How to deal with the ever-increasing influence of pornography was one of the issues examined at the recent meeting of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
The bishops overwhelmingly approved a statement titled, “Create in Me a Clean Heart: A Pastoral Response to Pornography.”
“My brother bishops’ approval of this statement shows our collective concern for the widespread problem of pornography in our culture today,” said Bishop Richard J. Malone of Buffalo, New York, chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family and Youth (LMFLY), according to a press release from the USCCB.
“As the statement says, virtually everyone is affected by pornography in some way. So many people –including within the Church– are in need of Christ’s abundant mercy and healing. My hope is that the statement can serve as a foundation and catalyst for increased pastoral attention to this challenge at the national and local level” he said.
Men, women and children are affected by pornography, the statement explained, and changes in communications technologies in recent years has made it much easier to access indecent material.
God created the human person in his image and likeness and we have all received the vocation to love, the USCCB statement affirmed.
“Written in our bodies is a call to spousal, fruitful love. This call is realized in marriage as well as in celibacy or virginity for the sake of the Kingdom (e.g., priestly celibacy and consecrated life).”
Respect not gratification
Because of this our bodies should be treated with respect, thus our bodies are not something to be manipulated but are inseparable from who we are. Lust uses another person for gratification, while chastity affirms the whole person, body and soul.
The statement explained that the Church’s teaching on pornography is grounded on the dignity of the human person revealed fully in Christ and the gift of sexuality and marriage in God’s plan.
Pornography involves a disordered view of the person because it regards another person as something to be used, rather than loved.
Pornography is gravely wrong and the sin of using it needs forgiveness within the Sacrament of Penance, the statement observed.
“Pornography use hurts the user by potentially diminishing his or her capacity for healthy human intimacy and relationships,” the bishops added. It also has direct connections with other sins such as adultery, masturbation, domestic violence, the abuse of children in child pornography, and sex trafficking.
All pornography involves exploitation and is devoid of love but the U.S. bishops expressed concern that the content available today is increasingly “coarse, violent, degrading, and even satanic with overt portrayals of occult practices.”
The statement also pointed out the potential for the use of pornography to become addictive. Viewing pornography can have the same effect on the brain as drugs or alcohol and a person addicted to pornography may become obsessed with viewing it.
Regarding the role of the Church, the statement commented that not only is there a need to proclaim the truth about the human person and to warn of the dangers of pornography, but there is also a message of healing and hope.
“Jesus is the way of freedom. The Church says, ‘Be not afraid!’ Come to the Lord Jesus, whose mercy endures forever! The Lord never tires of forgiving.”
The statement observed that for those who have used pornography cultivating chastity is both “a lifelong task and a daily choice.”
“If you fall, get up again, go to the Lord in confession and seek his mercy in the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, and start anew,” the bishops urged.
Turning to those hurt by their spouse’s use of pornography the statement noted that neither are they alone nor are they responsible for their spouse’s pornography use.
“The Church accompanies you with love and tenderness as you confront this sin and its effects on your marriage and family life. You have been deeply hurt. You feel betrayed, deceived, and even traumatized at finding out about your spouse’s pornography use through their own disclosure or your discovery,” the statement commented.
Christ can heal the wounds they have suffered, but the bishops clarified, it takes time. They encouraged those struggling with this hurt to seek solace in prayer, the sacraments and Eucharistic adoration.
For some their spouse may wish to break the habit of pornography use and in these cases the support of a spouse can be a great source of strength. For those whose spouses reject help or are in denial, the statement recommended prayer and the setting of clear boundaries.
One of the concluding sections encouraged all parents to educate their children in sexuality, love, and chastity and also to be vigilant about the technology allowed in the household.
“May we work together for laws and for a culture that remove pornography from its prominent and privileged place and counter its numerous injustices, building instead a culture that honors the true dignity and meaning of human sexuality,” the statement concluded.
On the Net:
Statement text and other resources on pornography – http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/pornography/index.cfm