John Paul II, Pornography, and the Stanford Rape Trial
This post originally appeared at Crisis Magazine. It has been reposted with permission.
One need not recount again the abominable details of Brock Turner’s “20 minutes of action,” or those of his trial and recent conviction on three counts of sexual assault. Enough ink has been spilled in outrage (rightfully so) over his woefully short prison sentence, and the support for his victim’s courageous statement before the court has been equally covered.
What is worth retelling, as many times as needed, is the blatant use of one human person by another, and the inherent sinfulness in such an act. As Elizabeth Scalia rightly pointed out, what Brock Turner did was a sin, a fact that even the staunchest atheist would affirm, that is, one with a moral conscience. The relation between perpetrator and victim was one of insidious use, and nothing less.
Eighteen years before he became John Paul II, Karol Wojtyla noted in Love and Responsibility that the opposite of love was not hate, as many might surmise, but was, instead, use. It is only in a life where pleasure is the highest good, the saintly pope writes, that one will stoop to use another human being as the means to their own end, sexually or otherwise.
Turner’s crime, coupled with an audacious defense letter by his father, indicate that both he and his dad are quintessential products of an increasingly utilitarian society, a society that puts pleasure and the lack of discomfort above all else. John Paul could have predicted such an outcome, and in fact pointed to this very concept when describing how utilitarianism—the use of another person as a means to an end—begets nothing more than an inflated ego that seeks what it wants, typically at any cost.