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Youth's Struggle For Decency: Obstacles To His Success


“Mothers and fathers of the world, will you not protect the souls of your children? You must take action against those who are propagating the evil.
     "Parents, have you examined what your children have been reading? Their eyes, which are the mirror of the soul, are being polluted, their souls being destroyed by the pornography being sold for profit and gain. Why is there no action, My children, to safeguard your children? Many parents will cry bitter tears of anguish, but too late, too late!” – Our Lady, August 14, 1975



by Rev. John A. O'Brien, Ph.D.(Imprimatur: †JOHN FRANCIS NOLL, D. D., Bishop of Fort Wayne). Printed in 1945.


"God! . . . Why Didn't I Say 'No'?" 

  "Oh God! Why did I let her go? Why didn't I say, 'No'?" Thus sobbed a mother as she knelt over the mangled body of her daughter, looking in vain for some sign of life. It was 2:30 A. M. The speedometer still pointed to 70, the speed at which the car was traveling when it ran into the uprights of a culvert and catapulted its two occupants into eternity. The radio was still splintering the silence of the night. Its blatant jazz sounded a ghastly contrast to the silent figures of the two victims sprawled upon the roadside. The boy was twenty-one, the girl but nineteen. They were returning from a hilarious party at the beach cabin of one of their friends.

  As the mother peered into the face of her daughter, looking for some twitching that would betray the least flicker of life, and saw only a motionless face, glassy eyes distorted in terror, a gaping wound in the forehead, the scene enacted at her home but six hours before came back to her. She could hear Marjorie's plaintive remonstrance: "But, Mother, they are all going. Why should I be kept at home? Why can't I have a good time like the others?" The mother had been worried over the thought of her daughter going to a two o'clock dance at a beach cabin. The younger set was fast. There would be drinking--the show-off drinking of youth, taking not wisely but too much. Chaperones would leave obligingly at eleven. What protection would her daughter have in those subsequent hours? No wonder that she pleaded with Marjorie not to go. Only to yield at last to Marjorie's counterpleading.

  Hence it was that she sobbed her regrets--regrets that she did not say "No," regrets that she did not fulfill the duty imposed upon her by God and nature to safeguard her child from harm, even though it means occasionally the cruelty of saying "No." Now, however, all her regrets were useless. Her blinding tears, her aching heart, her tortured soul were all impotent to put life back into the mangled body in her arms. Stark tragedy had followed in the wake of her yielding against her better judgment to her child's importunings--—the failure of a mother to do her duty. No power on earth could now undo the effects of that tragic blunder.


Failure of Parents

  The incident illustrates one of the most important factors in the damaging of youthful character that is so widespread today. That is the failure of parents to do their duty, their failure to protect their children from temptations almost too strong for weak flesh and blood to resist. Their failure to fulfill their divinely appointed duty of watching over their offspring and safeguarding them from the pitfalls which mar the shining innocence of their youthful souls. The epidemic of youthful crime, the undermining of youthful morals will continue until the consciences of parents are aroused and they begin again to give to inexperienced youth the guidance and the protection which they so sorely need.

  In the Church's war upon indecency she summons parents, first of all, to do their duty. She thunders in their ears the warning of their responsibility before God for the souls committed to their care. She would strengthen their wills to do their duty of saying "No." She would awaken them to the realization that the greatest cruelty they can inflict upon their offspring often comes from the luxury of granting the child's every wish.

  Take the boys and girls in their teens who are frequenting taverns, road houses and night clubs, where lascivious floor shows are staged to incite the passions, where drinking and unsupervised dancing occur. Is it any wonder that their resistance is broken down under such a multiple bombardment and that the angelic virtue becomes seriously tarnished? And who is to blame? Who but the parents? They are the sentinels appointed by God who have deserted their post, the watchers who have fallen asleep at the switch. The frightful wreckage of youthful morals is traceable to their neglect of a divinely appointed duty.

  How can any parent go to bed at night with an easy conscience without knowing where his young son or daughter is? How can he sleep when all the agents of vice, bedizened in luring garb, are closing in on his young child at a night club or road house? How that father and mother will squirm when they stand before the judgment seat of Almighty God and see the accusing finger of their own child staring them in the face, and hear him say: "I come, stained with the leprosy of sin, because you, my parents, failed to do your duty. You, not I, are the real criminals!"

