By Robert J. Hoare THF. 10,000-strong Catholic Teachers' Federation of England and Wales is today (Friday) making the first significant move in its campaign against pornographic literature.
At Archbishop's House, Westminster, members of the Spiritual Activities Committee of the Federation will meet representatives of the Knights of St. Columba, the National Board of Catholic Women, the National Council of Youth Associations and the Guild of St. Francis de Sales, to explore the possibility of setting up a national action committee.
It is proposed that the committee include representatives of all Catholic societies — and possibly societies Of other denominations.
A primary task of the corn mittee will be to see what possibilities there arc of getting the law altered. The secretary of the Catholic Teachers Federation, Mr. C. H. Sheill, said this week: "As the law stands at present, there are numerous loopholes permitting the spread of pornographic literature".
At its annual conference last December, the Catholic Teachers Federation passed a resolution condemning the dissemination of pornographic literature. At the same time it was emphasised that the resolution was pointless if positive action did not follow.
Since then, more than 70 memberassociations of the Catholic Teachers Federation have been asked to answer a questionnaire. designed to give an overall picture of the problem of pornography. The questionnaire asked: in what type of shops and streets is pornographic literature sold in your area is it openly displayed or "under the counter"; what sources does it appear to come from: to what extent arc railway bookstalls involved; have the authorities in your area taken any action recently; what were the results, penalties; what suggestions have you for strengthening the law as it affects this problem?
Replies received show that pornographic literature is obtainable in shops of all kinds — not not only bole-and-corner bookstalls. Some Local Authorities are prosecuting where substantial complaints are lodged with them. A recent Birmingham prosecution included a fine in the region of £200, and the offending literature was confiscated and burned. But it has been fmind that police usually require several complaints before taking any action.
Mr. T. M. Hope, ChairmanSecretary of the Spiritual Activities Sub-Committee of the Catholic Teachers' Federation told me that today's meeting at Westminster would use evidence collected from various parts of the country as a guide for channelling concerted efforts from all Catholic organisations. Seaside resorts and areas near large Service camps were among the black spots.
The Catholic Teachers Association of Gloucester is reported to have placed a number of books in the hands of the police, and it is understood that four' books have already been confiscated as a result of this action.