NEWS SERVICE OF THE NATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF CATHOLIC FAMILIES
'Bought With a Price'
'Pornography and the Attack on the Living Temple of God' : A Pastoral Letter by Bishop Paul S. Loverde, reporoduced by kind permission of the Diocese of Arlington, Virgina.
II. The Nature of the Current Threat: A Grave Offense
in a Secular World
are no victims, so no one is being harmed."
What Can Be Done: A Word to the Public Sphere
for All Christians
The Gift of Sight
In my forty years as a priest, I have seen the evil of pornography spread like a plague throughout our culture. What was once the shameful and occasional vice of the few has become the mainstream entertainment for the many - through the Internet, cable, satellite and broadcast television, cell phones and even portable gaming and entertainment devices designed for children and teenagers. Never before have so many Americans been so tempted to view pornography. Never before have the accountability structures - to say nothing of the defenses which every society must build to defend the precious gift of her children - been so weak.
plague stalks the souls of men, women and children, ravages the bonds
of marriage and victimizes the most innocent among us. It obscures and
destroys people's ability to see one another as unique and beautiful
expressions of God's creation, instead darkening their vision, causing
them to view others as objects to be used and manipulated. It has been
excused as an outlet for free expression, supported as a business venture,
and condoned as just another form of entertainment. It is not widely
recognized as a threat to life and happiness. It is not often treated
as a destructive addiction. It changes the way men and women treat one
another in sometimes dramatic but often subtle ways. And it is not going
I know of this plague from my brother priests who routinely confront it in the confessional; from counselors who treat it through our various Catholic social service agencies; from Catholic school teachers, youth ministers, and religious education teachers who confront its effects in the lives of our youth; from parents who speak of the challenge of raising children with modesty in our culture; and from my involvement in the Religious Alliance Against Pornography, an interfaith coalition of religious leaders.
this plague extends far beyond the boundaries of church or school. The
victims of this plague are countless. Today perhaps more so than at
any time previously, man finds his gift of sight and therefore his vision
of God distorted by the evil of pornography.
The nature of the Current Threat: A grave Offense
have often portrayed the human body, clothed and unclothed, in various
depictions and poses. While the danger of immodesty exists even with
regard to works of art, the evil of pornography is greater and more
insidious. Pornography depicts the body solely in an exploitative way,
and pornographic images are created and viewed only for the purpose
of arousing sexual impurity. Hence the production, viewing and spread
of pornography is an offense against the dignity of persons, is objectively
evil, and must be condemned.
immorality of pornography comes, first of all, from the fact that it
distorts the truth about human sexuality. It perverts the conjugal act,
the intimate giving of spouses to each other (CCC 2354). Rather than
being the expression of a married couple's intimate union of life and
love, sex is reduced to a demeaning source of entertainment and even
profit for others. Pornography violates chastity also because it introduces
impure thoughts into the viewer's mind and often leads to unchaste acts,
such as masturbation or adultery.
offends also against justice. It does grave injury to the dignity of
its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes
an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others (CCC 2354).
The "participants" are used and manipulated in ways incompatible
with their human dignity. Everyone involved in the production, distribution,
sale, and use of pornography cooperates and, to some degree, makes possible
this debasement of others. Indeed, pornography has become a system and
an industry of mutual degradation. That some may be willing participants
in no way lessens the culpability of those who engage in the production
and use of pornography.
pornography represents a serious abuse of the means of communication,
and, in that regard, is a violation of the eighth commandment. We must
remember that the right to use the means of communication (i.e. freedom
of speech) is not an absolute right. It must always be at the service
of the common good. Civil authorities must ensure that the use of the
means of communication be in accord with the moral law. To accomplish
this, civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution
of pornographic materials (CCC 2354).
gravity of this sin becomes clearer when one considers the tremendous
damage the use of pornography causes to society. It damages first of
all the family, the basic cell of society and the Church, because it
tears at the marital bond. Since it immerses all who are involved in
the illusion of a fantasy world (CCC 2354), a man's use of pornography
turns his attention and affection away from his wife. It creates in
his mind unrealistic and often immoral expectations for their intimate
life. He begins to approach her only as a means to his own gratification
and no longer as his "suitable partner." Priests and counselors
know very well how grave a threat pornography poses to marriage and
how many families have already suffered sad division due to its effects.
availability and intrusion injure the common good by producing a consumerist
and licentious view of sexuality, particularly of women. Inculcating
and guarding the precious virtue of chastity becomes increasingly difficult
when pornography infects a majority of media outlets. Society's interest
in preparing young men and women for marriage also suffers when the
media presents as a mercantile plaything the holy act of intimacy that
is proper to the sacred bond of marriage.
worst of all, however, is the damage that pornography does to man's
"template" for the supernatural. Our natural vision in this
world is the model for supernatural vision in the next. Once we have
distorted or damaged that template, how will we understand the reality?
