When a void is created through negligence or fear, something is bound to rush in and fill it. For too long the Church and her members have been stone silent as a pernicious, decadent rot has overtaken the consciences of the young. Where morality and decency once governed, chaos now reigns. Catechesis has all but vanished from schools, homes, and even some churches, but the need for guidance still persists. As always the pop culture is there, filling the void.
One of the latest substitutes is a new MTV call-in show entitled Loveline. Though it has little to do with love, in any of its variations, it has plenty to do with sex. Swathed in a haze of smoky blue lighting, before an audience of some of the hippest kids in Hollywood, two “experts” offer advice and guidance to teens. One fellow provides comic relief, while his sidekick, Dr. Drew (the M.D. of the bunch), offers the really useful stuff.
For those who have not seen this sideshow of corrupted innocence, here is a sampling: Steve, an eighteen-year-old from the Midwest, calls in with this query: “Uh, my girlfriend and I both have genital herpes, and we would like to go to the doctor about it, but her parents are real strict. What should we do? And can she get on the pill with this condition?” In no time Dr. Drew has concocted the perfect answer—never hesitating to consider how the response could devastate young lives on the other side of the camera. “Don’t tell the parents. Just go to the doctor. You are legally entitled to your privacy.” “But what about the medicine? Her parents will know she’s taking it.” Nothing a little more deception can’t cure. “Hide the medicine in an aspirin bottle; they’ll never find it,” adds a ragged-out, emaciated singer named Poe. She is a guest expert on the show tonight. Then Dr. Drew really shows his hand: “If I were you I’d go to someplace where the cost was low like Planned Parenthood. And get her on birth control right away—the treatment will not affect birth control.”
Rather than helping these kids realize the error of their ways and offering constructive remedies to rebuild their crippled lives and bodies, Dr. Drew takes the easy way out: Pop a pill, do what you want, spread a little disease, and remember, the folks at the abortuary are there to help. Every question receives a hedonistic green light, veiled in mock concern.
The entire program reminded me of something I came across a few days ago in the Holy Father’s limeamenta (the preparatory document for the upcoming American synod). He says: “[the media] is frequently manipulated for ‘disinformation’ and ‘deformation’ in sowing a materialistic, hedonistic mentality.”
Consider for a moment why Dr. Drew made no mention of chastity, marriage, or respect for one’s body? Perhaps because he couldn’t sell it. Loveline is sponsored by companies pushing HIV tests, condoms, and other assorted goodies, as the commercials will testify. Trying to sell these products to modest, chaste teens is like trying to sell a curling iron to Yul Brynner. MTV doesn’t want chaste teens, they want easily swayed, promiscuous, kids to scoop up the wares. Loveline is the instrument of sexual marketing. Sadly, many parents and churches offer no alternative. Silence is easier.
To be fair a few Catholic publications and organizations are trying to break the bonds of this modern-day slavery. God knows the Holy Father has relentlessly reached out to the young. But though World Youth Days are fantastic, the message needs to be sustained, popularized, and repeated to the young. This has yet to happen. The time is ripe for an authentically Catholic declaration of the Gospel that embraces the culture, even as it transforms it. We can’t run to the catacombs on this one.
With young people facing drugs, homosexuality, body piercing, and assorted sexual diseases, the Church needs to popularize her teachings in a very public manner. If we adopt a closeted approach, preaching to our own little enclave, the culture will be unaffected, and we will fail. Catholic kids just won’t accept it. We can no longer afford to hide behind gilded language while dodging the sticky issues parents and some clergy prefer to leave untouched. Embarrassing as they sometimes are, these are the issues facing the young.
If MTV should teach us anything, it is that an audacious approach coupled with direct answers reaches the young. Now all they need is the Truth. As the Loveline commercial promises: “the truth will set you free, even if it hurts.” If we as a Church don’t begin to unflinchingly proclaim the Truth to our young people, we may all be hurting, a great deal more.