  The first aid, therefore, in youth's struggle for decency must come from parents in the form of wise guidance and prudent direction. They must buttress the weakness and immaturity of youth with their greater strength and experience. Unless parents be enlisted to do their duty, all the agencies of Church, school and state will labor in vain. Parental responsibility is the keystone in the arch of youthful character for which no substitute has ever been found.


This Niagara of Filth

  The second enemy to the moral cleanliness of youth is the avalanche of filth being poured upon them today by smutty magazines, lewd pictures and newspapers which relay the details of sexual crimes and divorce scandals. Let the reader stand before any display of magazines in a drug store, confectionery parlor or on the street corner and glance at the covers. He will find that about 90 per cent seek to intrigue the reader with the pictures of females in various stages of nudity, or with suggestive titles to stories hinting of confessions of how a girl lost her virtue, or of both combined. Never before in our country was there released upon our youth such a tidal wave of pornographic literature. In the last  decade  new  magazines  have  been continually appearing, seeking to outdo the others in lewdness and vulgarity, until now their number is legion. A magazine ostensibly catering to business men, with notices of current styles in dress, carries the filthiest pictures in color, defiling every home and office into which it is brought.

  Others feature sexual crimes, carrying their prurient details into the innocent minds of youth. How aptly does the utterance of Charles Lamb apply to the publishers of these magazines: "If dirt was trumps, what hands you would hold!" If they had set out to see how effectively they could poison the minds, befoul the imaginations and sully the hearts of youth, it is difficult to see how they could have improved upon the means used. The spectacle of lewdness to be seen wherever magazines are exhibited moved Bishop Schrembs to observe: "The present era of printing filth has become so flagrant that it indicates an obsession bordering on madness."

  How long are the American people going to remain silent while this Niagara of filth pours over our land? How long will fathers and mothers tolerate this corruption of their children by the very instrumentality which should educate and uplift? How long will the citizens of our nation remain silent and unorganized while the vocal organized forces of obscenity are tearing at the very vitals of the character of our children? The publishers of these filthy sex-inciting magazines should not only be stripped of their profits, but should also be branded before the public as the arch-criminals of our day, the criminals who turn out others by the hundreds.


Signs of Revolt

  There are not wanting signs that the revolt long overdue is under way. Thus Circulation Management reports that Boston's police commissioner, J. F. Timilty, has banned a million copies of 43 magazines in two months. Wholesalers, according to the report, are cooperating and "have appointed a committee of six who will act as a review-board and examine every magazine coming into New England for sale." Any questionable material will be submitted to Commissioner Timilty and his committee for appraisal. If the police commissioners and officials in all our large cities displayed the same solicitude for public decency and the same courage and backbone as Mr. Timilty, we would speedily drive these purveyors of filth out of business and then lodge them in the penitentiary so that they could not soon resume their nefarious traffic.

A second sign that the public conscience is awakening to this evil is found in the fact that the newspapers throughout the country carried the following story of the making of a sex criminal. Convicted of two offenses, involving criminal attacks and sexual perversions which shocked the nation, the young man thus related the circumstances which brought about his degeneracy.


A Sex Criminal Speaks

  "I say thank God I am locked up--away from your hypocritical corruption-breeding world. I repeat it, thank God I'm locked up.

  "Who am I to talk like this:

  "I'll admit who I am. I am the so-called pervert who was convicted and locked up for a couple of the meanest crimes the law ever dealt with.

  "And that's why I'm glad that I am a prisoner. I'm out of reach of the thousand and one incentives to vice that 'free people' throw around a guy like me when he's walking the streets looking for a job. Nice people they are.

"Oh yeah?

  "Pervert? That word makes me laugh'. I'm no different than anybody else. I can see now what made me what I am. It didn't come from inside me but from outside.

  "From those filthy magazines that you nice people allow to be plastered all over your newsstands.