Our Lord has given us the gift of sight with the intention that we ultimately
may see Him. The sinful use of this faculty both warps our understanding
of it and - worse still - cripples our ability to realize its fulfillment
in heaven. What man should use for receiving the true vision of God
and the beauty of His creation, he uses instead to consume false images
of others in pornography. How can we understand the supernatural sight
God desires for us - i.e. the contemplation of God in the beatific vision
- once our natural sight has been damaged and distorted?
are intrinsically a people set apart. The reality of Baptism constitutes
us as a community called into the desert, a people consecrated for relationship
with the Creator of all things. Yet, like the people Israel who were
called out of Egypt , members of the Church, too, find themselves inextricably
tied to the same culture of death from which God has freed them.
Christians struggle to live the demands of discipleship amid the pressures
of the surrounding culture. This process of integration becomes more
difficult in a culture which, over the last generation, has abandoned
the virtue of chastity.
and religious, having committed themselves to a chaste and celibate
life, find themselves in the midst of a culture that views celibacy
as an impossible and even unhealthy goal. In moments of doubt, they
may reach out for the false comforts of impurity. Their failure is all
the more grave because of the scandal it brings to the Church.
men and women are distracted by these fantasies from their most important
task of discerning God's call in their life. In moving from impure thoughts
to images to actual sexual misconduct, they undermine the foundation
of trust and fidelity required for future happiness.
then do so many give in to a temptation so obviously contrary to the
good of the human person? At least in part, it is because of the doubt
and confusion caused by the false arguments of those who justify this
III. False Arguments
of pornography often begins by viewing the activity as a private exchange
between the viewers and those who produce and distribute the material.
In this view, there is a "free" choice on the part of consenting
adults to meet a "need" and to be compensated for meeting
that "need." The illusion inherent in this rationalization
is that all the participating parties complete the exchange as the same
persons, with no harm done, as when they entered. Like all rationalizations,
this is an illusion.
Yet the very
nature of pornography commits violence against the dignity of the human
person. By taking an essential aspect of the person - human sexuality
- and making it a commodity to be bartered and sold, to be used and
discarded by unknown others, the pornography industry commits a most
violent attack on the dignity of these victims.
Eros , reduced to pure "sex", has become a commodity, a mere "thing" to be bought and sold, or rather, man himself becomes a commodity. This is hardly man's great "yes" to the body. On the contrary, he now considers his body and his sexuality as the purely material part of himself, to be used and exploited at will. Nor does he see it as an arena for the exercise of his freedom, but as a mere object that he attempts, as he pleases, to make both enjoyable and harmless. Here we are actually dealing with a debasement of the human body: no longer is it integrated into our overall existential freedom; no longer is it a vital expression of our whole being, but it is more or less relegated to the purely biological sphere. Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, 5
thousands of men and women are lured into the pornography industry by
the promise of easy money. The industry preys on the most vulnerable:
the poor, the abused and marginalized, and even children. This exploitation
of the weak is gravely sinful. Whether need, confusion, or alienation
leads men and women to become pornographic objects, their choice to
do so certainly cannot be seen as free. Those who produce and distribute
pornography leave a wide path of broken and devalued men and women in
the Viewer. The
guilty within the industry are easy to identify, but they do not stand
alone. The entire pornography industry exists to realize profit, and
there can be no profit without customers. Those who seek out and use
pornographic images are active participants in the victimization of
others. Those who view pornographic materials cannot separate themselves
from the moral responsibility associated with the victimization and
degradation of the men, women and children those materials depict. And
the viewers themselves are degraded.
