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The pointlessness of pornography

John Jalsevac John Jalsevac Follow John
By John Jalsevac
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Note: This is part five of a five part series on pornography

Part I: My porn addiction
Part II: Porn, devil or an angel?
Part III: Three ways to kick porn out of your life
Part IV: The fight for sexual sanity in a world awash in porn

December 13, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) - A quote of dubious origin, but often misattributed to G.K. Chesterton, goes like this: “The young man who rings the bell at the brothel is unconsciously looking for God.” It is a somewhat shocking claim, but is, I think, nevertheless true. And the corollary is obvious: that every young man or woman who searches for pornography on Google, is unconsciously looking for God.

I do not believe that most people who look at pornography do so because they are particularly interested in sex, per se – at least not at first. Women, especially, are likely to confess that their interest in pornography is not so much about body parts, or how they come together, but is rather an expression of their deep craving for romance, affirmation, and relation. They don’t so much care about seeing nude men, as they do about fantasizing about having a satisfying love affair, in which all their unspoken needs and ardent desires are anticipated and met.

And while men, naturally more promiscuous, have earned a reputation as sex-obsessed brutes, I’m not sure that the reputation is entirely deserved, or that our motivations in viewing porn are any less “sublime” than those of women. Certainly in the beginning, I did not go to porn in search of sex, for I was not completely clear about what sex was. All I knew is that I increasingly found women beautiful, and that I wanted to see more of them.

There is, in men, a reverence for the female form that I think would be difficult, if not impossible ever to fully convey to a woman. For the average man, the female body is imbued with a sense of mystery and of meaning that rises very nearly to the level of the mystical. Every detail seems to whisper promises of happiness, of excitement, of mystery, of adventure, of fulfillment. This, of course, is why our advertisements are so packed with photos of beautiful, and often scantily clad women. Advertisers are not simply making their ads “attractive” by using these attractive women, they are cynically associating the aura of mystery and meaning that surrounds the female body with their banal and useless products.

Many great poets and artists, citing Genesis as backing, have claimed – with, I think, good reason - that woman is the pinnacle of physical creation, God’s final and greatest masterpiece. Perhaps this is why many men look to the female form to satisfy their deepest cravings. They have surveyed the earth and found nothing more beautiful, nothing more exquisite, nothing more sublime: and so have devoted their lives more or less to pursuing this most beautiful thing.

Why, then, does it fail to satisfy? Because it does fail to satisfy.

What man who has given in to the craving to view porn can ever honestly say that he has found the happiness that he hoped to find? Almost inevitably he has found disappointment. At first, it is true, there is the excitement, the anticipation, and then the thing itself, and finally (since masturbation typically accompanies viewing porn) the climax. But then there is the aftermath – the sense of deflation, of waste, of emptiness, of pointlessness.

In time the porn addict may come to accept those brief, highly intoxicating moments of anticipation as the nearest thing he will ever experience to happiness. But if he is being honest he will admit that he has settled – that he really craves something much, much more satisfying, but does not know where to find it. Again, here I am speaking from personal experience as a man, but I have heard women speak of the same thing – the sense of repulsion that follows a bout of viewing porn and masturbation, and which ironically drives them back to porn in the hope of erasing that sense of emptiness and recapturing the ecstasy that briefly seemed akin to happiness.

There are, I think, two reasons for the sense of pointlessness associated with porn. The first is the most obvious.

Sex is designed to bring two people together, to unite them, to bridge the gap between them. And it is also designed to be creative, to have the potential for new life. Porn, on the other hand, is simply an attempt to fool the body and the mind into thinking that sex has occurred. But the body and the mind will not be fooled. Porn is to sex what the Twinkie is to food. The first few bites of the cellophane-wrapped bundle of oil and sugar may be delicious, but the taste soon cloys, while the Twinkie provides no meaningful nourishment to the body. Eat only Twinkies and you will soon lose your taste for real, nourishing food, and you will become sick. Porn is sex without an object, sex without nourishment. It is a parody of sex. It is like winning a lottery, only to be told the prize is in Monopoly money. Porn does not, and cannot satisfy, for the simple reason that it is not real: it is fantasy, a shadow of the real thing, a mockery of sex.

