Denver-based Archbishop Charles Chaput better watch out next time he plays Call of Duty online.
Why? A lot of gamers are gunning for him in the wake of an editorial in which he criticized the U.S. Supreme Court for striking down a California law meant to protect minors from violent video games. And no wonder, since Chaput uses the 1999 shootings at Columbine High School to bolster his argument.
In the essay, "Violent Video Games and the Rights of Parents," originally published by FirstThings.com, Chaput recalls testifying before a Congressional committee on the topic of marketing violence to children weeks after the Columbine massacre. At that time, he said:
The reasonable person understands that what we eat, drink, and breathe will make us healthy or sick. In like manner, what we hear and what we see lifts us up -- or drags us down. It forms us inside. Pornography degrades women. It also coarsens men. I don't need to prove that because we all know it. It's common sense... The roots of violence in our culture are much more complicated than just bad rock lyrics or brutal screenplays... But common sense tells us that the violence of our music, our video games, our films, and our television has to go somewhere, and it goes straight into the hearts of our children to bear fruit in ways we can't imagine -- until something like [Columbine] happens.
Chaput then goes on to criticize the Supreme Court majority's view that violent video games can be viewed as protected speech under the First Amendment when it comes to kids as well as adults. He writes: "My point here is not that video games are bad. My point is that when we too readily stretch an individual's right to free speech to include a corporation's right to sell violence to minors, we collude in poisoning our own future -- and tragedies like Columbine are the indirect but brutally real proof of what I mean."
These views didn't initially make much of a stir. But then yesterday, Kotaku, a widely read national video-game site whose editor in chief is former Rocky Mountain News gaming columnist Brian Crecente, republished the column under the headline "The Archbishop of Denver Tells You about Violent Video Games and the Rights of Parents."
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Predictably, the comments on the Kotaku piece thus far aren't dominated by attaboys. Here's the take of a reader who goes by the name Damios: Smitten with the Green Fairy: "This man is a moron. There's no point in combing over this tripe bullshit with a fine-toothed comb when I'm sure any commenter here who can read and has half a brain could pretty much pick this apart into oblivion with ease."
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Even nastier is the following video, which questions Chaput's credibility by bringing up the abuse of children by priests.
Damn you, First Amendment!
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