Pornography makes a lie of intimacy. Distorting that very human characteristic that promises an end to isolation, pornography leads the user not to intimacy, but to even deeper isolation. The divine purpose of human sexuality is to assuage the longing for communion with another and to bring the person into a bond of life-nurturing, and life-giving, love. In this human experience of intimacy with another, man's eternal destiny of perfect communion with his Creator is prefigured.
in reply, "Have you not read that from the beginning the Creator
'made them male and female' and said, 'For this reason a man shall leave
his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become
one flesh'? So they are no longer two, but one flesh."
promise of intimacy offered by pornography leads instead to an ever-deeper
alienation that cripples the user's ability to experience truly intimate
human contact. The user of pornography, while longing for intimacy,
turns ever more surely back into himself, becoming ever more isolated
of the Family. The most tragic and frightening victim of the scourge
of pornography is the family. Although the "intimacy" promised
by this vice is illusory and the happiness sought in its practice is
transitory and destructive, the damage to the human relationships so
necessary for the flourishing of the family is even more shockingly
real and, in many cases, permanent.
of the family is dependent upon the growth of family members in holiness
and true human love. This is a love whose primary concern is for the
good of the other. It is in this experience of human love that children
grow in grace and wisdom and become integrated and virtuous members
of human society. True human love does not arise from selfish desire
but rather from self-giving. It is in the example of self-giving expressed
by loving parents that children develop the potential to commit to intimacy
with another and to intimacy with God.
over to this vice, the family member makes great efforts to keep this
betrayal secret. Ultimately, however, it is vain to expect that a secret
that distorts the core of human sexuality can fully remain a secret
from those to whom we have pledged our love and our lives. The betrayal,
even if not made completely known, will communicate itself through changes
in the character of the betrayer. In the isolation and alienation of
the person, the other members of the family feel the inevitable consequences
of the alienation of intimacy inherent in the secret of pornography.
to feel the violence of pornographic use is the spouse. If pornography
is a sin against the human dignity of those whose images are used, how
much more so is it a sin against the human dignity of the one who was
promised the exclusivity of affection? The use of pornography is a violation
of the commitment of marriage. Even if tolerated by the spouse, how
can one possibly not feel rejection and betrayal when one's committed
partner turns to illusion and fleeting happiness in pornographic images?
This rejection, if left unhealed, will often lead to the permanent destruction
of the marital commitment.
As is the
nature of all sin, the ones who suffer the most are the innocent. Children
who naturally strive to imitate and integrate the self-giving love of
their parents instead find themselves faced with tension, betrayal and
selfishness. It is understandable then that they may come to believe
that true love, a sacrificial and self-giving love, is an illusion.
Just as it is a vain hope for a spouse using pornography to keep this sin a secret, it is also a vain hope to think that the material itself can be kept a secret. Children encounter the very material that has caused damage to their family and are introduced to an understanding of sexuality not intended by their parents. Instead of learning and experiencing the nobility of the human person created in the image and likeness of God, they experience the degradation of the human person reduced to a commodity, to an object.
"The temperate use of pornography can be therapeutic." Some assert the position that acting sexually, in general, and the use of pornography, in particular, meets the most basic of human needs. This position posits that pornography can provide a modicum of human satisfaction and comfort for those who find intimacy in marriage impossible or at least unavailable. Examples are cited of spouses separated by distance, single men and women not yet able to marry, husbands and wives suddenly deprived of marital intimacy owing to age or illness. In each of these cases, the attainment of some level of human (i.e., sexual) satisfaction, even if inferior to true marital intimacy, is offered as a temporary relief to a person longing for human contact.
presupposes that sexual activity alone, or the viewing of others in
sexual activity, is somehow of the same nature as true human intimacy.
In fact, the intimacy longed for by all persons is the antithesis of
the exploitative and dehumanizing experience of the use of pornographic
images. Rather than providing comfort or satisfaction, the use of pornography
inevitably leads not only to repeated unsatisfying experiences, but
demands an escalation of stimulation. Each escalation and each experience
demeans and desensitizes the viewer to the beauty and nobility of the
provide some touch of human intimacy, the continued use of pornography
limits the person's possibility, and even the ability, to attain intimacy
with another person. How is it possible to enter into a relationship
of love and respect when the preparation for this human encounter is
solely based on carnal "need"? How can the trust necessary
for true intimacy be achieved if actions are determined by secret desires?
The use of pornography damages the very human qualities that make intimacy
possible: specifically respect, trust and the willingness to sacrifice
for the other.
persons who portray the meeting of biological needs as intimacy also
portray faithfulness as a sacrifice too onerous for fulfillment. All
married couples will face times when marital intimacy is not possible.