But there is also another, and deeper reason for this sense of pointlessness. No one has addressed this reason better than the British Christian writer C.S. Lewis.

In his autobiography Surprised by Joy, Lewis catalogues his encounters with what he labels “Joy.” Joy, in the sense that Lewis uses the word, is that overwhelming sense of desire, the “immortal longing,” which is at once painful and immeasurably pleasurable, that we sometimes experience when we encounter something beautiful. It is, of course, nothing other than the divine discontent, the “restlessness” spoken of by St. Augustine in his Confessions, the pulley of George Herbert’s poem that draws wearied man to the breast of God.

Lewis points out that some irreligious people have interpreted Joy as simply a manifestation of the erotic instinct. Now, this is not an entirely unreasonable interpretation, since Joy very often is associated with sex. A newlywed beholding his bride on their wedding night, for instance, will experience a veritable tidal wave of Joy. But even a newlywed will in time learn that sex, no matter how pleasurable and loving, is not an adequate answer to Joy. Sex may lead to the experience of Joy, but Joy is not the desire for sex. Joy is a desire for something immeasurably more, and those who go looking for that something more in sex, or even worse, in porn and masturbation, will be sorely disappointed.

“Those who think that if adolescents were all provided with suitable mistresses we should soon hear no more of ‘immortal longings’ are certainly wrong,” Lewis explains in Surprised by Joy. “I learned this mistake to be a mistake by the simple, if discreditable, process of repeatedly making it.”

He continues:

I repeatedly followed that path – to the end. And at the end one found pleasure; which immediately resulted in the discovery that pleasure (whether that pleasure or any other) was not what you had been looking for. No moral question was involved; I was at this time as nearly non-moral on that subject as a human creature can be. The frustration did not consist in finding a “lower” pleasure instead of a “higher.” It was the irrelevance of the conclusion that marred it. The hounds had changed scent. One had caught the wrong quarry. You might as well offer a mutton chop to a man who is dying of thirst as offer sexual pleasure to the desire I am speaking of. I did not recoil from the erotic conclusion with chaste horror, exclaiming, “Not that!” My feelings could rather have been expressed in the words, “Quite. I see. But haven’t we wandered from the real point?” Joy is not a substitute for sex; sex is very often a substitute for Joy. I sometimes wonder whether all pleasures are not substitutes for joy.

In other words, the reason porn fails to satisfy, is the same reason anything else fails to satisfy – because it is not God. And the reason we become addicted to porn is the same reason anyone becomes addicted to anything – because we do not possess, and do not know how to possess, God, and thus we frantically scramble about for something to take His place. Woman may be the pinnacle of creation, but even the most beautiful and most fascinating woman ultimately fails to satisfy a man, because creation is not enough – we desire the Creator. One need only consider the endless cycle of divorce and remarriage among the world’s most beautiful people in Hollywood to see how true this is.

If you have ever attended AA meetings, you will have noticed the curious fact that many of those who struggle the most with addiction, are also some of the most passionate, sensitive, and interesting people you will ever meet. AA meetings are packed with people who are anything but “normal” or “boring” or “safe” – they are filled with philosophers and poets and artists, who, in their desperate desire for happiness, have followed the rabbit down the rabbit hole, only to discover their terrible mistake. This is, I think, one reason why the 12-step program puts such a strong emphasis on a belief in a “higher power.” God is the only real, long-term solution to addiction: not only because He is the only thing that can possibly fulfill the infinitude of man’s desires, but also because He is also the only One who can give us the strength we need to fight the myriad temptations we will face, and to catch us when we inevitably fail: he is both the Goal and the Safety Net.

