“I call on every man in the Diocese of Arlington to search his heart and renew his commitment to purity. I call on every husband and father to renew his sacred commitment to his wife and children.”
- Arlington Bishop Paul Loverde
ARLINGTON, VA, March 7, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The growth of pornography use, particularly on the internet, is “a matter of utmost urgency for every son and father today,” Bishop Paul Loverde of the Catholic diocese of Arlington, Virginia said in a letter to his flock released this week.
Titled “Bought with a Price: Every Man’s Duty to Protect Himself and His Family from a Pornographic Culture,” the 77-page letter was first issued in 2006, but in his introduction, Bishop Loverde emphasizes that the porn industry has grown exponentially in the last eight years.
Since 2006, Loverde said, “the porn epidemic engulfing our families, marriages and communities, has reached a pandemic scale.”
Pornography, Loverde wrote, “has been excused as an outlet for free expression, supported as a business venture, and condoned as just another form of entertainment.” But “it is not widely recognized as a threat to life and happiness. It is not often treated as a destructive addiction” that “changes the way men and women treat one another in sometimes dramatic but often subtle ways.”
“I call on every man in the Diocese of Arlington to search his heart and renew his commitment to purity. I call on every husband and father to renew his sacred commitment to his wife and children,” Loverde wrote.
Loverde quoted the Catechism of the Catholic Church on pornography, calling it “an offense against the dignity of persons,” that is “objectively evil, and must be condemned.”
“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.”
Answering the objection that pornography is a “harmless” vice, Loverde writes that to the contrary, the porn industry “preys on the most vulnerable: the poor, the abused and marginalized, and even children” with promises of easy money. “This exploitation of the weak is gravely sinful.”
“Those who produce and distribute pornography leave a wide path of broken and devalued men and women in their wake.”
The letter includes a “plan of life” to help those already involved in pornography use to break free, and a study guide for groups. Among the recommendations is to create a more accountable Catholic community, by finding “at least one or two faithful Catholic friends in your life who can hold you accountable for living your faith in the context of authentic friendship.”
“To a degree that my father could never have imagined,” Loverde wrote, “today’s father must protect himself and his children from the relentless assault of an increasingly pornographic culture; moreover, mothers share this sacred task.
“Every home now stands in the pathway of this attack on our children’s innocence and purity. If we are not vigilant, our sons and daughters will pay a steep and heartrending price.”
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The expanded letter includes a foreword by Catholic apologist and anti-pornography campaigner Matt Fradd, who writes that since his own childhood first-exposure to pornography – in the form of a magazine photo of a nude woman – the porn world has moved from this almost “quaint” product to a “sea of smut,” including video of sex acts, emanating mainly from the internet.
Fradd, the author of Delivered: True Stories of Men and Women Who Turned from Porn to Purity, writes, “Our culture increasingly legitimizes, even glorifies” pornography and “only heroic parental vigilance – plus God’s providence – offers them any hope of escaping its influence.”
He quotes a memo from the U.S. Department of Justice that warned in 1996, “Never before in the history of telecommunications media in the United States has so much indecent (and obscene) material been so easily accessible by so many minors in so many American homes with so few restrictions.”
Fradd, who tackled his pornography addiction when he converted to Christianity, added that it was not easy. Although his realization that he had to stop was “a black and white moment,” his recovery was not. He credits his wife and his frequenting of the Catholic Church’s sacraments, adding that being a husband and father “put the ugliness of porn into a crystal-clear perspective.”
For Fradd, “any attempt to come to terms with why pornography is evil must begin with this recognition of the intrinsic worth and goodness of the human person.”
After he converted, Fradd realized “that the people I interacted with day in and day out had intrinsic worth; that, whether they knew it or not, God had thought them worth the price of His blood. This rocked my world. I could no longer justify degrading and objectifying women for whom Christ had suffered and died.”
Fradd particularly warns against the damage that pornography use can do to a man’s “vocation” to “self-giving sacrifice” as a husband and father. “Porn flips that on its head,” he said. “It makes husbands and fathers say, “This is your body, taken by me.”
“By turning men inward, pornography suffocates their vocation, robbing them of their power to be Christ-like lovers, protectors, and leaders of their families.”
In his letter, Bishop Loverde wrote, “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."
Fradd’s and Bishop Loverde’s warning that an effective counter-attack on pornography is needed now more than ever is well-supported by the statistics and the social changes that have made pornography, particularly through the internet, widely socially accepted.
Pornographic videos have become so mainstream that there are trade journals and professional conventions. The annual AVN (Adult Video News) Awards ceremonies – complete with red carpet photo sessions with the industry’s “stars” – breaks the profession down into categories analogous to the Oscars, giving statuettes for “best screenplay,” “best art direction” and “best cinematography” as well as to the “actors” and the more obvious pornography categories like “best all-girl sex scene.”
Experts estimate that as much as 12 percent of the internet – about 24,644,000 sites – is given over to pornography and about 35 per cent of all downloads from the internet are pornography. In the US alone, over $3,000 per second is spent on it by customers.
According to the internet tracker Alexa.com, the “adult video” business by itself in the US is worth over $20 billion per year. This does not include the $7.5 billion for magazine pornography, $5 billion for sex clubs, $4.5 billion for phone sex lines and $2.5 billion for pay-per-view cable.
Perhaps the most significant change since Bishop Loverde’s letter was first issued is the effect on young children. The proliferation of hand-held internet access has affected the average age at which a child first sees pornography, which is now thought to be 11. There are about 116,000 searches for “child pornography” per day and child pornography nets its creators about $3 billion per year.
The largest consumer demographic for internet pornography is the 12-17 age group and 80 per cent of 15-17 year olds experiencing multiple “hard-core” exposures. Ninety percent of 8-16 year-olds have viewed porn online, most while doing homework on their personal computers and laptops.
Here are some of Bishop Loverde’s recommendations for kicking a porn-addiction:
- Mastery of one’s passions is key to personal, emotional, and spiritual growth. Practice self-denial and self-mastery. Cut back on TV, Internet use, or video games. If cable TV is an occasion of sin, discontinue the subscription. Incorporate the practice of fasting into your life.
- Schedule regular times for family prayer, such as a family rosary in the evening. Frequently renew your commitment to your spouse before God.
- Pornography leads users into a fantasy world that isolates them and cripples their ability to experience true human intimacy. Examine those areas of your life where you get pulled away from relationships and into fantasy worlds—pornographic or not—and work on developing deep, authentic friendships.
Download Bishop Loverde's pastoral letter here.