For some, these times may be prolonged. To pose such deprivation as
an excuse for the use of the pornographic is to cheapen the promise
of faithfulness upon which any marriage is founded. To embrace pornography
as a substitute for marital intimacy is a tacit admission that the spouse
is a means to meet biological "needs" rather than a partner
in the communion of human love.
with compulsive and occasional obsessive temptations to impurity. In
a mistaken attempt to control these temptations, they may turn to the
use of pornography as a "lesser evil." This use of pornography
is wrongly justified as a "safety valve" allowing for the
satisfaction of these compulsive desires in a way that is not harmful,
as it only involves the individual. This rationalization misunderstands
the true damage of sin. While providing seeming relief from temptations,
the use of pornography by these individuals only provides further fuel
for their obsessive impulses.
In a similar
way, some struggle with temptations that are dangerous and destructive:
same-sex attraction, attraction to young persons and sadistic fantasies.
In the hope of maintaining these temptations in secrecy, these persons
often resort to pornography as a means of controlling impulses. This
deception will feed, rather than subdue, temptations. The discontinuity
between the public and the private self widens to the point where fantasy
can no longer be separated from reality. In fact, it is often the use
of this "fetish" pornography that solidifies the temptation
rather than relieving it. The repeated use of pornographic images and
fantasies transforms the temptation into a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy.
The one who turned to pornography to escape a temptation becomes the
embodiment of that temptation.
"Pornography can be an aid in maturing, both emotionally and sexually." Often the use of pornography is seen as a "natural" part of the maturing process, a means by which the young come to understand themselves as sexual persons. Parents, possibly remembering their own struggles, may turn a blind eye to the use of pornography by their children. Rather than encouraging the young to gain self-mastery and self-respect, this view presents the young with a future that is dependent on whim and opportunity.
By its nature,
pornography encourages an expression of human sexuality which is not
only deformed but also severely limited and patently false. The use
of pornography by young people prevents an understanding of human sexuality
integrated with the self-expression and intimacy that is the full expression
of the human person. Instead of growing to an appreciation of the sacredness
of the person, young people caught in the web of pornography begin to
relate to others and themselves as objects.
is an essential element to emotional security. Without the self-mastery
that comes from controlling and, when necessary, struggling with one's
destructive behaviors, including pornography, maturing young persons
find themselves in the fearful condition of being unable to control
either the world or themselves. A young person who has abandoned the
hope of self-control is also unable to control what he does to others.
cannot aid in gaining maturity because all it offers is a lie about
the human person: that a person can be exploited. The use of pornography
by the young makes their authentic sexual and emotional development
more difficult because of the false presentation of human interaction.
Young people must be counseled to strive for the maturity of self-control
and modesty and so become fully integrated persons, respecting both
themselves and others.
"Christian opposition to pornography comes from the Christian hatred of the body." Shun immorality. Every other sin which a man commits is outside the body; but the immoral person sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So, glorify God in your body. I Corinthians 6:18-20
defend the "free speech" rights of pornographers often present
the Church's defense of purity as puritanical rather than pastoral.
Defenders of this criminal enterprise pose as defenders of a true humanism,
portraying Christian teaching on chastity as "anti-human."
The Church is presented as hating the human body and so reacting against
has been restated so many times through the long history of the Church
that many accept it as central to Christian thought. In fact the exact
opposite is true. The Church has always condemned a dualistic understanding
of spirit as good and the body as evil. God created all things, both
spirit and matter, and saw that all these things were good (cf. Gen
1). It is the resurrection of the body which is our hope, and our recognition
of the body as an integral part of the human person is the foundation
of Christian chastity.
does not pose an opposition of body and soul but rather the necessary
completeness of both body and soul for a true and life-affirming wholeness.
Far from denigrating the human body and treating sexuality as an evil
thing, the Church affirms the sacredness of the body. Because of this
sacredness, the marital act is recognized as having a sacramental and
sacred character which the Church seeks to protect.
of pornography, on the other hand, do advocate such a dichotomy of body
and soul. When one views the body as something of no consequence to
the person, one has little regard for how the body is portrayed. The
presumption is that the body is something apart from the person and
so of no lasting consequence.