Yes, it may be possible for a certain type of person to beat a porn habit (or any other addiction) simply through willpower and psychological tricks. But in general, I do not believe most people with a porn problem will ever be able to ditch porn for good without developing a relationship with God. For without God we will continue our frantic searching for the Thing That Will Satisfy, a search that will be continually frustrated because there is nothing on Earth that can satisfy. And in our frustration we will return again and again to the thing that promises happiness, but instead leaves us feeling deflated and miserable.

Yes, a porn habit is a shameful thing. But if it brings us to our knees, and reveals our weakness and our need for something – or better yet, Someone – greater than ourselves, then it may yet prove to be our salvation.

I will leave the final word of this series to former Playboy pornographer turned devout Christian Donny Pauling. I once asked him how he believes people can beat a porn addiction. This was his response:

So many people don’t ask for help because they’re sitting there feeling guilty about their actions, saying, “There I go, I’ve done it again.“ I think that they need to realize that, although sin does separate us from God, He still loves them. It doesn’t matter what they’re doing. His love doesn’t change. It’s not conditional.

God who loves us that much is not looking for a reason to send us to Hell, he’s looking for every reason to bring us to Him. So just stand back up. Stop letting your guilt get you down.

Truth. Delivered daily.

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The Wunderlich family Mike Donnelly / Home School Legal Defence Association
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German homeschoolers regain custody of children, vow to stay and fight for freedom

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

One year to the day since a team of 20 social workers, police officers, and special agents stormed a homeschooling family’s residence near Darmstadt, Germany, and forcibly removed all four of the family’s children, aged 7 to 14, a state appeals court has returned custody of the children to their parents.

The reason given for the removal was that parents Dirk and Petra Wunderlich continued to homeschool their children in defiance of a German ban on home education.

The children were returned three weeks after being taken, following an international outcry spearheaded by the Home School Legal Defense Association.

However, a lower court imposed the condition on the parents that their children were required to attend state schools in order for them to be released, and took legal custody of the children in order to prevent the family from leaving the country.

In a decision that was still highly critical of the parents and of homeschooling, the appeals court decided that the action of the lower court in putting the children in the custody of the state was “disproportional” and ordered complete custody returned to the parents, according to a statement by the HSLDA.

The Wunderlichs, who began homeschooling again when the court signaled it would rule this way, said they were very pleased with the result, but noted that the court’s harsh words about homeschooling indicated that their battle was far from over.

“We have won custody and we are glad about that,” Dirk said.

“The court said that taking our children away was not proportionate—only because the authorities should apply very high fines and criminal prosecution instead. But this decision upholds the absurd idea that homeschooling is child endangerment and an abuse of parental authority.”

The Wunderlichs are now free to emigrate to another country where homeschooling is legal, if they choose, but they said they intend to remain in Germany and work for educational freedom.

“While we no longer fear that our children will be taken away as long as we are living in Hessen, it can still happen to other people in Germany,” Dirk said. “Now we fear crushing fines up to $75,000 and jail. This should not be tolerated in a civilized country.”

Petra Wunderlich said, "We could not do this without the help of HSLDA,” but cautioned that, “No family can fight the powerful German state—it is too much, too expensive."

"If it were not for HSLDA and their support, I am afraid our children would still be in state custody. We are so grateful and thank all homeschoolers who have helped us by helping HSLDA.”

HSLDA’s Director for Global Outreach, Michael Donnelly, said he welcomed the ruling but was concerned about the court’s troubling language.

“We welcome this ruling that overturns what was an outrageous abuse of judicial power,” he said.

“The lower court decision to take away legal custody of the children essentially imprisoned the Wunderlich family in Germany. But this decision does not go far enough. The court has only grudgingly given back custody and has further signaled to local authorities that they should still go after the Wunderlichs with criminal charges or fines.”

Donnelly pointed out that such behavior in a democratic country is problematic.

“Imprisonment and fines for homeschooling are outside the bounds of what free societies that respect fundamental human rights should tolerate,” he explained.

“Freedom and fundamental human rights norms demand respect for parental decision making in education. Germany’s state and national policies that permit banning home education must be changed.

