In my younger days, I used to be the sort of guy who would insist that I’d rather have a world that included pornography, obscenity, and the like, than live in a world of restricted expression. It sounded almost noble: I may disagree with what you’re saying, but I’ll fight to the death for your right to say it.
In those days I also fell prey to the temptations of online pornography. People were free to “express themselves” directly into my computer, and I listened to the destructive siren song. My struggles to clean up my own act helped me to realize what a scourge porn is — especially now that it’s delivered free to anything with a screen for viewing. I took to praying the Hail Mary whenever I passed a so-called “adult entertainment” store or “gentlemen’s club.” And no establishment heard more of my prayers than the XXX Adult Book Store in Ramsey. The dilapidated bright green building stood on a weedy lot along U.S. 10, with three bright red Xs on white sign boards, beckoning to passersby, seedy, sordid, and doing a steady business.
For years I’ve prayed every time I passed — that the red hardtop Thunderbird wouldn’t be parked out back (the owner’s, I guess, or a regular customer’s), that it would go out of business, anything Our Blessed Mother could arrange. Then finally a week or so ago, I saw a black and orange For Sale sign on the side. I smiled, and said an extra prayer that afternoon.
A few days later, I drove by, and the For Sale sign was gone. So were the Xs. I said a prayer of thanksgiving.
Today I learned the whole story from Fox 9: tired of its most infamous landmark, the City of Ramsey learned it was for sale, and bought it from the retiring 87-year-old owner in order to close it down and demolish the building.
Too often, people are dismissive of porn. “Men will be men,” they say — but the locals tell of customers concealing their identities when the store was open…and dumpster diving for leftover inventory after it closed. These are not men, but slaves.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church is stronger and more than direct than I remembered on this topic:
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 (CCC 2354).
I doubt the city had the Catechism in mind when it took action, and its motives likely encompassed something more (or other) then public morality — the building was an eyesore and an unfortunate and highly visible point of reference, plus the land is worth money. But whatever the complete rationale for its action, the City of Ramsey has set a solid example for others to follow. Where there is sin, we can, and should, work to uproot it. Then we’ll be men.