  "You think you're pretty smart, don't you? You think you're getting away with something--with all the nude pictures and suggestive jokes and rotten stories that anybody can get for a nickel or a dime. And with your newspapers that can make believe they're preaching and yet give all the juicy details of some filthy act that makes poor kids and ignorant tramps burn. . .

  "Oh, but you're wise. . . You preach about bringing sex out into the open because you think it's fashionable and sophisticated. . . You don't know the half of it.

  "I was a kid at a newsstand when I started down. I didn't know the meaning of sex, much less of perversion. It was one of your respectable citizens who started me down. The big wealthy guy that owned the newsstand.

  "He used to bring his rotten magazines to my stand and show me the worst pictures and give me the wink and say:

"'Hot stuff. It'll make you rich!'

  "How was I to know that the stuff was poison? I drank it all before I sold it. It changed my blood to fire. . .

  "Where's the big shot that gave me that start?

  "I know. He's still doing his corrupt business and he's still free. . . Don't let anybody tell you he's not hurting anybody. He's killing people. He's making fiends out of innocent people. He's the foulest thing on the face of the earth... I know, because I'm one of his victims...

  "And that holds for your newspapers too. Even I who was guilty was ashamed of what they wrote in the papers about me with their pious sanctimonious air. You're a bunch of hypocrites so long as you let that stuff go on, and a lot of you are just as perverted as they say I am...

  "Laugh if you want to. Say I'm crazy. . . But the next time you see a line-up of sex-filled magazines on a newsstand, or read a minute description of some crime in the newspaper--remember that's why I'm here and why many another guy will be here when I'm gone."


Putting Teeth into Protests

   It would help mightily in hastening the end of these salacious, smutty magazines, books and newspapers if every reader would register his protest against the sale of such pornographic literature, and then if the merchant persists in handling such items of filth, transfer his patronage completely to a merchant with some sense of civic conscience. The tremendous success of the Legion of Decency in its drive against filthy movies lay in its enlistment of the individual conscience. Responsibility reposed not in that vague entity, "the general public," but in each individual. For the only way in which the general public can be mobilized is by enlisting the individual.

  Another factor in the speed with which the Legion of Decency drove filthy movies out of existence was the enlistment of its members not only to boycott the obscene picture, but also to boycott completely the theatre which exhibited such films even occasionally. As Cardinal Dougherty pointed out at a great mass meeting in Philadelphia, the only way to register an effective protest to the manager of such a theatre is to let him know that such an affront to public decency entails the complete loss of patronage by all decent citizens. The translation of this principle into practice brought prompt action. It caused the theatre managers to sue for peace.

  The result was a cleansing of the Augean Stables of Hollywood, the rescue of the movies from the general disfavor into which they were falling, and the opportunity for youth to see pictures without being dragged through a sea of filth. Why not apply this same principle to the cleansing of the press, to secure the elimination of the filthy magazines and tabloids now defiling the youth of our land? If every lover of decency would register his protest against the sale of these vulgar magazines by withholding all patronage from the merchants who persist in selling them, the situation would be remedied with the same promptness which characterized the transformation of the cinema.

  If every one of the millions who read these lines will make a silent vow before God to act in this honest and courageous manner, we shall make a contribution to the preservation of the integrity of the character of youth and the safeguarding of their shining innocence, which no man can fully appreciate or appraise. It will spell the completion of a second major achievement of the Legion of Decency--an achievement which will endear that organization to every citizen of our land, regardless of religious affiliation, who loves decency and hates the corrupters of youth. Will you begin, dear reader, your work of civic decency not tomorrow, but today? God and the spiritual forces of the universe and the thoughts and deeds of every lover of decency in the world will sustain and buttress you.


"Pull the Clothing Off. . ."

  A third enemy of youthful morals is to be found in the vulgar exhibitions featuring the entertainment at night clubs, taverns, burlesque theatres and road houses. The competition has been to outdo one another in vulgarity and lewdness. Apparently the manager who can pull the most clothing off his entertainers is considered the greatest success. Females in various stages of disarray, performing lascivious dances, are paraded before the eyes of youth. Supplementing the inflammatory movements with obscene jokes, plying them with drinks, the management does everything within its power to turn the patrons into sex-crazed maniacs.

