ISLAMIC AND CHRISTIAN PERSPECTIVES
Pornography, which I define as the live or artistic portrayal of the human body as an object of sexual desire for the viewer, concerns religions such as Islam and Christianity because it affects a person's individual and social conduct, for which he is responsible to God. I will first talk about Islam, then Christianity, and finally compare the two.
In Islam, as in Christianity, the question of pornography is only a negative facet of rules on body privacy. These rules, in turn, are only part of the wider matter of the sacredness (Œurma) of human sexuality as it is reserved to definite partners according to the laws of marriage or ownership.
The Qur'ân contains numerous rules concerning sexual rights and restrictions, which need not be examined here. (1) Concerning body covering there is the following interesting story (Q 7:26-27):Sons of Adam, we gave you clothing to hide your genitals and surrounding parts. But the clothing of piety is better... Sons of Adam, do not let Satan turn you away, as he forced your [first] parents out of Paradise, removing their clothing to show them their genitals. Satan and his tribe see you from where you cannot see them.
The exposure of Adam and Eve to one another is viewed as a disgrace.
The Qur'ânic rules for veiling and seclusion of women came only after MuŒammad observed that his wives enjoyed the company of other men. so there was published the following (Q 33:53):Believers, do not enter the Prophet's apartments unless you are invited to eat, and do not come before time. but if you are invited, enter, and when you have been fed go away without hanging around to talk. That annoys the Prophet and makes him ashamed of you. but God is not ashamed of what is right. If you ask his wives for something, speak to them from behind the curtain. That is purer for your hearts and theirs. It is not permitted for you to offend the Messenger of god or ever to marry his wives after him. That would be a great sin before God.
Other regulations followed:Prophet, tell your wives and daughters and the wives of the believers to keep their veils closely drawn. That way they can be better recognized and not offended. (Q 3:59)Tell the women believers to lower their eyes and guard their private parts and not to show their adornment except what sticks out. They should cross their veils in front of them and not show their adornment except to their husbands, fathers, fathers-in-law, sons, sons of their husbands, brothers, sons of their brothers or sisters, their women, slaves eunuchs or children who have had no experience of women's private parts. They should not shake their legs so that their hidden ornaments can be known. (Q 24:31)Theology and law
Although the Qur'ân contains the germ of an analytical theology of marriage, Muslim writers have not developed its potential very far, but stick mostly to the legal aspects of marriage. One exception is al-Ghazâlî (d. 1111) who, in his encyclopedic IŒyâ' `ulûm ad-dîn, devotes one book (Kitîb âdâb an-nikâŒ) to marriage and another (Kitâb kasr ash-shahwatayn) to the relevance of marriage and sex to the sûfî, or seeker after spiritual enlightenment and purification.
The Risâla of Ibn-abî-Zayd al-Qayrawânî is one of the most important legal works for Mâlikî Islam, which prevails in North and West Africa, and contains various rules pertaining to body covering. (2) The prologue says that at the age of ten children are to be separated from sleeping under one cover. Chapter 41 explains further:41.05 Excess and defect in clothing
When women go out, they should not wear thin clothing which allows their shape to be seen.
A man should not drag his wrapper vauntingly or his garment ostentatiously. His garment should go only to his ankles, since this will keep it cleaner and show more reverence to his Lord.
It is forbidden to wear a ªammî' cloth over no other garment; this is a cloth which [goes over both shoulders and] is lifted up [by the arm] on one side, while hanging down on the other. Such a garment is forbidden if one is not wearing an undergarment, but if one is, there is a difference of opinion whether it is forbidden.
41.06 Covering private parts To cover one's private parts is a command. The lower covering of a believer should go halfway down his calves. The thigh is considered a private part, but not in the same way as the private parts themselves.
A man should not enter the baths without a loincloth. A woman should go to the baths only for a reason.
Two men or two women should not come into physical contact under a single cover.
41.07 Women going out, and music
A woman should not go out unless she is covered, and only when she must go out, such as to assist at the death of her parents or relatives, or for some other legitimate purpose.
She may not be present at a gathering where there is a woman wailer or the playing of mizmâr flutes or of lutes or similar [wind or stringed] instruments. Tambourines are permitted at a wedding, but there is a difference of opinion concerning kabar drums.
41.08 Seeing women
A man should not be alone with a woman who is of marriageable relationship to him. Yet it is not wrong for him to see her for some reason like identifying her, or if he has betrothed her. He may look at the face of an elderly lady at any time.
