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A Specific View Of The Person
In my first book I shared a story about meeting a young woman at a Catholic school.
It was transformative moment in my life. Theory hit reality with stunning force. I had been speaking about the impact of pornography on young men and women and she came to see me in the break. As she began to cry she shared how she had been fighting with her parents and had moved in with her boyfriend. He was addicted to hardcore pornography and multiple times a week he forced her into degrading situations that broke her soul. Yes, I reported it to staff and followed up, but so much of the damage had been done.
Why do I share this with you? I share it for the same reason that I talk to teachers in my live seminars about the 6 million people who died in the holocaust and the roughly 160 million people who died due to the wars unleashed in the 20th century. I spend a lot of time trying to get people to understand that when we see the worst of human behaviour, from the sexual trauma of the girl in my seminar to the gulags and gas chambers of the 20th century we are seeing the same essential problem being enacted over and over again. And what is that problem? Essentially, it’s the problem, the sin, of treating a human person in a way that runs contrary to the very deepest truth of what they are.
When we reflect upon the holocaust or the desolate sexual landscape of modern teens we find, in the ultimate analysis, an horrific and diabolical misreading of the truth of the human person. You can only send someone to the gas chamber if you have no belief in their humanity. You have to see them as less than human. You can only abuse a teenage girl if you see her as somehow undeserving of love, respect and care. You have to learn those beliefs. You have to practice them.
As I’ve already mentioned, my life was changed by Pope John Paul II. As a polish seminarian attending an underground seminary during Nazi occupation he saw exactly what happens when enough people misunderstand the truth about the human person. He once wrote then when the wind changed direction the ashes of his countrymen and women would fall on him while he was working as forced labour in a chemical plant. He experienced, personally and viscerally, what happens when people lose site of the truth of the human person.
One of the great things about the study I completed at the Pontifical Institute was that it taught me to think about history, both that of the Church and the wider world in 500 year time blocks. In a world obsessed with instant media it’s a good skill to have. The study brought me to see that right at this moment in history, the Catholic Church and as a result, whether it knows it or not, Catholic Education, is locked in one, great, single struggle. John Paul II understood this with laser like clarity and spent his entire life, in one way or another, completely focused upon it. And what battle is this? It is the battle over the identity, over the meaning, over the value and dignity of the human person.