Friday, January 7, 2011

Steve Jobs, iPad, Censorship and Making Choices

Steve Jobs took a counter-cultural stand last year.1

He said that pornography shouldn't be on the iPad.

I think he made a good choice.

But it's not that simple.

With me, it seldom is.

This Catholic's View on Pornography

I'm a practicing Catholic.

I don't think pornography is a good idea. I think it's wrong.

So far, I probably haven't written anything that seems contradictory to many Americans.

Some may recognize that the Catholic Church has rules about sexual conduct - including what goes on inside our heads. (Matthew 5:28) These rules don't allow us to do "grave injury to the dignity" of people. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2354)

Others may assume that the Catholic Church has rules that don't let anybody have any fun. There's something to that. We're not taught to indulge in runaway "hedonism, materialism and life styles which easily lead to drug use."2

What About Censorship?

I also think censorship is a bad idea.

Coming from a practicing Catholic, some may find that startling. For example, it's 'well known' in some circles that Catholics aren't allowed to read the Bible, or even own one. There's also the idea that we aren't allowed to read a whole mess of books.

I don't expect to convince anyone who's determined to believe otherwise: but the Catholic Church encourages Bible study.

There is a sort of black list of publications that contain intellectual land mines. There's also a sort of white list of publications that have certified to be free of doctrinal error.

I've discussed this before:

iPad and Steve Jobs, Porn and Censorship

In May of 2010, Steve Jobs made it clear that he didn't want porn on the iPad. Folks who don't approve of pornography applauded him; folks who feel they have a right to make and distribute naughty pictures didn't.

Since I'm a practicing Catholic, I must be one of the 'oppressive enemies of free speech' who approved of Mr. Jobs' stand.

And, since I'm an American citizen who values free speech, I must think that Mr. Jobs should be criticized for getting in the way of my kids ability to access online porn.

Being Catholic: Simple, Sort of

My reaction to Steve Jobs' decision about the iPad and porn isn't that simple: because I'm a practicing Catholic, an American citizen, and a nit-picking intellectual old coot.

It's not so much having conflicting values, as it is being a man who understands that he shares Earth with 6,768,000,000 or so other folks. And is one of the 1,149,900,000-plus who call ourselves Catholics. 3

The rules we Catholics follow - or should follow - are simple. And they're not.

First, the simple part:
""5 One of the scribes, when he came forward and heard them disputing and saw how well he had answered them, asked him, 'Which is the first of all the commandments?' Jesus replied, 'The first is this: "Hear, O Israel! The Lord our God is Lord alone! You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength." The second is this: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." There is no other commandment greater than these.' "
(Mark 12:28-31)
There's another report of that conversation in another of the Gospels. (Matthew 22:36-40) That's where Jesus explains:
"24...The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.' "
(Matthew 22:40)
It doesn't get much simpler than 'love God, love my neighbor.'

Now, the complicated part: applying those two simple principles to living in a world with 1,000,000,000-plus other Catholics. And more folks who aren't.

Maybe, if we all had the same language, economic status, culture, and personality, the Catholic Church could write up a short list of 'dos and don'ts.'

That's not the way it is. Not even close.

I've discussed aspects of being part of a universal - literally - organization before, including these posts:

What's 'Pornography?'

One of the things I like about being Catholic - apart from being part of my Lord's outfit - is that I don't have to guess about what terms mean. Like "pornography:"
"Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials."
(Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2354)
Putting it another way: sex isn't a spectator sport.

There's more to the Church's teaching on sex than that. I've been over this sort of thing before. (November 17, 2010, August 3, 2010, June 5, 2010, for starters)

Censorship and the Catholic Church, in America

I'm concentrating on the Catholic Church's statements about censorship, as they relate to the Catholic Church in America. The principles of the Catholic Church don't vary from place to place: but different cultures are just that: different. America isn't Mozambique or China. Again, I've been over that before. (January 10, 2010)