Commenting on this passage with reference to women going out, an-Nafrâwî distinguishes between: 1) an elderly woman, who may go out for any legitimate occasion, 2) a young woman who is not pretty, who may go out for public ªalât, and 3) a young woman who is pretty ; she may not go out for any such occasion. If she does go out, she should go when and where she will not meet men. She should not put on perfume or fancy cloth. Her hands and face may show, unless she is very beautiful or bad morals prevail in the place. (3) In another place he says it is "disapproved" (makrûh) for a pretty girl to go out for the jumu`a ªalât. (4)
Chapter 3 details the minimum clothing required for ªalât:3.04 Clothing required
The least amount of clothing a man should have on to do ªalât is a covering cloth such as a throw-over (dir`) or a wrapper (ridâ'); a dir` is a kind of tunic. It is disapproved to do ªalât in clothing which does not cover the shoulders at all; if someone does so, however, he need not repeat his ªalât.
The least amount of clothing a woman should have on to do ªalât is a moderately thick and ample dir` which covers the top of her feet and a shawl which covers her. (5) But she places her hands directly on the ground in the prostration, just as a man.
The same respect for the body is applicable to the dead:20.02 The ghusl bathing
There is no set number of times to do the ghusl for the deceased; it only matters that he be clean. The ghusl, however, should be done an uneven number of times with water and lotus leaves sidr), while camphor is used the last time. His private parts should be covered. His nails are not to be manicured, nor his hair cut. But his stomach should be pressed lightly.
It is good, but not obligatory, to wash the dead person according to the wu²û' of ªalât. It is better to place him on his side while the ghusl is being done, but to sit him up is permitted.
It is not bad for a person to do the ghusl for his dead spouse, although this is not necessary. If a woman dies on a journey and there are with her no women and no man of an unmarriageable relationship to her, (6) another man should wipe her face and hands as in tayammum. If the dead person is a man, and there are no men around to wash him and no women of an unmarriageable relationship to him, the women should wipe his face and arms up to the elbows as in tayammum. If there is a woman of an unmarriageable relationship to him she should do the ghusl for him with his private parts covered. But if a man is of an unmarriageable relationship to a dead woman he should do the ghusl for her over a cloth covering her entire body.
The only exception is one who is to be given the Œadd penalty of lashing for a crime. A man is to be completely stripped, while a woman should be stripped only of what would shield her from the blows (37.34).
The problem of nudity in art is taken care of by discouraging images altogether (41.11).
`Uthmân ²an Fodiye wrote a book, Bayân al-bid`a ash-shay³âniyya llâtî aŒdatha-hâ n-nâs, which has a chapter on marriage and one on dress. (7) In the former he condemns intercourse in which the husband and wife are totally naked and look at one another. In the latter he says that men under forty should sleep naked, with the assumption that they do not sleep with their wives after intercourse and that men over forty cannot take the cold.
In another work, Wathîqa al-ikhwân, `Uthmân ²an Fodiye quotes Abû-¥anîfa to support his condemnation of the practice of men taking off all their clothes to go into the water and bathe together.
In Jewish culture of the Old and New Testaments nakedness was regarded as a shame. (8) This is shown in the story of the first parents as well as in Jesus' crucifixion.
On the other hand, the culture condoned nakedness in special circumstances: for Samuel and his prophets in frenzy (1 Sam 19:24), and fishermen at night on the Lake of Galilee (Jn 21:7), as fishermen sometimes also do in Nigeria.
Jewish cultural attitudes towards nakedness and clothing simply reflected prevailing mores of the Middle East at that time. The Biblical authors accepted these attitudes as a fact, but were much more concerned with the regulation of sexual activity in the context of safeguarding family values. This concern is epitomized in the Sermon on the Mount: "You have heard how it was said, You shall not commit adultery. but I say this to you, if a man looks at a woman lustfully, he has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Mt 5:27).Contemporary Church positions
It would be too much to survey the varying Christian attitudes to forms of undress in life or the depiction of sexual themes in art over the centuries or in different countries. It will be of interest, however, as a sample, to trace the development of official Catholic statements on this subject in this century. In the documents I will examine we can notice certain constants as well as a definite evolution of thinking.Pius XI
Pius XI (1922-39) was a fighter who outspokenly denounced errors and abuses on every side. Yet if a combatant style pervades his writings, they are nevertheless not simple diatribes against evil, but positive systematic presentations of an over-all perspective on the subjects he treats.