IV. What Can Be Done : a Word in the Public Sphere
enterprise known as the pornography industry is a crime against the
helpless and the disaffected on whom it preys and an affront to a civilized
populace. The continued toleration of this insidious toxic poison which
hides itself under the guise of freedom of speech and freedom of conscience
is contributing to the debasement of our culture and the victimization
of our own children.
have the right and the responsibility to form a culture that supports
the life and the dignity and nobility of every person. Citizens should
unite to demand laws which place reasonable restrictions on the depiction
of the human body and human intimacy.
Where the pornographic mentality has invaded even mainstream media - and certainly, what is now offered on cable and even broadcast television increasingly approaches pornographic content, citizens must demand that public officials whose service is to regulate such media take immediate and effective action. Contrary to the self-serving defense of some media outlets, such actions are not censorship, but rather the demand for an end to the exploitation of persons and the degredation of public morality.
should not be surprised to find themselves part of a culture that, in
many ways, is contrary to the Gospel and repellent to Christian virtue.
It was the same in the time of Saint Paul and in some sense, for every
generation of believers. But Christians of every generation are called
to live in conformity with the truth of Jesus Christ and to stand apart
from those aspects of culture which are contrary to this truth. A most
effective way in which believers can combat the plague of pornography
is by the witness of their lives.
Culture is formed by the choices of free people. It is important that we choose morally uplifting and life-affirming pursuits that contribute to the common good and the flourishing of all persons. Within one's capabilities, each person should make every effort to contribute healthy and chaste entertainments that can be shared by all. In the fields of art, literature and music, we must never compromise our own Christian dignity to suit the expectations of a decadent culture.
bonds of Christian friendship in order to receive mutual support and
affirmation. When appropriate, use these friendships to explore and
shape the culture around you. It is in these bonds of friendship and
family that authentic human intimacy can in fact be found.
Spiritual growth is impossible without an honest admission of guilt and reconciliation. All Christians should avail themselves of the grace of the Sacrament of Penance and make this sacrament of mercy the cornerstone of the struggle against pornography.
Finally, never underestimate the efficacy of Christian prayer. Pray for the victims of pornography, that their precious human dignity may be healed and restored. Offer concrete acts of penance through spiritual works and fasting for those who manipulate others in this crime of pornography, and who share in the complicity of its distribution. Through these acts of reparation, offer to God an acceptable sacrifice pleasing in His sight.
Entrust the Church always to the protection of Saint Joseph . O Saint Joseph, you were chosen by God to be the foster father of Jesus, the most pure spouse of Mary, ever Virgin, and the head of the Holy Family. You have been chosen by Christ's Vicar as the heavenly Patron and Protector of the Church founded by Christ. Protect the Holy Father and all bishops and priests united with him. Dear Saint Joseph, be my father, protector, and guide in the way of salvation. Obtain for me purity of heart and a love for the spiritual life. After your example, let all my actions be directed to the greater glory of God, in union with the Divine Heart of Jesus, the Immaculate Heart of Mary, and your own paternal heart. Finally, pray for me that I may share in the peace and joy of your holy death. Amen.
Young People. I turn with particular concern to my young brothers and
sisters in Christ. I fear that the full burden of our culture's surrender
to pornography will fall on your shoulders, both now and in years to
come. Not only have you been targeted by this criminal enterprise as
a source of financial gain, but you also have to endure the impoverished
notion of intimacy that results from a culture that has confused love
with self-gratification. Know first that God has destined you for a
true and fully human love that finds its center not in manipulating
others but in sharing and flourishing in a communion with your beloved.
Let no one
have contempt for your youth, but set an example for those who believe,
in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity. 1 Timothy 4:12 Many in society
have accepted the false expectation that youth cannot control their
natural desires and practice the virtue of chaste intimacy. This belief
- that it is unpractical or even unnatural to avoid impurity and the
indulgence in pornographic fantasy - is a lie and far from the mind
of the Church. The acceptance of this lie of immaturity becomes the
excuse for ignoring the vital importance of strengthening the virtues
of modesty and chastity so central to your future happiness.
of intimacy that is at the heart of the experience of youth begins in
the family. Here, in the mystery of human love and sacrifice, you first
begin to explore the joy of intimacy and trust. In the sacred community
of the family, you learn that your worth is not dependent upon your
usefulness or your success, but upon the fact that you are valued as
an irreplaceable and sacred person. It is also in this sacred community
of the family that forgiveness, so central in our struggles against
sin, is learned and first practiced.