  If the patrons on leaving such places, with their minds befuddled by drink, their passions inflamed by all the teasing tactics or semi-nude entertainers, do not attack innocent women on the street, it is certainly not through any fault of the management. Here are the founderies which turn out sex criminals by the wholesale. Here are the agencies which poison the innocent minds of youth, which pervert their normal development into wholesome manhood and womanhood, and send them out as criminals to prey upon society.

  How long shall we allow these vicious cancers to thrive upon the bosom of society, eating their way into the very heart of youth? If a sewer pipe should be detoured so as to carry its contents to the reservoir supplying a city with its drinking water, would not every citizen instantly refrain from using the water thus contaminated? Would not every resource of the city be instantly bent to remove the source of contamination? But what about the streams which carry the sewage of moral filth into the minds and hearts of young men and women? How can the magistrates of a city justify their apathy in allowing lewd burlesque performances, filthy floor shows in night clubs and road houses, to spread the germs of moral leprosy among its youth? How can citizens, fathers and mothers, remain silent when these agencies are daily undermining the moral character of their children and tainting them with lechery?

  Here again there are not lacking signs that the revolt of an outraged citizenry, long overdue, is getting under way. Already the police commissioner of New York, Lewis J. Valentine has flung down the gauntlet to the theatrical operators specializing in nudity. Backed by an indignant public, Commissioner Valentine has declared war to the finish upon those purveyors of gilded filth who would fatten at the expense of public decency and the morals of youth. If his example be followed by the commissioners of other cities, the racketeers in obscene exhibitionism will find out that there is no place for them in the American scene.

  The example of Mayor Edward J. Kelley of Chicago in pressing into service all the resources of his office in driving a play, remarkable only for its vulgarity and profanity, from the stages of that city should be followed by every magistrate who believes in decency and reprobates filth. If every magistrate will have the courage and backbone to do his sworn duty to protect the public weal, these agencies of moral contamination will be driven from our cities and from their rendezvous along our hard roads as well. Such officials can always be sure that if they carry their case to the public, they will always win. For the American people have a long tradition as courageous defenders of public decency and protectors of the morals of youth.


"You'll have to Excuse Me. . ."

  In addition to the action of civic officials to protect the morals of a community, there is much that can be done by the individual private citizen. In the last analysis, he is Mr. John Public. He must strike the spark which will kindle the corporate conscience of a community. If he is indifferent and apathetic, how can he expect the officials who represent him in public office to be otherwise? If, on the contrary, he burns with indignation at the sight of the agencies which menace the moral health of his children, something of his flame will spread to others until the whole corporate conscience is aflame.

  As an illustration of this, let me cite the example of Gene Tunney. In a mid-western city a group of business men were entertaining Mr. Tunney at a dinner. Following upon the meal several female entertainers appeared to put on the floor show which was bidding fair to become as regular a part of a stag dinner as the inevitable ice cream and coffee. It was at the time when the craze for nudity had reached its height.

  They had not proceeded far in their number when Mr. Tunney sensed the situation. Here he was, the honored guest of a group of well-meaning business men whose overzealous but misguided entertainment committee had ordered not wisely but too much. The entertainment was offensive to his moral code. Trained from childhood in the high standards of Catholic modesty, he felt the upsurge of indignation that comes into every truly Catholic breast at the sight of the debasement of womanhood. What was he to do?

  In his predicament others might have argued that they could not afford to offend their hosts, they could not be expected to go single-handed against the opinion of the group, they could not be expected to lead a revolt alone. So, others of weaker mold might have argued in the effort to countenance, or at least condone, the negative passive attitude of doing nothing under the circumstances. But not Gene Tunney. There was only one thing for him to do--his duty. He did it.

  Arising from his seat at the speakers' table, he said simply: "Gentlemen, I don't care for this type of exhibition. I find it indecent and offensive. You'll have to excuse me." Suiting the action to the word, he walked quickly from the room with every eye upon him. It was just the spark needed to ignite the smoldering conscience in others. Quickly other chairs were pulled back and an exodus began which caused the undraped females to repair in dismay from the scene. "Go," said Lady Macbeth to her guests when Macbeth's uneasy conscience was causing him to see the ghost of his murdered king, "and stand not upon the order of your going. But go at once." Such was the unsounded order which depleted the banquet room in that midwestern city and sent the diners on their way.