His first attack on indecency comes up in a long encyclical letter on the Christian education of your, Divini illius magistri, of 31 December 1929:More than ever nowadays an extended and careful vigilance is necessary, inasmuch as the dangers of moral and religious shipwreck are grater for inexperienced youth. Especially is this true of impious and immoral books, often diabolically circulated at low prices; of the cinema, which multiplies every kind of exhibition; and now also of the radio, which facilitates every kind of communications. These most powerful means of publicity, which can be of great utility for instruction and education when directed by sound principles, are only too often used as an incentive to evil passions and greed for gain. How often today must parents and educators bewail the corruption of youth brought about by the modern theatre and the vile book! (n. 90)
Worthy of all praise and encouragement therefore are those educational associations which have for their object to point out to parents and educators, by means of suitable books and periodicals, the dangers to morals and religion that are often cunningly disguised in books and theatrical representations. (n. 91)
A similar attack appears in his encyclical on Christian marriage, Casti conubii, of 31 December 1930:For now, alas, not secretly nor under cover, but openly, with all sense of shame put aside, now by word again by writings, by theatrical productions of every kind, by romantic fiction, by amorous and frivolous novels, by cinematographs portraying in vivid scene, in addresses broadcast by radio telephony, in short by all the inventions of modern science, the sanctity of marriage is trampled upon and derided; divorce, adultery, all the basest vices either are extolled or at least are depicted in such colours as to appear to be free of all reproach and infamy. Books are not lacking which dare to pronounce themselves as scientific but which in truth are merely coated with a veneer of science in order that they may the more easily insinuate their ideas. The doctrines defended in these are offered for sale as the productions of modern genius, of that genius namely, which, anxious only for truth, is considered to have emancipated itself form all those old-fashioned and immature opinions of the ancients; and to the number of these antiquated opinions they relegate the traditional doctrine of Christian marriage. (n. 45)
These thoughts are instilled into men of every class, rich and poor, masters and workers, lettered and unlettered, married and single, the godly and godless, old and young, but for these last, as easiest prey, the worst snares are laid. (n. 46)
Not all the sponsors of these new doctrines are carried to the extremes of unbridled lust; there are those who, striving as it were to ride a middle course, believe nevertheless that something should be conceded in our times as regards certain precepts of the divine and natural law. but these likewise, more or less wittingly, are emissaries of the great enemy who is ever seeking to sow cockle among the wheat.
The earliest document explicitly devoted to modern media is Vigilanti cura, Pius XI's encyclical on motion pictures, of 29 June 1936. In the very first paragraph the Pope expresses joy at the positive results of "a holy crusade against the abuses of the art of the cinema, entrusted in a particular manner to the body the 'Legion of Decency'." After surveying the gains made by this organization, he expresses fear of a return to "such films as incite to lust and stir up evil forces latent in men's minds" (n. 15). He goes on to say:Everyone knows what damage is done to the soul by bad motion pictures. They are occasions of sin; they seduce young people along the ways of evil by glorifying the passions; they show life under a false light; they cloud ideals; they destroy pure love, respect for marriage and affection for the family. They are capable also of creating prejudices among individuals, misunderstandings among nations, among social classes, and among entire races. (n. 20)
On the other hand, good motion pictures are capable of exercising a profoundly moral influence upon those who see them. In addition to affording recreation, they are able to arouse noble ideals of life, to communicate valuable conceptions, to impart better knowledge of the history and beauties of the fatherland and other countries, to present truth and virtue under attractive forms, to create at least the flavour of understanding among nations, social classes and races, to champion the cause of justice, to give new life to the claims of virtue, to contribute positively to the genesis of a just social order in the world. (n. 21)
His final practical advice is "that the bishops should establish in every nation an office of inspection, whose business it may be to promote desirable films, to classify the rest, and to make known their findings to the priests and to the faithful in Christ." (n. 30)Pius XII
Pius XII (1939-58)witnessed the spread of wonderful technical advances in the field of communications after the Second World War, and on 8 September 1957 issued the encyclical letter Miranda prorsus on motion pictures, radio and television. This letter contrasts with those of Pius XI by being less combative and by pointing out the great positive potentials of these media, in the first place as means of evangelization:Our words fly surely and safely over land and sea, and even over the turbulent tides of human souls, to move the hearts of men and exercise a saving influence on them, as is demanded by the supreme apostolate which has been entrusted to us. (n. 11)
He praises the integrity and efforts of many in this field, but points out that "not all obey the gospel". The media can enlighten, ennoble and adorn men's minds, but they can also disfigure them with dark shadows, disgrace them with perversity, and expose them to unrestrained passions, according as the shows they offer present our senses with objects that are proper or improper. (n. 17)
Pius XII, like his predecessor, was concerned not solely or principally with the media's portrayal of sex but with ensuring that the media are used to provide news that is unbiased, education in human culture that is unperverted by irreligious political ideology, and entertainment of good artistic quality and moral level. He insists on a correct philosophy of art based on the principle that art is to lift men to truth and virtue, band if it does the contrary it is not only bad morally but bad art as well.
