombarded with photo-shopped images and are buying into unrealistic expectations set before them at an age meant for skinned knees and the Disney Channel.

“Our entire culture is getting our girls porn ready,” said Gail Dines, a professor of sociology and women’s studies at Wheelock College in Boston. “It hypersexualizes them at a young age.” She added, “We are bringing up a generation of boys,” in which Internet porn tells them, ‘You want to be a man? Well this is your initiation.’ ’’

This initiation starts at a young age. A study conducted by the Internet Watch Foundation found 17.5 per cent of youth-produced sexual content involves pornographic images of children under the age of 15 and 93.1 per cent involves girls.

Dines pointed out that 36 per cent of Internet content is pornographic and online porn brings in total revenue of $3,000 every second. On average, she said, one out of every four Internet searches is about porn. “Pornography is the public health crisis of the digital age,” she added.

Internet porn is teaching children that this is normal, that it doesn’t hurt anybody and that everyone is doing it, according to Mary Anne Laden, from the University of Pennsylvania. Porn also changes the way children view others of the opposite sex, said Ernie Allen, former president and CEO of the National Centre for Missing & Exploited Children.

A 2007 American Psychological Association study titled Web Pornography’s Effect on Children noted that in today’s new culture young people are being taught that it isn’t necessary to have affection for people to have sex with them.

Dr. Donald J. Hilton, a neurosurgeon from the University of Texas, said use of pornography impacts the human brain. “Pornography is associated with shrinkage in the brain’s key reward areas,” he said. The more pronounced pornography usage, the more shrinkage occurs in that area of the brain. The brain is the source of behaviour, but it is modified by the behaviour it produces.

Mary Anne Layden, director of the sexual trauma and psychopathology program in the Centre for Cognitive Therapy at the University of Pennsylvania, noted that pornography victimizes college-age females. She said 25 per cent of college women experience a rape or attempted rape. Women who are exposed to porn as young girls are more likely to feel negative about their bodies, she said. They have less support for women’s equality, and are more likely to think that rapists deserve less time in prison.

Pope Francis has awakened today’s world to the challenge of climate change. Another change in societal values is happening, as noted above — a change that is even more serious, pervasive and challenging.

Adult stem cells are the future

Recent underground videos have caught Planned Parenthood officials flat-footed, admitting they illegally harvest fetal organs and tissue to sell to researchers. Talking to actors posing as researchers, two doctors have admitted they charge fees to provide fetal parts from abortions. More videos will reportedly be released in the next weeks.

Embryos are in demand by researchers who say they promise cures for a multitude of diseases.

But this commonly accepted notion is disputed by David Prentice, vice-president and research director for the Washington-based Charlotte Lozier Institute. He told a recent American National Right to Life Convention in New Orleans that the use of adult stem cells far outweigh the benefits of embryonic stem cells. He said more than 70,000 patients throughout the world are receiving adult stem-cell transplants annually, with an estimated one million total patients treated to date.

“How many people have been cured using embryonic stem cells?” he asked. “Zero,” he answered, noting that misinformation in the media and the Internet continues to promote “fairy tales” about the promise of embryonic stem cells in curing disease and being the elusive “fountain of youth” for humankind.

“You’ve got to destroy that young human being to get the embryonic stem cells,” he said of the failing but over-hyped technology.

Adult stem cells — described as undifferentiated cells that already exist among the differentiated cells that make up specific tissues or organs — can be used in various parts of the body to regenerate and repair diseased or damaged tissue.

Adult cells have other advantages beside their ethical benefit of not killing human life, Prentice said. Many types of adult stem cells can be harvested in relatively painless, outpatient procedures. For example, adult stem cells from bone marrow, once accessible only by deep needle extraction, can now be collected in a process akin to giving blood. Another source of stem cells — fat tissue — can be tapped via liposuction.

Here are the cases he highlighted in his address, as reported by Catholic News Service:

— A woman grew an entirely new bladder made from her own adult stem cells.

— A woman initially told by her doctors that she would have to have her leg amputated kept the leg after her own bone marrow was enlisted to grow new blood vessels in the diseased limb.

— A man who lost part of his jaw to cancer regrew his jawbone, has no lingering signs of disfigurement and was able to eat his first solid meal in nine years.

— Damaged corneal tissue has been successfully regenerated, restoring vision.

— A man with Parkinson’s disease was treated with adult stem cells taken from his own brain and has had no symptoms of the disease for five years.

“The bottom line is the adult stem cells are the ones that work — they’re working now in patients,” Prentice said. “I’m telling you all these (stories of success), but you’re probably not seeing it in the news, right?”

He referred his audience to the website for statistics and patient testimonials. Hopefully, more of these success stories will be reported in the mainstream media.