The Bravest Fight

  Gene Tunney has fought many a battle. He faced the bullets on the firing line in France. His breast was bared to the bayonets in Flanders Fields. He traded punches with the Manassa Mauler in the squared ring and lifted the heavyweight crown from one of the greatest fighters that the game has ever known. But Gene Tunney never fought a braver fight than he did that night in a mid-western city when he fought single-handed an army of a hundred men and sent them fleeing from the scene.

 The records of the War Department at Washington enshrine for posterity the story of his courage under fire. The files of every newspaper in our land hold safely in their keeping the memory of his victories in the ring. I want these lines to record a triumph never heralded before, a conquest that never found its way into any newspaper in our land, the bravest fight that Gene Tunney ever won--the victory of moral courage over the tyranny of a crowd.

  One of the criteria which Immanuel Kant frequently proclaimed would enable one to judge the ethical value of an act is its effect upon human welfare and happiness if it were performed universally. Act in such a manner, urged Kant, that if all others did likewise, it would make for the weal and happiness of all mankind. Judged by this standard, the action of Gene Tunney bears the stamp of the noblest ethical character.

  A mind that surpasses the mighty intellect of the philosopher of Koenigsberg as the brilliance of the sun transcends the candlelight, Jesus Christ, placed upon it the stamp of a divine approval when He declared in His Sermon on the Mount: "Blessed are the clean of heart, for they shall see God." Reflecting the thought of the same divine mind, the great Apostle of the Gentiles declared: "Be not deceived, God is not mocked. For what things a man shall sow, those also shall he reap. For he that soweth in his flesh, of the flesh, also shall reap corruption. But he that soweth in the spirit, of the spirit, shall reap life everlasting."

  If every citizen would follow the example of this courtly gladiator of the ring, the pestilential swamp of filthy shows would speedily be drained. Indeed, if every reader would register his protest against whatever vulgar exhibitionism there is in his community, the festering brothels of night clubs and road houses which feature obscenity would be swept by the tidal wave of aroused public opinion from the American landscape.


Youth's Chief Ally

  Thus far we have considered the forces which menace the integrity of youthful character, the enemies of youth in their struggle for decency and honor. The treatment would be woefully incomplete, however, if we did not at least point out the most powerful ally of youth in their noble struggle. That ally is religion. It takes youth by the hand, guiding him over the pitfalls that beset his way, and puts his feet safely upon the paths that lead to the sunlit mountain peaks of nobility of character.

  It whispers in his ear the voice of duty and proclaims to him that God and one constitute a majority. Not only does it make clear the moral law, but it supplies sanctions for its observance. In other words, it puts teeth into the moral law, makes it functional by supplying adequate incentives for its observance. Without religion, ethics is apt to become a mere bundle of high-sounding platitudes, garbed in glorious rhetoric, to which men pay lip service on public occasions and conveniently forget about in private practice.

  I walked one hot July day through the cemetery of Pere Lachaise in Paris. It is the Westminster Abbey of France, the Valhalla of her illustrious dead. After reading the epitaphs on the tombs of generals, statesmen, scientists, literateurs and artists, I wandered over to an obscure corner where the weeds were growing luxuriously high. Here to my surprise I stumbled upon the grave of Oscar Wilde.

  I was startled to find this gifted son of England buried in an obscure grave in the alien soil of France. He had won a place as one of the brilliant literateurs of England, an enormously clever playwright, an able poet, an eloquent orator whose witty repartee made him one of the popular idols of the drawing rooms of London. Yet lacking the restraints of religion, he fell to the lowest depths of moral degradation and fled in disgrace to the alien land of France.