Remember always your important role in the community of your family. Respect your parents' God-given role in guiding your life. Cooperate in their efforts to ensure your safety and guide your decisions. This is most important in your decisions to use various media and take part in recreational activities. As you develop a healthy sense of privacy, do not be misled into embracing secrecy. Privacy is the healthy and necessary understanding that parts of your experience - your thoughts, dreams and aspirations - are uniquely your own and so should be shared only when you decide to share in intimacy. Secrecy, however, is the enemy of intimacy and does violence against the bonds of family.
a rejection of love Look to your brothers and sisters and remember your
responsibility towards them. If they are older, encourage them with
your praise of their success. Remind them that you wish to imitate them
in their virtue. If they are younger, assist your brothers and sisters,
using the experience you have gained in your own struggles.
Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you. 1 Peter 3:15
intimacy does not end with the family. For youth, the development of
the bonds of intimate friendship marks the end of childhood and the
beginning of adult life. The forming of these friendships exerts a great
desire for acceptance and belonging. Often described as "peer pressure,"
these expectations of friends are not only a source of temptation to
experiment with destructive behavior, but also an opportunity to share
things of true and lasting value. Resist giving in to the sharing of
impure images from a desire to gain such acceptance. Reject the easy
path of impure talk, immodest dress and pornographic entertainment.
Be ready to explain to your friends why you have chosen to avoid this
evil. Offer instead the example of self-mastery. Just as the self-mastery
displayed in athletics, music, and academics draws natural admiration
from peers, so too will self-mastery in purity draw admiration from
friends who are facing the same uncertainties and temptations.
struggle, including the struggle for purity and modesty, comes with
the possibility of failure. It is often through failure and the persistence
to succeed that mastery is achieved. You must not become disheartened
if you should succumb to the temptations that surround you. Be persistent
in your goal and turn calmly from your temporary defeat. Young people
have a great affinity for the Sacrament of Penance. Because of your
innate understanding of the tragedy of failure, young people naturally
long for a means of returning to a state of grace. Take advantage of
the opportunity of reconciliation. Participate in the Sacrament of Penance
that God has created you for perfect intimacy with Himself. Your struggle
against sin - whether involving pornography or other temptations of
life - is actually your preparation for this true intimacy for which
your loving Father has created you. In whatever vocation to which the
Lord invites you, your successful battle against impurity will contribute
to the true happiness that will be found in the intimacy of that call.
confident to turn for assistance in these struggles to beloved Saint
Joseph , the true spiritual father of us all.
O loving father Saint Joseph who watched over and protected the Infant Jesus as He grew in grace and wisdom, watch over me, my family and my friends as we struggle to lead a life of love and friendship. Pray that I may be an example of a true disciple of your beloved Son and that all my thoughts, words and actions may be an inspiration to those whom I love. May I long to look to you as an example of true human intimacy and to treat others with respect and courtesy, thinking always of the good of others rather than the pleasure of self. Defend me against the temptations of impurity and allow me to serve as an example of modesty and chastity. Guide me on my journey that I may discover the vocation for which God has created me and in this vocation discover the joy that you experienced in your most Holy Family. Amen.
Counsel for Married and Engaged Couples. The true guardian and caretaker of the unique dignity of human persons is the family, and most particularly husbands and wives, who are custodians of the sacredness of life. Pornography not only poses a danger for the promise of faithfulness that is the fundamental element of the marriage bond, but also threatens the moral and sexual development of children whose nurturance is entrusted to the watchful care of parents. Husbands and wives are the most immediate and direct combatants in the struggle against pornography.
husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his
wife loves himself. For no one hates his own flesh but rather nourishes
and cherishes it, even as Christ does the church, because we are members
of his body.
and wives share equal dignity as persons, they do not share temptations
equally - especially the temptations associated with the scourge of
pornography. It must be admitted that the use of pornography is largely,
although certainly not exclusively, associated with males. If a marriage
begins to be damaged by pornography, it will most likely be introduced
by the husband.
Wives who find that their husbands have entered into a sinful attraction to pornographic images or stories must be loving and forgiving, but also stern in calling the spouse to return to his true manly vocation of marriage. The betrayal of a spouse over a mere illusion is a bitter experience, yet one whose most sure antidote is love, support and counsel.
of psychological counseling, when in keeping with the proper understanding
of the human person and natural law, can also be of great assistance.
