“Worn on Porn?” by Rev. Benjamin Bradshaw

ImageIt is said that internet pornography flourishes on the three As: anonymity, affordability, and accessibility.  Simply put, it is usually free, people think it is anonymous, and anyone with internet access can usually access it.  Judging from the frequency that priests encounter porn from both men and women in the confessional, I would certainly concur.  The phenomenon of pornography is eating away at the fabric of marital and family life like a swarm of hungry moths in a silken wardrobe.  The love-hate relationship that most porn users have with their “drug” is amplified over time and frequently ends in divorce, shame, depression, infidelity, unemployment, and possibly jail time.  The illusory nature of pornography allows one to believe that it is anonymous, yet even if one’s spouse, family, parish, or employer never actually catches the viewer in the act, they know.  On some level they know, and eventually the words of Christ become a lived reality in all their sobering truth: “Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed, nor secret that will not be known” (Mt 10:26).

No family, at least in the secular West, can avoid dealing with the phenomenon of pornography today.  Even assuming one’s children have no access to the internet, television, or IPhones, statistically they will at some point be exposed to porn themselves or their future spouse or child will.  Within our homes and parishes then the matter should be tackled forthrightly and candidly, always accentuating the beauty of human sexuality, conjugal love in marriage, and the nature of sexual desire itself as a profound gift from God, albeit easily corrupted via lust. The current statistics on pornography usage are as sobering as they are telling: every second almost 30,000 people are viewing porn and over $3,000.00 is being spent on porn, 40 million Americans regularly visit porn sites, the pornography industry grosses nearly $60 billion annually worldwide ($13 billion in the U.S.), 25% of all internet searches are pornography related (roughly 68 million daily), the average age of the first exposure to pornography is eleven, 20% of men and 13% of women admit to accessing porn at work, 50% of Christian men admit to using porn on a regular basis (source: United Families International, Covenant Eyes).  While there is a healthy sense of privacy and modesty with regards to one’s sexuality, pornography tends to prosper in families wherein the beauty of sexuality is rarely, if ever, addressed in a forthright and catechetically correct way, while simultaneously respecting a child’s individual disposition and age.  To be sure, this is neither easy nor comfortable for most parents, but as many families have informed me over the years, it is much easier than one may initially think and is certainly easier than trying to heal a child’s sexual addiction later in life.  In addition to this, I would add that one’s child likewise has moral rights by way of his/her dignity as a child of God to know the truth about his sexuality and the perils our culture presents in assaulting that dignity.  If discussing this makes a parent feel “uncomfortable” then I would humbly respond, “Get over it.”  Your child needs you to step up to the plate and be a parent.

The same could certainly be said of the need to preach on this issue and the needs of parishioners within most Dioceses for assistance with pornography addiction.   Many Protestant communities offer this service to their faithful, and regrettably much of the Catholic Church in the United States remains woefully behind the curve on this issue; fed in large part by an unwillingness of many to address this publically.  Again, I would humbly respond, “Get over it,” your spiritual children need you to step up to the plate and be a leader.  Our faith teaches us that “Everyone…should acknowledge and accept his sexual identity” (CCC#2333).  This “acknowledging” and “accepting” simply cannot be done in a climate of avoidance of the issue, and this issue simply cannot be avoided any longer.

Human beings are made in God’s image and likeness, and our sexuality “affects all aspects of the human person in the unity of his body and soul” (CCC#2332).  The two deepest parts of man are his spirituality (soul) and his sexuality, in his body/soul composite.  Thus, sexuality is not simply a “matter of biological matter.”  More directly, sexuality is not an issue solely of genitalia, though it does include this.  Rather, our sexuality is both physical and metaphysical, touching the profoundest core of who we are, long before we ever act out sexually at all.  Therefore, when one does engage sexually with another (even in singular masturbation), it impacts his soul and that of the other as well in either a spiritually positive or negative way.  Because most Americans tend to understand sexuality solely in terms of privacy (e.g. “What I do in the privacy of my own home is my business.”), it is often difficult for them to grasp that their personal sexual choices have profound consequences for their marriages, families, parishes, and the culture as a whole.  While sexuality is a private issue then, its ramifications are altogether public.

Though plentiful studies indicate the physiological impact on the brain that pornographic stimulation has on its viewers over time, it is important to note that many addicts of pornography are actively seeking to acquire control of their addiction.  Nonetheless, sustained pornography usage has the psychological effect of cocooning the user into a private shell, wherein he often becomes very self-absorbed, distracted, and depressed.  Ironically, in a continual effort to feed sexual desire, one’s libido is often altogether deadened as one’s spouse becomes increasingly “un-porn worthy,” or expects him/her to ascribe to demeaning sexual requests.  Inevitably the spouse then feels used and withdraws from further intimacy and conversation as well, thereby leading to further “cocooning” for both rather than simply the user.

By its nature however, sexuality is never an end, but is a gift of sharing oneself with another in a sacred and self-donating way.  This likewise includes celibacy and virginity for the sake of the kingdom, as one freely offers up sexual unity and biological procreation in this life for the sake of the Church or to Jesus as one’s spiritual spouse, as with consecrated sisters.  This is never a negation of one’s sexuality, though frequently depicted as such by the entertainment media given their often neurotic emphasis on sexual gratification.  Rather, it is freely giving of something sacred (sexuality) for another good, namely, continence for the sake of the kingdom of God, in which one receives infinitely more than one actually gives up (Mt 19:29).

In addressing the societal scourge of pornography, we need to rethink how we think of sexuality and dig deep in summoning up the fortitude to address this issue more forthrightly.  By failing to do so, we are committing nothing less than familial suicide by slowly sipping the arsenic of lust in the cultural coffee of our daily lives.

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About thereserita

Happy Catholic seeking to share that happiness with others.
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4 Responses to “Worn on Porn?” by Rev. Benjamin Bradshaw

  1. Sbsmith408@aol.com says:

    Wonderful article! Thanks for sharing. Having a high schooler and hearing what he tells me about kids makes me soooo sad. Leah Himelright ( Floyd ?) is wanting to start a frassati group for high school kids. This was one of the topics mentioned for discussion. This is much needed. I also read an article that disturbed me about the Hotel business being a big promoter and money maker for the porn industry. Hilton being the #1 company. I was appalled, but after thinking about it…seeing those stations for adult movies on the hotel tv screens for lonely, traveling, business people..I can see where the advertisements fit. God help us all. It is overwhelming. Susan

  2. Pingback: Me Vs Porn | Comfortably Numb

  3. Pingback: Catholic Blog Posts on CCC 2333 - Catholic Bandita

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