  The weeds, thick and tall upon his grave, seemed to shout out to me with myriad voices: "Culture, education, refinement do not save. A man may walk intellectually among the stars and grovel morally among the swine. The conscience which does not sink its roots into the subsoil of religious faith or project its antennae up beyond the roof of the skies misses alike the music of divine inspiration and the thunder of divine commands." If I could take each son and daughter of America by the hand and have them stand with me before this weed-covered grave, I would let this silent tomb preach to them a sermon more moving than any ever framed by human lips--a sermon proclaiming the hollowness and the emptiness of culture which is not deepened, broadened and stabilized by the mighty and everlasting verities of a religious faith whose cosmic Underwriter is the infinite and eternal God.


"The Wealth of America Is. . . "

  Above the portals of the College of Agriculture at the University of Illinois are inscribed the words: "The wealth of Illinois is in her soil and her strength lies in its intelligent development." I would paraphrase that inscription and say: "The wealth of America is in her sons and daughters and her strength lies in their development of character and intellect." They are our greatest treasure, the jewel that is richer than all our tribe, the pearl that passeth all price. They are our hope for tomorrow, our promise of a better day.

  My plea to the people of America, of every faith and creed, is simple and brief: Let us guard our chief treasures. Let us protect the shining innocence of youth that their manhood may be noble and strong. Let us of the older generation remove from their environment the pitfalls and traps which would ensnare them and lead them into the devious paths of vice and crime. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. "Train up a child in the way he should go," says the Book of Proverbs, "and when he is old he will not depart from it." If we play fair with them in their youth, the staggering bill from our penal institutions will take a sharp decline. Let us help them to develop a rugged moral character and a "chastity of honor which feels a stain like a wound." It will be our greatest contribution to the making of a nobler America and the building of a better world.

   My last word is to youth. I believe in you. I have faith in you. For almost a quarter of a century I have mingled in friendly intimacy among the youth of one of the largest universities in America. I have witnessed your eager cries for victory, heard your serenades and hearty laughter, and have been your confidant in times of trouble when the tear replaced the smile. As I have gazed from your shining buoyant faces at the temptations which we of the older generation have allowed to grow up around you on every side, my wonderment has been not that of the conventional critic that you are so wild, but that you are so good, so wholesome, so sound.


The Clean Glory

  I say to the youth I love: Hold fast to the clean glory of your shining innocence till the white-winged reapers come. It will be your cloud by day, your pillar of fire by night. Nothing you can ever gain will compensate you for its loss. Your fidelity to your ideals may cost you much in money, in friends, in sacrifice. But the surrender of your ideals will cost you more. For a transient gain you will barter the infinities. A good conscience will be your sure reward. "Only the heart without a stain," says Goethe, "knows perfect ease."

  When enemies surround you on every side, recourse to God in prayer will put steel into your quivering flesh, convert your weak velleities into mighty volitions, and endue you with the strength of thousands. The mighty hand of the everlasting God will be stretched down from on high to succor you. But you must clasp it. Parents may warn, teachers may counsel, heralds of the Gospel may admonish, but you must choose, you must decide. As an unnamed poet points out:


To every man there openeth

  A way and ways and a way,

And the high soul climbs the high way,

  And the low soul gropes the low.

And in between on the misty flats

  The rest drift to and fro.

But every man decideth

  The way his soul shall go.



Thousands of years ago the Psalmist asked: "Who shall ascend into the mountain of the Lord: or who shall stand in his holy place?" To which the inspired answer came: "The innocent in hands, and clean of heart. He shall receive a blessing from the Lord, and mercy from God his Saviour." That answer to youth's query in every age is as true today as it was when uttered milleniums ago, and it shall still be true at the crack of doom. Youth of America, storm the heights, walk among the stars, keep your conversation with God and the angels, hold fast to the everlasting values that you may be the architects of a nobler civilization, the sculptors of a new world, the builders of a better day.


"My child, you must now set up a task force to stop the wave of evil in pornography that is engulfing your country and the world. Action is needed. There are many true spirits who will help you in this fight. It is truly a battle of the spirits." – Our Lady, August 14, 1975

Directives from Heaven

D15 - Holy Matrimony  PDF LogoPDF
D16 - Role of Parents
D183 - Sex Education   PDF LogoPDF
D216 - Pornography  PDF LogoPDF
D223 - Adultery & Divorce  PDF LogoPDF

D316 - Protect Your Children  PDF LogoPDF




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