Many have found themselves incapable of struggling against impurity
alone, and that the assistance of a counselor or a therapist has made
a sizable (sometimes the decided) difference.
and wives must practice constant vigilance to ensure that the plague
of pornography does not enter into the lives of their children. This
vigilance begins with a prudential control of media available in the
home. Encourage the use of uplifting and positive magazines, films and
books. When exercising parental controls over media, provide children
with understandable standards and moral reasons for recommending and
rejecting media content. Always be clear and consistent when explaining
these standards and demonstrate their importance by accepting the same
standards for yourself.
strict and clear controls on any child's use of the Internet. Internet
use in the home should always take place in family areas. Children,
even older children, should not be provided Internet access in the privacy
of their rooms. Technology controls on both computers and television
should be a routine part of family media use.
husbands and wives provide the clearest and surest teaching of chastity
through the love, devotion and self-sacrifice they display in their
relationship one to the other. Recall always that the Lord has entrusted
to you by your very life together the perfect means to bring children
to a true and mature understanding of human intimacy.
other and your children always to the care of the perfect spouse, Saint
O most provident
guardian of the Holy Family, defend the chosen children of Jesus Christ.
Most beloved father, dispel the evil of impurity and sin. Our most mighty
protector, graciously assist us from heaven in our struggle with the
powers of darkness. And just as you once saved the Child Jesus from
mortal danger, so now defend this family from the snares of her enemies
and from all adversity. Shield each one of us by your constant protection,
so that, supported by your example and your help, we may be able to
live a virtuous life, to die a holy death, and to obtain eternal happiness
in heaven. Amen.
I now turn
to my brothers in Christ, my brother priests, who must take up the serious
task of leading the Christian people in their struggle against the evils
of pornography. We who have been called to share in the sacred priesthood
of Christ must also come to share in His purity. This is a lifelong
and loving task which should bring us much joy and great humility. As
we give praise and glory to God in our successes in this ministry, so
must we also repent and do penance for our own failures and the failures
of our brothers.
You and I
are celibate men for the Kingdom of God . This tremendous gift of celibacy
is an invitation to the intimacy that Christ shares with His Church.
We must always embrace this gift with joy and grow in the self-giving
love that is our inheritance. Submission to the lures of pornography
is a serious sin against the gift of celibate chastity.
If any priest
should find himself a party to this sin, he should seek assistance from
his bishop or religious superior. Such failure does not necessarily
mean the end of one's ministry. I would want to assist you in obtaining
the spiritual, psychological and sacramental healing that will be necessary
for a return to your labors.
must be part of ongoing and frequent spiritual direction. These encounters
with your director are a precious and intimate opportunity to hear the
voice of the Master and to respond to His will. Conversations with directors
must always be frank and complete, hiding nothing of the frustrations
and temptations of your ministry and revealing all your faults. Humble
acceptance of direction is a sure defense against the dangers of impurity.
can be an adequate minister of reconciliation without being a frequent
seeker of absolution. Priests must practice frequent confession in the
Sacrament of Penance. Delaying or diminishing the importance of confession
is a sign of an unrepentant heart.
I would ask that all priests commend themselves to Saint Joseph , the
exemplar of fatherhood, and to pray most frequently for his intercession
both for yourself and for your brothers.
O Saint Joseph, who carried the Infant Jesus in your blessed arms and who, during the space of thirty years, lived in the most intimate familiarity with Him, take under thy powerful protection those whom He has clothed with His authority and honored with the dignity of His priesthood. Sustain me in my fatigue and labors; console me in my pains; fortify me in my combats; but above all, keep far from me all the evils of impurity. Obtain for all my brothers the humility of Saint John the Baptist, the faith of Saint Peter, the zeal and charity of Saint Paul, the purity of Saint John and the spirit of prayer and recollection of which thou, my dear Saint, art the model, so that, after having been on earth, the faithful dispensers of the Mysteries of thy Foster Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, we may in Heaven receive the recompense promised to pastors according to the Heart of God. Amen.
V. The Gift of Sight
suffering and pain caused by the evil of pornography, we are called
to be a people of hope, to behold the image of God in others, and to
restore our use of sight by focusing on the goal of our faith and the
final end of our sight.
has always described heaven as the contemplation of the Lord face to
face. Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God (Mt 5:8).