The Pope particularly notes the problem of television bringing questionable material to children right in their home, and he suggests practical steps to face this and other problems involved.Vatican II
The Second Vatican Council issued a short document on social communication on 4 December 1963, entitled Inter mirifica. This document takes note of the promises and challenges of all the media, including the press, and orders the establishment of a papal commission to prepare a more detailed pastoral instruction on the subject.
The document produced by this commission, entitled Communio et progressio, was issued on 29 January 1971 and is a thorough theological and practical study of all aspects of the media as they relate to the mission of the Church and the moral life. It would be outside our scope to summarize all the topics contained in this excellent study, particularly its discussion of the right to the truth and free expression unhampered by government or commercial propaganda. Relevant to our theme is the following discussion of the moral problems of the media:How in the face of competition to capture a large popular audience are the media to be prevented form appealing to and inflaming the less admirable tendencies in human nature? How can one avoid the concentration of the power to communicate in too few hands, so that nay real dialogue is killed? How can one avoid allowing communications, made indirectly and through machinery, to weaken direct contact - especially when these communications take the form of pictures and images? When the media invite men to escape into fantasy, what can be done to bring them back to present reality? How can one stop the media encouraging mental idleness and passivity? An how can one be certain that the incessant appeal to emotion does not sap reason? (n. 21)
It is obvious that there has been a decline in moral standards in many areas of life today, and this decline is a source of profound concern to all honest men. it is easy to find evidence of decline in all the means of social communication. but how far these means must be blamed for the decline is open to question. Many responsible men hold that these means are only a reflection of what already exists in society. Others hold that the increase and spread those tendencies and that, by making them commonplace, lead to their gradual acceptance. And still others would put most of the blame squarely upon the means of social communication. What is certainly true is that the weakness lies in society itself and that the attempt to restore standards must involve the whole of society, its parents, teachers, pastors and all who care about the common good. In this attempt the means of social communication have no small part to play. It is however impossible to put the means of social communication into a quite separate category form that of the everyday life and attitudes of the people. (n. 22)
Important also is the discussion of the principles of dealing with evil in drama:Those who would truly understand the spirit of another age have to study not only its history, but also its literature and artifacts. And this is so because, in a very precise and lucid way, the creative arts are more revealing than conceptual descriptions of the character of people, of their aspirations, emotions and thoughts. Even when the artist takes flight form the tangible and solid world and pursues his creative fantasies, he can give priceless insight into the human condition. Stories fashioned out of imagination in which the artist creates characters that live and evolve in a world of fiction, these too communicate their special truth. Even though they are not real, they are realistic; for they are made of the very stuff of human life. They even affect those deep causes that rouse men to blaze with life. For in the light they throw on these causes, sensitive man may know them for what they are. And with this knowledge he can begin to foresee the direction that humanity will take. (n. 56)
Pope Pius XII taught that human life "certainly cannot be understood, at least when considering violent and serious conflicts, if one deliberately turns one's eyes from the crimes and evils from which they often have their origin. How then, can ideal films take this as their subject? The greatest poets and writers of all times have occupied themselves with this difficult and rough matter, and they will continue to do so in the future... When the conflict with evil, not excluding cases when evil prevails for a while, is treated, within the context of a work as a whole, in an effort to understand life better, to see how it should be ordered, or to show how man should conduct himself, how he should think and act with more consistency, then, in such cases, such matter can be chosen as an integral part of the development of the whole film. such a work would contribute to moral progress. Even though they are quite distinct, genuine artistic values do not clash with moral standards. Each, in fact, confirms the validity of the other. (n. 57)
Moral problems may, at times, arise in productions that deal with evil. For instance, these may occur when the audience is unable to grasp, as it should, the full implications of evil, either because its members are young and undeveloped or because their education is inadequate.
The artist is faced with life in its entirely, with its good as well as its bad aspects. good sense and judgement are therefore called for when a work is destined for a large audience with different backgrounds. This is especially true when the subject is man confronted by evil. (n. 58)
What is more important is the question of censorship. The document recommends free associations of critical viewers to react to what is presented in the media: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. 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."