"Such policies from a leading European democracy not only threaten the rights of tens of thousands of German families but establish a dangerous example that other countries may be tempted to follow,” Donnelly warned.

HSLDA Chairman Michael Farris said that acting on behalf of the Wunderlichs was an important stand for freedom.

“The Wunderlichs are a good and decent family whose basic human rights were violated and are still threatened,” Farris said.

“Their fight is our fight," Farris stressed, "and we will continue to support those who stand against German policy banning homeschooling that violates international legal norms. Free people cannot tolerate such oppression and we will do whatever we can to fight for families like the Wunderlichs both here in the United States and abroad. We must stand up to this kind of persecution where it occurs or we risk seeing own freedom weakened.”

Visit the HSLDA website dedicated to helping the Wunderlich family and other German homeschoolers here.

Contact the German embassy in the U.S. here.

Contact the German embassy in Canada here.

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Bishop Nunzio Galantino, secretary general of the Italian Bishops' Conference http://chiesacattolica.it
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Church ‘discriminates’ against ‘unconventional couples’: leader of Italian Bishops’ Conference

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By Hilary White

The secretary general of the Italian Bishops’ Conference has said that “unconventional couples” suffer “discrimination” and “prejudice” from the Church.

Speaking at a conference on the liturgy in Orvieto organized by the Liturgical Renewal Centre, Bishop Nunzio Galantino gave a clear signal when he said, “The burden of exclusion from the sacraments is an unjustified price to pay, in addition to de facto discrimination.”

“Couples in irregular matrimonial situations are also Christians, but they are sometimes looked upon with prejudice,” he said, according to the Italian bishops' newspaper, Avvenire.

Bishop Galantino stopped short of openly advocating that the prohibition be dropped, saying, “With sincerity, we should also recognize that other believers perceive the discipline of the Church as an exclusion of these brothers and sisters, and, at times, observe them with a look of injury,” an attitude he called “de facto discrimination.” Although, he added, “they cannot receive Eucharistic communion.”

LifeSiteNews contacted Bishop Galantino's office for clarification by phone and e-mail but did not hear back by press time.

A number of prominent clerics have recently placed themselves in a growing camp of supporters for the suggestion that the Church should simply drop its prohibition on distributing Communion to Catholics 'remarried' outside the Church. At February’s consistory of cardinals, German Cardinal Walter Kasper argued the Church should allow Communion for those who have undertaken a “period of penance” but who have no intention of regularizing their situations. The cardinal claims that this would have no impact on Church teaching on the indissolubility of marriage.

The Catholic Church, taking its foundation from the words of Christ in the Gospels, teaches that divorce is impossible and that a person who undertakes a civil divorce and then “remarries” is in reality committing adultery. Adultery being a grave, or “mortal” sin, those in such situations cannot receive Communion until they have been sacramentally absolved and have changed their living situations.

According to Galantino, “Eucharistic celebration should be ‘a place where everyone feels at home,’ including migrants, faithful in irregular marriage situations, the disabled, the sick, the poor, the elderly and children.” 

Paraphrasing the title of one of Pope Benedict’s encyclicals, Caritas in Veritate, Bishop Galantino said that the key was an “attitude of charity in truth.” In dealing with those in irregular marital situations, he said that in the Church “we must honestly admit that we have no longer insisted on the truth when we haven’t exercised charity.”

“I speak of that pastoral charity,” he said, “which is the primary responsibility of the pastors of the Church, but also other members and the Christian community as a whole, that pastoral charity which for people facing marriage and family difficulties means acceptance, understanding, accompanying and support.” 

He said that those who live in such “irregular” situations “live their condition with great suffering” and “perceive the discipline of the Church as very strict, not inclusive, if not punitive.” 

Zenit news service also noted that Galantino said the Christians should follow the example of Pope Francis and adopt the attitude of a Church that “goes out” and “takes the initiative” to be “friendly” and “close the gap.” He held up Cardinal Kasper and the Dominican priest Yves Congar as theological leaders, saying that in the past the Church has looked up on people who were divorced and civilly remarried as “adulterers,” but added that the world has moved on from such opinions.