Our Lord speaks these words at the beginning of His public ministry.
Thus He Himself reveals the connection between the virtue of purity
and the faculty of sight. As the Catechism explains this Beatitude,
Purity of heart is the precondition of the vision of God (CCC 2519)
of heart has a particularly close association with human sexuality -
that essential aspect of the human person that concerns affectivity,
the capacity to love and to procreate, and in a more general way the
aptitude for forming bonds of communion with others (CCC 2332). In this
context, the Beatitude indicates specifically a heart purified of selfish
or base sexual desires - a heart that does not view or desire another
for selfish pleasure or gain. Purity of heart refers to the integration
of one's sexual desires and actions with the truth of human sexuality
and genuine self-giving.
second part describes the reward for the pure of heart: they shall see
God. Every Beatitude expresses some aspect of heaven - in this case,
the vision of God. To "see God" has, first of all, a metaphorical
meaning. It refers to the knowledge of God, the ability to "see"
Him intellectually. Yet to "see God" or to possess the "vision
of God" is not only an analogy of heaven. Rather, it has a profound
literal sense as well. Because the human body will be raised on the
last day, the just will literally "see" God with their own
eyes. As such, to "see God" describes the ultimate longing
of every human heart and the final purpose of human sight.
of our Lord brings to man the ability to fulfill the desire to see God.
In his Gospel, Saint John gives eloquent testimony to this: "And
the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we
have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father"
(Jn 1:14). In his first letter also, Saint John bears witness to "[t]hat
which was from the beginning. which we have seen with our eyes"
(1 Jn 1:1). In the Person of Jesus Christ, God speaks to man face to
face - and man sees the face of God. Indeed, it would not be too much
to say that our Lord came into the world precisely to enable us to see
Him. Thus, in His healing of the blind (cf. Mt 9:27-28; 12:22; Mk 8:22-23;
Jn 9), He reveals that He has come to restore the original purpose of
our sight. Most of all, by His death and resurrection, our Lord redeems
us and thus enables us to enter heaven, into the very presence of God.
Saint John , in fact, equates the vision of God with salvation itself: "[W]e know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is" (1 Jn 3:2). Through our sight of Him we become like Him. By gazing upon Him, we receive salvation. Thus does the Church speak of heaven as "the beatific vision" - that is, the vision that makes us blessed. Thus did Saint Irenaeus write, " The life of man is the vision of God. " Here we see Him "in a mirror dimly, but then face to face" (1 Cor 13:12).
Scripture, the Church has continually reflected on this desire for and
promise of the vision of God. She describes the virtue of faith as a
way of seeing God and His truths. She describes contemplation - the
height of prayer - in similar terms:
"to see" spiritually has implications for the moral life:
it enables us to see according to God, to accept others as 'neighbors';
it lets us perceive the human body - ours and our neighbor's - as a
temple of the Holy Spirit, a manifestation of divine beauty (CCC 2519)
were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body." (1 Cor.
at a threshold - either we can continue to allow this plague to spread
with fewer and fewer checks, or we can take concrete steps to uproot
it in our lives, our families, our neighborhoods and our culture.
We are a
people called to share in the pure and noble vision of God and His creation.
We are also a people whose future glory has been bought with the precious
sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. We must never forget the high cost
of this purchase.
A free people can combat the tremendous moral, social and spiritual danger of pornography with great courage. My fervent prayer is that Catholics, other Christians, and all people of good will understand this threat, confront it, facilitate true healing, and ever more fully live out our God-given use of human sight.
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Saint Francis de Sales, patron saint of journalists, pray for us
GRANT US, Father a spirit of wisdom and insight, so that we may know the great hope to which we have been called.
Let peace and harmony reign among all the dwellers on the earth.
To those who exercise the ministry of authority in the service of their brothers, send a spirit of wisdom and humility.
May all those consecrated to you together devote themselves to constant prayer.
Grant us, O God, to fill up in our own flesh what is lacking in the sufferings of Christ for his Church.
To our families and benefactors grant the blessing of everlasting life.
Be ever mindful of your mercy, exalt the lowly; fill the hungry with good things.
Both in life and death, let us be yours, O Lord.
Free the world from its slavery to corruption, to share in the glorious freedom of the children of God.