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US priest praises 12-step programs for helping Catholics overcome porn addiction

Dorothy Cummings McLean Dorothy Cummings McLean Follow Dorothy

MONZA, Italy, October 1, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) ― An American priest who graduated from the John Paul II Institute has revealed that pornography is viewed even by eight-year-old children and it is causes 25 percent of divorces. 

Upon obtaining a License in Sacred Theology from the Institute in 2013, Fr. Sean Kilcawley became the director of religious education for the Archdiocese of Lincoln, Nebraska. Kilcawley gave an interview last month to La Nuova Bussola about his work combating porn addiction. 

“As a priest who is entrusted with the ministry with families, (I believe) the most significant statistics are that children are exposed to pornography between the ages of 8 and 11 and that pornography or other forms of virtual sexual interaction are the cause of one divorce in four,” he told the Italian newspaper. 

Kilcawley, who was ordained in 2005, is a world expert on the problems caused by pornography and a well-known speaker in the United States on the Theology of the Body, human love, and porn addiction. He also trains priests and others in the caring professions, like teachers and psychologists, to help minister to Catholics who are struggling against porn addiction. 

Kilcawley noted that Americans are more aware of the problems than Europeans. 

“A growing movement (in the USA)  recognizes pornography as a public health crisis,” he said. 

“Various organizations, both religious and secular, work to protect young people from the harm of pornography and to enact laws to protect children and victims of sexualization in society,” he continued. 

“Of course, there are still members of society who believe that pornography is a legitimate pastime and an activity that does not create victims, but the growing debate within our country gives me hope that those who want to be free from the use of pornography have the resources to get that freedom.” 

Different American states have enacted programs and legislation to protect children from porn, Kilcawley noted. However, the law against selling porn to children under 18 doesn’t prevent them from accessing it on the internet. He hopes that one day internet porn will be filtered at the source, so that people who want to see it will have to ask for it explicitly.   

Kilcawley indicated that parents who downplay the problem of children’s porn use by citing their own youthful glimpses of porn magazines and videos don’t understand contemporary realities. He said that young people today have access to porn that is more violent, more explicit and more accessible than ever before. 

“Even if it is true that pornography has always existed, it’s never been available on a pocket device before,” he said. “Never before have parents who want to bring up their children in Christian virtues also discovered that their children are looking at pornography in their rooms.” 

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has confronted the problem of internet pornography by signing November 2015’s declaration “Create in Me a Clean Heart.” In this “pastoral response,” for which Kilcawley served as a consultant, the bishops expound on God’s plan for sexuality, explain the damage done by pornography and encourage the American Church to solve the problem. 

Kilcawley also indicated that various dioceses have begun to tackle the porn crisis. One important method is by training priests for ministry to those addicted to porn. He told his interviewer that the most common feedback he gets from both American and Italian priests is that their seminary formation did not sufficiently prepare them for working with penitents who struggle with porn addictions or other compulsive sexual behavior.  

The expert advises his fellow priests to educate themselves on sex addictions and on recovery; to form alliances with other professionals, like psychologists, and 12-step groups; and to not be afraid.  

“We are called to proclaim the Gospel ‘in and out of season’,” Kilcawley said. 

“Particularly in the current climate of the Church, where ever more attention is paid to the sins of priests and bishops, we must continue to proclaim the truth about Jesus Christ who came to call sinners to conversion,” he continued.  

“In our day, the most common sins are of a sexual nature, and we must be bold in proclaiming hope and healing in a world that has fallen into darkness.”

Kilcawley enthusiastically recommended 12-step programs, saying their methods are compatible with Christian life:

“What we find there, we also find in the Gospels,” he said. 

“They are a way of conversion for everyone.”  

The John Paul II Pontifical Theological Institute for Marriage and Family Sciences was originally founded by St. John Paul II in1982 as the Pontifical Institute for Studies on Marriage and Family. The Institute was mandated by the Polish pontiff’s Familiaris Consortio, and an interdisciplinary cohort of Catholic professors and students collaborated on effectively presenting John Paul II’s extensive theology of sexuality, marriage, and the family to a jaded world. 

In 2017, the Institute was refounded and renamed by Pope Francis after the promulgation of his own document on marriage and family life, Amoris Laetitia.

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