Cardinal Kasper’s suggestion immediately unleashed a storm of controversy after he presented in February. His keynote address at the consistory received scorching criticism both from lay commentators and high-ranking clerics who have said that such a practice would be “impossible.” Kasper’s speech was intended as a prelude to the deliberations on the various issues surrounding the family at the upcoming Synod of Bishops, set for the Vatican in October.

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Kasper, a prominent and very public theological opponent of Pope Benedict XVI, has given interviews in the US and elsewhere promoting his idea of allowing Communion for divorced and remarried people as a matter of “compassion.” The issue has long been a “hot button” one for the Catholic Church in Germany, whose bishops have spearheaded the movement in the face of falling Church revenues.

Bishop Galantino was hand picked by Pope Francis to fill the position of secretary of the powerful Italian Conference of Catholic Bishops in a country where the Church still wields considerable influence in secular politics.

In May this year, Galantino angered pro-life advocates around the world when he told an interviewer that he does not “identify” with those Catholics who pray the Rosary outside abortion facilities.

“I do not identify with the expressionless faces of those who recite the Rosary outside the clinics who practice interruption of pregnancy,  [‘l’interruzione della gravidanza’] but with those young people who are opposed to this practice and strive for the quality of life of the people, for their right to health, to work,” he said.

He added, “In the past we have concentrated too much on abortion and euthanasia. It mustn’t be this way because in the middle there’s real life which is constantly changing.”

His comments were strongly criticized by Fr. Frank Pavone, the head of Priests for Life in the US, and by John Smeaton, the head of the UK’s Society for the Protection of Unborn Children. Fr. Pavone responded, “When somebody says that the Church has ‘concentrated too much on abortion and euthanasia,’ I take it as a compliment for the success of ministries like Priests for Life, which have called and will call upon the clergy, and indeed the entire Church, to sound the alarm about these atrocities more loudly and clearly than ever. Nor will we stop calling for that until the killing stops.”

John Smeaton, in an open letter addressed to Galantino, said, “I thought I would let you know that I do identify with the person outside the abortion clinic praying their rosary, whether or not the person is expressionless.”

“It’s probably fair to say that tens of thousands of unborn children, each one made in the image and likeness of God, are killed every day throughout the world. For example, there are 500 killed daily in Britain, thousands in the US, thousands upon thousands in China, to name just three of the world’s 193 countries.”

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Julie Ralph

My 7-year-old son found porn on his iPod, even with a filter

Julie Ralph
By Julie Ralph

A few weeks ago an article went viral on my Facebook feed entitled “The Day My 10-Year-Old Discovered Hardcore Porn on his iPhone.”  As one Mom after another shared and commented about how frightening and horrible it was and wondered what do we do to prevent it, I commented on several of those shares (perhaps a little smugly and proudly) that WE had installed an excellent filtering program on all of our devices that even filters YouTube.  I most likely left the impression that WE have no worries in this house, that our kids can watch their iPods and kindles, even those annoying Minecraft how to videos on YouTube, and WE don’t have to worry about them seeing filth. 

Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, WRONG.

I could have entitled this blog post “The Day My 7-Year-Old Discovered Porn on His iPod” but it might look like I’m trying to one-up that other Mom.  Which I’m not.  Because, trust me, this is one Mom competition I’d rather lose. 

This is no longer a battle friends, it’s an all-out war.  It’s a war we’re fighting for the minds and futures of our children.

So YES we have this supposedly great and awesome filter on all of our devices and we pay about $70 a year for it.   Look, I’ve been on my computer trying to shop for a swimsuit at Lands End and the filter blocked me.  Annoying, yes.  But assuring.  I remember thinking wow….if I can’t even get on here and see the tummy-sucking-miracle-fat-hiding-mawmaw-swimsuits, my boys will NEVER be able to discover Victoria or her Secret.   And I’ve been on YouTube trying to see how to quickly defrost CHICKEN breasts, and it blocked several videos AND ads that probably had nothing to do with fowl or a thawing method.  Again I remember thinking, good.  This is really good.  Nothing to worry about.

