Pornography and the Catholic Church
The Church speaks clearly about pornography because she realizes how it affects one’s relationship with God and others. We have seen how pornography can adversely affect the relationship between husband and wife, and how it corrupts young people’s views of healthy relationships and sexuality. We also need to see how it affects our relationship with God. While I am clearly no theologian, I will present here some basic facts on how pornography can hurt our relationship with God.
Let me quote from The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which clearly defines pornography and the harm it causes:
Pornography consists of 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, since each becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials. CCC, 2354 (U.S. Catholic Conference, 1997).
God’s main goal is to be in communion with his creation. This means having a deep intimate relationship with each one of us. He loves us so much that he even created us in his image. However, when a person views pornography, he defiles that image. In Theology of the Body and Love and Responsibility, John Paul II wrote that the opposite of love is ‘use.’ Thus, when a man views pornography, he is really using another person for his own base pleasure. This reduces sex to a recreational activity and the people in porn to mere commodities. Sex is holy and to be shared between husband and wife. It is meant to be unitive and procreative. Because pornography is devoid of intimacy or relationship it perverts the conjugal act. This is why using pornography is a mortal sin. The people who use pornography and those who produce it are equally at fault here.
While the excitement and physical pleasure of pornography might be temporarily pleasing, one must ask him/herself, “What is going to bring lasting happiness?” An honest person will admit that pornography can never fulfill. Only a chaste life, lived for God, that honors His image and all His creation can provide lasting happiness in this life and the next. Choosing pornography over God, however, will only lead to loneliness and misery in this life and the next. A wise person will choose God over porn.
The Catholic Church understands that many people are trapped in pornography addiction. She knows how damaging it is to individuals, marriages, and families. Moreover, she has much compassion for such people and wants to help them experience God’s love and healing. Because this is such an important issue, in 2015 the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) issued an official document on pornography entitled Create in Me a Clean Heart: A Pastoral Response to Pornography. The purpose of the document is to educate Catholics on the dangers of pornography and to give hope to those who are addicted, or affected by the addiction. It presents the Church as a field hospital ready to serve those hurt by pornography. It describes God’s great love and mercy for those wounded by pornography, and His desire to bring healing to all who are afflicted. The document states:
As pastors of the Catholic Church, we offer this statement to give a word of hope and healing to those who have been harmed by pornography and to raise awareness of its pervasiveness and harms. In the confessional and in our daily ministry and work with families, we have seen the corrosive damage caused by pornography—children whose innocence is stolen; men and women who feel great guilt and shame for viewing pornography occasionally or habitually; spouses who feel betrayed and traumatized; and men, women and children exploited by the pornography industry. While the production and use of pornography has always been a problem, in recent years its impact has grown exponentially, in large part due to the Internet and mobile technology. Some have even described it as a public health crisis. Everyone, in some way, is affected by increased pornography use in society. We all suffer negative consequences from its distorted view of the human person and sexuality. As bishops, we are called to proclaim anew the abundant mercy and healing of God found in Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, and through his Church (USCCB, 2015).
God and His Church are ready to help those who struggle with pornography addiction or are affected by it. No individual, couple, or family needs to fear seeking help from clergy and church personnel. They can help through support, prayer, sacraments, and spiritual direction. They may also be able to direct you to needed resources, such as counselors and recovery groups. The Church truly is a caring and compassionate field hospital for those who are hurting!
The first step in recovery is asking for help. This is done by finding a qualified therapist who can work with you to develop an effective recovery program. I have worked with hundreds of people to overcome pornography use and addiction. If you or someone you love is struggling with pornography use, I invite you to contact my office to schedule an appointment. The healing process can begin today! Click here to contact me.