The document goes on to give detailed recommendations on how private groups can be organized and make liaison with civil authority.John Paul II
In 1980 to 1981 Pope John Paul II devoted a series of Wednesday audiences to the theology of the body. On 29 April 1981 he talked of the problem of art respecting privacy. He says that audiovisual media are:sometimes accused of "pornovision", just as the accusation of "pornography" is made with regard to literature. both facts take place by going beyond the limit of shame, that is, of personal sensitivity with regard to what is connected with the human body, with its nakedness, when in the artistic work by means of the media of audiovisual production the right to privacy of the body in its masculinity or femininity is violated, and - in the last analysis - when that intimate and constant destination to the gift and to mutual donation, which is inscribed in that femininity and masculinity through the whole structure of the being-man, is violated. That deep inscription, or rather incision, decides the nuptial meaning of the body, that is, the fundamental call it receives to form a "communion of persons" and to participate in it. (n. 1)
He goes on to explain that sex is necessarily a private interpersonal activity and is violated not precisely by being represented, but by being represented as open to the public, and object of the viewer's lust. This is the definition of pornography.It is a question of the image, in which that which in itself constitutes the content and the deeply personal value, that which belongs to the order of the gift and of the mutual donation of person to person, is, as a subject, uprooted form its own authentic substratum, to become, through "social communication", an object and what is mor, in a way, an anonymous object. (n. 4)
He goes on to explain:The whole problem of "pornovision" and of "pornography", as can be seen from what is said above, is not the effect of a puritanical mentality or of a narrow moralism, just as it is not the product of a thought imbued with Manichaeism. It is a question of an extremely important, fundamental sphere of values, before which man cannot remain indifferent because of the dignity of humanity, the personal character and the eloquence of the human body. All those contents and values, by means of works of art and the activity of the audiovisual media, can be modelled and studied, but also can be distorted and destroyed "in the heart" of man. As can be seen , we find ourselves continually within the orbit of the words spoken by Christ in the Sermon on the Mount. Also the problems which we are dealing with here must be examined in the light of those words, which consider a look that springs from lust as "adultery committed in the heart".
In the conclusion of the Wednesday series on the theology of the body, on 6 May 1981 John Paul talked about the ethical responsibilities of art. The full text of this talk is so important that I include it in an appendix to this paper. In asking the question whether the naked body may be portrayed in art, he notes that for whole periods of human culture and artistic activity it has been portrayed, just as human love has been the subject of literature even form the Song of Songs in the Bible.
In some schools of art, as in classical Greece, there are sculptures that allow the whole truth of man and the suprasensual beauty of sexuality to come through, bringing the viewer to the whole personal mystery of man. These works, of themselves, do not draw the viewer to lust but to appreciate the "nuptial meaning of the body which corresponds to, and is the measure of, 'purity of heart'".
On the other hand there are images which are open invitations to the viewer's lust.
While there is a special objective ethos of the image, whether in sculpture, dance, drama, film or literature, there is also the subjective ethos of the act of viewing or reading to be considered. Even the best art can be raped by the viewer who is concerned only with an impersonal, sensual body.
The theme of decency comes up again in John Paul II's encyclical letter, Familiaris consortio of 22 November 1981, on the Christian family in the modern world. In number 76 he talks of the effect of the media, particularly television, on the family He urges parents to regulate their children's use of these media so as to protect their attention to education and their need for other forms of entertainment that are more wholesome, physically, morally and spiritually. He quotes Paul VI that "every attack on the fundamental value of the family - meaning eroticism or violence, the defence of divorce or of antisocial attitudes among young people - is an attack on the true good of man."Summary
In the preceding documents we notice a development. Pius XI saw the positive potential of the media, but concentrated on its dangers. Pius XII was evenly poised between an awareness of the dangers and elation at the good possibilities of the media. Vatican II and beyond give overwhelming attention to a positive and comprehensive programme for utilizing the media for evangelization and for human culture in general, and consider the dangers as a subsidiary theme. The motto seems to be : "It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness."
We can notice, moreover, that there is no single document or speech devoted exclusively or mainly to the dangers of pornography. It is always considered in a broader context, that of chastity, family values and the moral formation of youth. These are presented not as so many rules in a legal system, but as a theological understanding of life.
Comparison and conclusion
Both Islam and Christianity esteem the value of sexual privacy, meaning that one's bodily sexuality is reserved exclusively for one's marriage partner. One should not expose oneself to the lust of others. this is the basic meaning of Œurma (from which we get the word Œaram).
As for differences, whereas Islam has absolute fixed norms of dress for all times and all places, Christianity recognizes cultural differences. Total nudity among certain peoples, even in some remote places in Nigris is combined with a very strict sexual reserve, whereas in some other cultures just to unbare the shoulder is an invitation to lust.