The Catholic Church doesn't advocate government control of media in America. Given what happened around the world in the 20th century, that's no surprise to me.
"...Government censorship across a broad range of media is not feasible under our Constitution, nor is it desirable. The Church has experienced the damage inflicted by the power of the censor, where governments, hostile to all religion or to Christianity in particular, have sought to limit the reach of the gospel message. Government's role should be to use its good offices to act as a catalyst for industry self-regulation and for consumers' expression of their rights. ..."
("Renewing the Mind of the Media," Office of Media Relations, USCCB (June 1998))
Acting on orders from the Holy See, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) drew up a set of instructions, almost four decades ago:
"...The role of the civil authorities in this matter is essentially a positive one. Their chief task is not to create difficulties or to suppress, though, at times, corrective measures may become necessary. The Second Vatican Council explained that man's freedom is to be respected as far as possible, and curtailed only when and in so far as necessary.47 Censorship therefore should only be used in the very last extremity. Moreover the civil authorities should respect the principle of subsidiarity which has often been affirmed in the official teaching of the Church the gist of which is: 'Let them not undertake to do themselves what can be done just as well, or even better, by individuals or private groups'...."
(""Communio Et Progressio"...," Pastoral Instruction, Office of Media Relations, USCCB (May 23, 1971)
Looks like Steve Jobs was on the right track. He's an individual, and the folks who produce iPad are a 'private group.'

From one point of view, what the Catholic Church says has no immediate practical effect on Mr. Job's position regarding porn on the iPad.

I'm glad to see that my impression, that his 'no porn' position is consistent with the Catholic Church's teachings, is correct. And that it's consistent with what the Catholic Church has to say about censorship in this country.

What makes a big difference, in my opinion, is that Mr. Jobs and the folks who make iPad aren't 'from the government, and here to help.' Folks in America are free to choose. If we don't want to buy an iPad: we don't have to.

As for why I don't like the idea of censorship, and what I meant by Steve Jobs' taking a counter-cultural position? That's a topic for another post.

Somewhat-related posts:
In the news:

1 Excerpt from "I want the iPad porn-free, says Apple's Steve Jobs," (May 25, 2010):
"Having survived liver cancer and being fired by Apple, not to mention negotiations with some of the planet's toughest business brains, Steve Jobs is hardly shy of a battle – and his latest target is pornography. He wants to keep it off Apple products.

"Given the proliferation of porn on the web, this might seem Canute-ish – and profit-sapping. Yet so insistent is Apple, many magazine publishers developing 'apps' for the new iPad, which launches in the UK on Friday, have had to self-censor. In the offices of the lifestyle magazine Dazed and Confused, the iPad version is mockingly known as 'the Iranian version', because of the amount of censorship required to get it approved for Apple's App Store. Germany's Stern magazine saw its app pulled because it runs topless photo spreads, while the newspaper Bild has added bikinis to its topless models.

"Jobs has made his thoughts on the topic very clear twice this year. In April, he told a press conference: 'You know, there's a porn store for Android [phones using Google's software]. You can download porn, your kids can download porn. That's a place we don't want to go – so we're not going to go there.'"

"In an email exchange with Ryan Tate, a writer for the Gawker website, Jobs set out his stall very clearly. Tate, annoyed by an iPad advert calling it a "revolution", challenged Jobs: 'If [Bob] Dylan [one of Jobs's childhood heroes] was 20 today, how would he feel about your company? . . . Revolutions are about freedom,' Tate wrote.

"Jobs, an archetypal Democrat, replied in a tone that sounded as though he was channelling George W Bush: 'Yep, freedom from programs that steal your private data. Freedom from programs that trash your battery. Freedom from porn. Yep, freedom.'..."

2 "Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation
Ecclesia in America
of the Holy Father John Paul II
to the Bishops, Priests and Deacons, Men and Women Religious, and All the Faithful
on the encounter with the Living Jesus Christ: The Way to Conversion, Communion and Solidarity in America
(June 3, 2003)
Paragraph 64.
3 Estimated world population, July 2010: 6,768,181,146, (source: World, CIA World FactBook (last updated January 3, 2011))

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Background:Posts in this blog: In the news:

What's That Doing in a Nice Catholic Blog?

From time to time, a service that I use will display links to - odd - services and retailers.

I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.