Then last night happened.

My youngest son was visibly shaken as he was getting ready for bed.  I knew something was wrong when I saw he was wearing his flannel pajamas with the mountain bears printed all over them on one of the hottest August nights this month.   He seemed almost disoriented and I asked him if he was sick as he was trying to quickly crawl into bed and pull the covers over his head.   He then reached over to the bedside table, grabbed his little iPod, and tossed it to me saying he doesn’t deserve it anymore because he is bad.  “I’m bad, so bad….I saw bad things.”  My heart started racing and I felt like I had been punched in the gut.  Because I knew where this was going.  Very calmly and quietly I assured him he was not bad and there was nothing in the world he could ever tell me that would make me think he was bad.  “What did you see, sweetheart?” I asked.  After about ten minutes of me coaxing it out of him, with a wobbly still-tiny-smidge-of-baby-left voice he told me he was searching for a word he had heard and he spelled it for me.  T-t-i-s.  (I quickly unscrambled and knew what he meant).  He went on to tell me he searched for this on YouTube (the app is not even on his iPod….he must go through the “filter” app to access it!).   He told me he saw pictures and videos.

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My stomach turned.  I ran through all the “How To” files I’d stored away in my mind.  You know those files….situations you’ve thought about as a Mom and how you’d handle…you file them away for another day.  Usually one you hope will never come.   Turns out I didn’t have a file for this.  Because I honestly thought we had done everything on the front end to keep it from happening. 

I ran my fingers through his hair and pulled him close and started talking to him from my broken heart.  I asked him if he knew what that word meant before he searched for it.  He said no.  I told him it is a very crude and ugly word for something that is not crude and ugly.  I told him what the proper word is and I asked him if he knew why God made them like that on women?  He said no.  I told him it was the miraculous and wonderful way that God made women able to feed their babies.  I told him how every woman who has those is made to feed a baby, and those women in those pictures and videos are either already someone’s Mommy or they will be one day.  And what God meant for a beautiful purpose is twisted and made into something very wrong and ugly by those pictures and videos.

Don’t trust some computer geek working for a software company to care a flip for or protect your kids.

We continued to talk and then we prayed together and I left him to sleep as I walked back to my room for a sleepless night.  I cried for the ugly, messed up, twisted, and sick world out there that I can’t protect my children from.  I cried for what he had seen that I couldn’t un-see for him.  I cried because I had abdicated MY parenting duties to some stupid computer software that I thought would protect my children.  I cried because I can never get back that bit of innocence he lost way, way too early.  I cried as I went onto YouTube, put in that same search and saw just the thumbnails of what he had to have seen.  I just can’t bring myself to actually click on the videos.  I cried because, when I went in to check on him later, he was curled up with Big Bear in one arm and his little blue and white checked blanket in the other.  He’s still a baby. 

I’m mad now.  And I really hope my anger continues to burn because I need it to fuel my diligence.   I need my guard to be up and to stay up.  This is no longer a battle friends, it’s an all-out war.  It’s a war we’re fighting for the minds and futures of our children.  I know there are those who would say I’m being overly dramatic, that I can’t put my children in a bubble, blah blah blah.  I don’t care.  I will do whatever it takes to protect my children until their minds, bodies and emotions are better prepared to grasp, filter, and sort through the warped and ugly parts of our world that are pulling on them.  I will continue to pull back and hold on for dear life.   Don’t do as I did, friends.  Don’t trust some computer geek working for a software company to care a flip for or protect your kids.  Do as I am doing now.  Uninstall any and all browsers or video apps on your kids’ personal devices and set the restrictions where they can’t install apps anymore without asking you first.   Have one central computer in a public area of your home that they may use, with permission, and still with filter software installed.  But remember that’s not the first line of defense in this war.

You are.

Julie Ralph blogs at Mommy, Esquire, where this piece was originally published.

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