In the Mediterranean world, public goggling at women is a pastime that shocks visitors from elsewhere. The public romancing one witnesses in Rome is curtailed in Arab countries by women wearing the safsari or veil. Women who go out in ordinary dress are often followed and hounded by men who cannot contain themselves at the sight.
In Nigeria men and women do not kiss, embrace or romance in public. Ordinary traditional or western dress has never given rise to public manifestations of lust as it would in the Mediterranean world, where the Islamic dress code is particularly applicable.
In how many villages in Nigeria do people not bathe together in the stream without any shame or erotic feeling? And women in villages go about their work with their breasts uncovered, and no one notices it. Yet modern youth who are shielded from such natural experience are plagued by morbid curiosity about the human body.
Christians cannot agree than an Islamic dress code should be imposed on Nigerians, but we can agree to cooperate on the elimination of pornography in the strict sense. Here we can observe that hard-core pornography is not common in Nigeria. Yet "soft" pornography is very prevalent. Sometimes I think ordinary Nigerians are little affected by girlie pictures which they sometimes paste on their walls, just as they turn on music which they don't really listen to, but it is just there in the background, providing some brightness and colour.
Probably the Punch's page three girl has little effect on most readers, but it is of its nature erotic and a call for lust. If nothing else, it is offensive to pious eyes. Muslims and Christians could jointly ask that such pictures be removed.
Al-Ghazâlî, Abû-¥âmid MuŒammad ibn-MuŒammad, Ihyâ' `ulûm ad-dîn. 4 vols. (Cairo: al-¥alabî, 1957)
John-Paul II (1981a), General Audience, 29 April 1981. Osservatore Romano (Weekly English Edition), 4 May 1981, pp. 8 & 12.
- - - - - - - (1981b), General Audience, 6 May 1981, Osservatore Romano, 11 May 1981, pp. 10-11.
- - - - - - - (1981c), Familiaris consortio, encyclical letter on Christian marriage in the modern world, 22 November 1981, in Osservatore Romano, 21-28 December 1981, pp. 1-19.
Kenny, Joseph (1983), "Mâlikî law and the Risâla of Ibn-abî-Zayd al-Qayrawânî", Hamdard Islamicus, 6:3, pp. 63-71.
- - - - - - - (1992), The Risâla, treatise on Mâlikî law of `Abdallâh ibn-abî-Zayd al-Qayrawânî (922-996), an annotated translation. Minna: Islamic Education Trust, 1992.
Pius XI (1929), Divini illius magistri, also known by the Italian title, Rappresentanti in terra, encyclical letter on the Christtian education of youth, 31 December 1929, in Ihm, Claudia Carlen (ed.), The papal Encyclicals 1903-1939. McGrath Publishing Co., 1981, pp. 353-372.
- - - - - - - (1930), Casti conubii, encyclical letter on Christian marriage, 31 December 1930, in Ihm, Claudia Carlen (ed.), The papal Encyclicals 1903-1939. McGrath Publishing Co., 1981, pp. 391-414.
- - - - - - - (1936), Vigilanti cura, encyclical letter on motion pictures, 29 June 1936, ed. National Catholic Welfare Conference. Washington D.C., 1936.
Pius XII (1957), Miranda prorsus, encyclical letter on the communications field: motion pictures, radio, television, 8 September 1957, in Ihm, Claudia Carlen (ed.), The papal Encyclicals 1903-1939. McGrath Publishing Co., 1981, pp. 347-364.
Pontifical Council for the Instruments of Social Communicaition (1971), Communio et progressio, Pastoral instruction on the means of social communication, 29 Jan. 1971, in Flanner, Austin (ed.), Vatican Council II, the Conciliar and post-Conciliar documents. Dublin: Dominican Publications, 1981, pp. 293-349.
Qur'ân. The Cairo Arabic edition. Translations are my own.
`Uthmân ²an Fodiye, Bayân al-bid`a ash-shay³âniyya llâtâ aŒdatha-hâ n-nâs fî abwâb al-milla al-muŒammadiyya. Kano: `Abdallâh al-Yassâr, n.d.
- - - - - -, Wathîqa al-ikhwân li-tabyîn dalîlât wujûb ittibâ` al-kitâb wa-s-sunna wa-l-ijmâ`. Makurdi: ¥abîb ibn-`AbdalŒamîd, n.d.
Vatican II (1963), Inter mirifica, decree on the means of social communication, 4 December 1963, in Flannery, Austin (ed.), Vatican Council II, the conciliar and post-Conciliar Documents. Dublin: Dominican Publications, 1981, pp. 283-292.
