Pornography and Healing
Marriage and Respect Life
400 E. Monroe
Phoenix, AZ 85004
Director of Marriage and Respect Life
Coordinator of Respect Life Parish Leadership Support
For I take delight in the law of God, in my inner self, but I see in my members another principle at war with the law of my mind, taking me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Miserable one that I am! Who will deliver me from this mortal body?
“Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. 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. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials.”
Pornography consists of visual and/or written depictions of sexuality designed to arouse the person viewing it. It is a massive industry in the United States with an estimated three billion dollars of commercial pornography being consumed in the U.S. each year. This doesn’t even take into account so-called “soft pornography” such as the sexual content in many books, magazines, movies, and even primetime television shows.
Critics of the church sometimes claim her opposition to pornography is rooted in a hatred of sex or the human body, but this is patently false. First, there are many parts of scripture that praise the goodness of the human form and sexual union between husband and wife (The Song of Solomon and the book of Tobit are two great examples). Second, the church opposes pornography not because it hates sex or the human body, but because it loves and cherishes the things and never wishes to see them being abused. Pope John Paul II once remarked that, pornography isn’t wrong because it shows too much of the human being, but because it shows too little. Pornography reduces us to piles of flesh whose only purpose is to satisfy our sexual needs and the needs of others. In particular, it turns women into sexual objects whose images (which are not far from their very persons) are bought and sold.
But the Church’s view of human sexuality is the uniting of persons made in the image of God, persons with hopes, dreams, fears, and their capacity to selflessly love one another. Pornography is unable to show the infinite worth of each person because it reduces persons and their personal traits (hopes, joys, and infinite worth) to mere aggregates of physical form and body parts. This devaluing of human beings subsequently wreaks havoc on God’s plan for sexual union and human love.
For example, men and women who become addicted to pornography often lose interests in their spouses and become fixated on viewing other naked people or sex acts. This desire can become all-consuming and cause the victim to become focused on the self and its wants, instead of on God and the wonderful plan God has for them. That is why, far from being prudish, the Church opposes pornography because it wants human beings to live the fullest lives God intended for them, including the sexual component God intends for those lives.
For help in overcoming addiction to pornography visit: http://www.reclaimsexualhealth.com/
Q: I’ve tried everything, but I just feel helpless. I don’t think I can ever overcome my need to view pornography or engage in impure behavior.
A: Rest assured that God loves you regardless of anything that you do. You should also know that God has a wonderful plan for your life. In fact, your knowledge of him and your shame of this sin actually fall within his plan. God loves you so much that he will let nothing come between you and Him sharing eternal life in Heaven. St. Paul writes,
“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
That being said, God gives us the grace we need to overcome sin and if we turn to him he will lift us out of any sin or despair we find ourselves. Here are some helpful tips to overcome addiction to pornography:
- Go to confession: God is eager to forgive any sin and the grace you will receive in the sacrament of reconciliation, if it is received by a sorrowful and repenting heart, will strengthen you against sinning in the future.
- Limit access: If you have any subscriptions to pornographic magazines or websites, cancel them immediately. It may hurt to remove those things from your life, but the hurt is like the momentary sting of removing a band aid, and by doing this you will experience tremendous growth. After that is done, you may want to keep your computer in a public place so that the presence of your family or friends will reduce your temptation to view pornography
- Find someone to hold you accountable: Some software programs allow your online presence to be monitored by others who can charitably hold you accountable and provide help so you don’t fall into sin. This software created by X3 should be helpful.
- Don’t give up if you fall again: Just like the father who welcomes home the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), God is always willing to accept our repentance even if we fall into sin again. The thing he dreads the most is us choosing despair and permanently turning away from him. As the book of Sirach says, “Accept whatever happens to you; in periods of humiliation be patient. For in fire gold is tested, and the chosen, in the crucible of humiliation. Trust in God, and he will help you; make your ways straight and hope in him.” (Sirach 2:4-6)
Q: I don’t see what the big deal is. It’s natural for us to look at the naked body, God even made us that way. Plus, some of the art in the Vatican even has naked people in it, so what’s the big deal with pornography like Playboy?
A: Pornography and naked people are not the same thing. For example, an attractive woman who is dressed immodestly or acting seductively may not be “naked” in the technical sense of the word, but a picture of her may still be pornography. Furthermore, a naked picture of a man or woman in an anatomy textbook, or a photograph of a naked victim of a disaster, or even nudity as a piece of abstract art, may not be pornography because the picture or description is not intended to sexually arouse the viewer. As for the “naked people” in the Vatican, these images are not pornography because the paintings are not designed with the intention of arousing the viewer and they do not traverse the normal standards of modesty (the genital regions of the body, such as those visible in Michelangelo’s “The Creation of Adam,” are not the focal point of the work). While it is natural for us to gaze with wonder on the human form, our inclination to sin (concupiscence) must be remembered and as such, we cannot afford to put ourselves into situations where we could be tempted take the beauty of the human form and transform it into an opportunity to engage in lust.
Q: But doesn’t pornography function as a release valve so that people who have a lot of sexual tension can find some escape from their tension and then go back to having normal lives?
A: When someone is very thirsty and is lost at sea, they are often tempted to drink sea water. The problem is that sea water is too salty to re-hydrate someone and even though the person’s thirst is quenched for a brief moment, it eventually comes back even worse than before. In the same way, pornography may temporarily remove someone’s current sexual tension, but the tension will return and often in a stronger form. A person who becomes addicted to pornography will sometimes find that they cannot become aroused unless they view even more explicit forms of pornography, similar to an alcoholic who cannot get a “buzz” unless they drink more alcohol than they did before. Finally, studies have shown that violent pornography, far from being a harmless outlet for people, may actually increase rates of violent sexual crime and further bolsters the argument that pornography is dangerous for the family. Numerous studies, such as this one published in 2006, show that exposure to pornography makes men more positive to the idea of rape.