Join our e-mail list

District Superior's
Letter to Friends & Benefactors

February 2007

Dear Friends and Benefactors of the Society of St. Pius X,

This month let us return to our consideration of developing resourcefulness in our children.

Recall that a resourceful person is one who is capable of dealing with real-life situations and difficulties.

In dealing with this subject, we first considered how important it was for parents to give their children what they truly need and not necessarily what they simply want. By doing this parents help their children not only to control their desires but they also teach them how to deal with real life.

Parents, however, must also strive to remove any obstacles which might prevent or destroy this quality in their children. After all, no one can finish a work if he tears down with one hand what he tries to build up with the other. And among the most prevalent obstacles to developing resourcefulness in todayís world is television.

If you have ever had the opportunity to watch children as they watch television, you would notice how they sit with their mouths slightly open, eyes glazed, oblivious to everything around them. Nothing short of the TV blowing up can get their attention. They become passive, incommunicative "zombies" who cannot play, create, or think clearly. This effect is especially noticed in younger children who unfortunately are usually the ones put in front of the television by parents hoping to keep them "occupied". Many a teacher, and not only in our schools, has lamented the fact that they must constantly struggle against these "zombie-like" effects in their students.

One study showed that, on the average, children watch 4 hours of television per day. This amounts to nearly 1500 hours of television per year. "But my child only watches 2 hours of television each day." Well this may be well below the national average, but think of the time that is wasted with even 2 hours. If before attending school, a child watches an average of 20 hours of television a week, which is still below the national average, he will have viewed nearly 4000 hours of television before entering school. 4000 hours! Is it any wonder that such children, spending so much time staring at flickering visual field, have problems with their key neural skills? This may well explain why, in comparison to other countries, we have such a problem with learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders.

Considering this, it should be no wonder that so many children, and later adults, cannot deal with real life problems. Rather than making the effort, it is much easier to plop down in front of the television where the electronic drugging helps to push these problems aside. It is like a narcotic which dulls the brain, inducing a stupor, a sort of sleep, preventing the pain from registering. The hypnotic effect produced as the attention is focused on the screen, while at the same time pictures are racing through the mind, virtually suspends the power of thinking, the contact of the mind with reality.

According to Rutgers University psychologist and TV-Free America board member Robert Kubey, millions of Americans are so hooked on television that they fit the criteria for substance abuse as defined in the official psychiatric manual. Heavy TV viewers exhibit five dependency symptoms Ė two more than necessary to arrive at a clinical diagnosis of substance abuse. Among the various symptoms are: using TV as a sedative; indiscriminate viewing; feeling loss of control while viewing; feeling angry with oneself for watching too much; inability to stop watching; feeling miserable when kept from watching.

Author, Jerry Mander, in his book Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television, says: "When you are watching TV, you are experiencing mental images. As distinguished from most sense deprivation experiments these mental images are not yours. They are someone elseís. Because the rest of your capacities have been subdued, and the rest of the world dimmed, these images are likely to have an extraordinary degree of influence. Am I saying this is brainwashing or hypnosis or mind-zapping or something like it? Well, there is no question but that someone is speaking into your mind and wants you to do something. First, keep watching. Second, carry the images around in your head. Third, buy something. Fourth, tune in tomorrow."

Nor is the impact of television felt only by the individual; it is felt by all society. Dr. John Nelson of the American Medical Association said that 2,888 out of 3,000 studies show that TV violence is a causal factor in real-life mayhem, "itís a public health problem." The American Psychiatric Association addressed this problem in its endorsement of National TV-turnoff Week, stating: "We have had a long-standing concern with the impact of television on behavior, especially among children."

Yet these warnings go unheeded just as they did several decades ago when television was first introduced as a new technology.

Pope Pius XII recognized the powerful influence television could have on menís minds and so warned of its misuse in his encyclical Miranda Prorsus:

For these new possessions and new instruments which are within almost everyoneís grasp, introduce a most powerful influence into menís minds, both because they can flood them with light, raise them to nobility, adorn them with beauty, and because they can disfigure them by dimming their luster, dishonor them by a process of corruption, and make them subject to uncontrolled passions, according as the subjects presented to the senses in these shows are praiseworthy or reprehensible.

In the past century, advancing technical skill in the field of business frequently had this result: machines, which ought to serve men, when brought into use rather reduced them to a state of slavery and caused grievous harm.

Likewise today, unless the mounting development of technical skill, applied to the diffusion of pictures, sounds and ideas is subjected to the sweet yoke of the law of Christ, it can be the source of countless evils, which appear to be all the more serious, because not only material forces but also minds are unhappily enslaved. And manís inventions are, to that extent, deprived of those advantages which in the design of Godís Providence ought to be their primary purpose.

Their primary purpose is of course to serve truth and justice, which Pius XII says demands "that all refrain from error, from lies, from deceit of all kinds but also that they shun everything that can encourage a manner of living and acting which is false, imperfect, or harmful to another party." If they do not serve this purpose but rather "embark on a downward and uninhibited path, they will certainly restrict the peopleís true development and weaken their morals."

The pope was aware, even in his time, of the intentional misuse of television to entice men: "Should we not shudder if we reflect attentively that by means of television shows, even within home surroundings all can inhale that poisoned air of Ďmaterialisticí doctrines which diffuse notions of empty pleasures and desires of all kinds?" And drive them from God: "We are fully aware, alas, that in some nations amid which atheistic communism is rampant, these methods of telecommunication are directed in the schools to root out all religious ideas from the mind."

Many today do recognize the problems caused by the misuse of this technology, and unfortunately they turn away from the only solution, which the pope also gave over 50 years ago: our Lord Jesus Christ.

This is no doubt intentional on the part of some, as evidenced by several excerpts from a recent article written by a science correspondent in the newspaper The Guardian labeled "No Religion and An End to War: How Thinkers See the Future." The article begins: "Peopleís fascination for religion and superstition will disappear within a few decades as television and the internet make it easier to get information, and scientists get closer to discovering a final theory of everything, leading thinkers argue today." The article says that the web magazine Edge asked more than 150 "scientists and intellectuals": "What are you optimistic about?" Some of the responses show just how far modern technology has perverted us.

A "philosopher", Daniel Denett, is quoted as saying that the spread of information through the internet and mobile phones will "gently, irresistibly, undermine the mindsets requisite for religious fanaticism and intolerance." A "biologist", Richard Dawkins, said that physicists would give religion another problem: a theory of everything that would complete Albert Einsteinís dream of unifying the fundamental laws of physics. "This final scientific enlightenment will deal an overdue death blow to religion and other juvenile superstitions."

"Absurd!" Well, let us hope so. But if we, especially as traditional Catholics, continue to welcome the corrupting influence of television into our homes, we will also quickly succumb to its materialistic and immoral messages. And our children will never learn how to deal with lifeís problems, which is so necessary to the salvation of their souls.

Sincerely in Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior,

Fr. John D. Fullerton © 2013                    home                    contact