ETHICAL RESPONSIBILITIES IN ART
Address of Pope John Paul II, 6 May 1981
1. In the Sermon on the Mount Christ spoke the words to which we have devoted a series of reflections in the course of almost a year. Explaining to his listeners the specific meaning of the commandment: "You shall not commit adultery", Christ expressed himself as follows: "But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (mt 5:28). The above-mentioned words seem to refer also to the vast spheres of human culture, especially those of artistic activity, with which we have already recently dealt in the course of some of the Wednesday meetings. today it is opportune for us to dedicate the final part of these reflections to the problem of the relationship between the ethos of the image - or of the description - and the ethos of the viewing and listening, reading or other forms of cognitive reception with which one meets the content of the world of art or of audiovision understood in the broad sense.The body in art
2. And here we return once more to the problem already previously mentioned: if and to what extent can the human body, in the whole visible truth of its masculinity and femininity, be a subject of works of art and thereby a subject of that specific social "communication" for which these works are intended. This question refers even more to modern "Mass" culture, connected with the audiovisual media. Can the human body be such a model-subject, since we know that with this is connected that objectivity "without choice" which we first called anonymity, and which seems to bring with it a serious potential threat to the whole sphere of meanings, peculiar to the body of man and woman because of the personal character of the human subject and the character of "communion" of interpersonal relations?
One can add at this point that the expressions "pornography" or "pornovision" - despite their ancient etymology - appeared in the language relatively late. The traditional Latin terminology used the word obscaena, indicating in this way everything that should not appear before the eyes of spectators, what should be surrounded with opportune discretion, what cannot be presented to human view without any choice.Body as a model subject
3. Asking the preceding question, we realize that, de facto, in the course of whole periods of human culture and artistic activity, the human body has been and is such a model-subject of visual works of art, just as the whole sphere of love between man and woman, and, connected with it, also the "mutual donation" of masculinity and femininity in their corporeal expression, has been, is and will be a subject of literary narrative. Such narration found its place even in the Bible, especially in the text of the "Song of Songs", which it will be opportune to take up again on another occasion. In fact, it should be noted that in the history of literature or art, in the history of human culture, this subject seems particularly frequent and is particularly important. In fact, it concerns a problem which in itself is great and important. we showed this right form the beginning of our reflections, following the tracks of the scriptural texts, which reveal to us the proper dimension of this problem: that is, the dignity of man in his masculine and feminine corporeity, and the nuptial meaning of femininity and masculinity, inscribed in the whole interior - and at the same time visible - structure of the human person.Special ethical responsibility
4. Our preceding reflections did not intend to question the right to this subject. They aim merely at proving that its treatment is connected with a special responsibility which is not only artistic, but also ethical in nature. The artist, who undertakes that theme in any sphere of art or through audiovisual media, must be aware of the full truth of the object, of the whole scale of falues connected with it; he must no only take them into account in abstracto, but also live them correctly himself. This corresponds also to that principle of "purity of heart", which, in determined cases, must be transferred form the existential sphere of attitudes and ways of behaviour to the intentional sphere of creation or artistic reproduction.
It seems that the process of this creation aims not only at making the model concrete (and in a way at a new "materializing"), but, at the sam time, at expressing in such concretizing what can be called the creative idea of the artist, in which his interior world of values, and so also his living the truth of his object, is precisely manifested. In this process there takes place a characteristic transfiguration of the model or of the material and, in particular, of what is man, the human body in the whole truth of its masculinity or femininity. (From this point of vew, as we have already mentioned, there is a very important difference, for example, between the painting or sculpture and the photograph or film). The viewer, invited by the artist to look at his work, communicates not only with the concretizing, and so, in a sense, with a new "materializing" of the model or of the material, but at the same time communicates with the truth of the object which the author, in his artistic "materializing", has succeeded in expressing with his own specific media.Element of sublimation in true art
5. In the course of the various eras, beginning form antiquity - and above all in the great period of Greek classical art - there are works of art whose subject is the human body in its nakedness, and the contemplation of which makes it possible to concentrate, in a way, on the whole truth of man, on the dignity and the beauty - also the "suprasensual" beauty - of his masculinity and femininity. These works bear within them, almost hidden, an element of sublimation, which leads the viewer, through the body, to the whole personal mystery of man. In contact with these works, where we do not feel drawn by their content to "looking lustfully", about which the Sermon on the Mount speaks, we learn in a way that nuptial meaning of the body which corresponds to, and is the measure of, "purity of heart". But there are also works of art, and perhaps even more often reproductions, which arouse objection in the sphere of man's personal sensitivity - not because of their object, since the human body in itself always has its inalienable dignity - but because of the quality or way of its reproduction, portrayal, artistic representation. The various coefficients of the work or the reproduction can be decisive with regard to that way and that quality, as well as multiple circumstances, often more of a technical nature than an artistic one.
It is well known that through all these elements the very fundamental intentionality of the work of art or of the product of the respective media becomes, in a way, accessible to the viewer, as to the listener or the reader. If our personal sensitivity reacts with objection and disapproval, it is because in that fundamental intentionality, together with the concretizing of man and his body, we discover as indispensable for the work of art or its reproduction, his simultaneous reduction to the level of an object, an object of "enjoyment", intended for the satisfaction of concupiscence itself. And that is contrary to the dignity of man also in the intentional order of art and reproduction. by analogy, the same thing must be applied to the various fields of artistic activity - according to the respective specific character -as also to the various audiovisual media.Creating an atmosphere
6. Paul VI's encyclical Humanae Vitae (n. 22) emphasizes the "need to create an atmosphere favourable to education in chastity"; and with this he intends to affirm that the way of living the human body in the whole truth of its masculinity and femininity must correspond to the dignity of this body and to its significance in building the communion of persons. It can be said that this is one of the fundamental dimensions of human culture, understood as an affirmation which enobles everything that is human. Thereforew we have dedicated this brief sketch to the problem which, in synthesis, could be called that of the ethos of the image. It is a question of the image which serves as an extraordinary "visualisation" of man, and which must be understood more or less directly. The sculpted or painted image expresses man "visually"; the play or the ballet expresses him "visually" in an other way, the film in another way; even literary work, in its own way, aims at arousing interior images, using the riches of the imaginastion or of human memory. so what we have called the "ethos of the image" cannot be considered apart from the correlative element, which we would have to call the "ethos of seeing". Between the two elements is contained the whole process of communication, independently of the vastness of the circles described by this communication, which, in this case, is always "social".
7. The creation of the atmosphere favourable to education in chastity contains these two elements; it concerns, so to speak, a reciprocal circuit which takes place between the image and the seeing, between the ethos of the image and the ethos of seeing. Just as the creation of the image, in the broad and differentiated sense of the term, imposes on the author, artist or reproducer, obligations not only of an aesthetic but also of an ethical nature, so "looking", understood according to the same broad analogy, imposes obligations on the one who is the recipient of the work.
True and responsible artistic activity aims at overcoming the anonymity of the human body as an object "without choice", seeking (as has already been previously said), through creative effort, such an artistic expression of the truth about man in his feminine and masculine corporeity, which is, so to speak assigned as a task to the viewer and, in the wider range, to every recipient of the work. It depends on him, in his turn, to decide whether to make his won effort to approach this truth, or to remain merely a superficial "consumer" of impressions, that is, one who exploits the meeting with the anonymous body-subject only at the level of sensuality which, by itself, reacts to its object precisely "without choice".
We conclude here this important chapter of hour reflections on the theology of the body, whose starting point was the words spoken by Christ in the Sermon on the mount: words valid for the man of all times, for the "historical" man, and valid for each one of us.
The reflections on the theology of the body would not be complete, however, if we did not consider other words of Christ, namely, those with which refers to the future resurrection. So we propose to devote the next cycle of our considerations to them.
1. For rules on marriage see Qur'ân 2:221-234; 4:3-28,127-9; 5:5; 24:26-32; 30:21; 33:6,28-34,50-55,59; 60:11; 66:3-5. Concerning concubines see 4:25; 23:5-7; 70:29-31.
2. On the life, works and time of al-Qayrawânî see J. Kenny, "Mâlikî law and the Risîla of Ibn-abî-Zayd al-Qayrawânî," Hamdard Islamicus, 6:3 (1983), 63-71, and The Risîla, treatise on Mâlikâ law of `Abdallâh ibn-abî-Zayd al-Qayrawânî (922-996), an annotated translation (Minna: Islamic Education Trust, 1992).
3. Al-fawâkih ad-dawânî, vol. 2, p. 409.
4. Ibid., vol. 1, p. 309, with reference to ch. 15.
5. 5She must be completely covered except for her face and hands; cf. an-Nafrâwî, I, p. 151.
6. 6"Dhû-maŒram": this is a family member by either consanguinity or affinity; cf. an-Nafrâwî, I, p. 335.
7. The first is on pp. 16-17; the second is on pp. 21-23.
8. Cf. Gen 3:7; 9:22-23; Ex 20:26; 2 Sam 10:4; Is 20:4; 47:3; Jer 13:22; Ez 16:37; Nah 3:5; Rev 3:18; 16:15.