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June 25, 2018 (The Catholic Thing) – In Elise Harris's report about the Instrumentum laboris [working document] of the upcoming 15th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops (Youth Synod), she states that among the “key issues” mentioned are not only “increasing cultural instability and violent conflicts” but also that “many young people, both inside and outside of the Church, are divided when it comes to topics related to sexuality.”

Frankly, I doubt that when the bishops meet in October they'll show us a new path to world peace, whereas they probably could help people – young and old – to better understand the truth about sexuality. It's time we had a thorough, clinical restatement of Humane vitae! God alone knows, of course, what may actually emerge from the Synod.

Ms. Harris adds:

Things such as precocious sexuality, sexual promiscuity, pornography, displaying one's body online and sexual tourism, the text said, “risk disfiguring the beauty and depth of emotional and sexual life.”

Although dated May 8th, the Instrumentum laboris was made public just last week, and, as of today, the text is available on the Vatican website only in Italian.

Edward Pentin's comment about the document is telling:

perhaps reflective of today's hypersexualized society, especially in the West, the document is notable for being laden with references to sexuality (25 mentions in total, compared to Jesus who is referenced 17 times).

Society certainly is hypersexualized – and largely desensitized about it. This is why modesty in media has been overtaken by bawdiness and why pornography is a $100-billion business.

According to Webroot, an Internet security site, there are 200,000 porn addicts in the United States, but the junkies are merely the tip of the iceberg, given that 40-million Americans “regularly visit porn sites.” The keys to the porn boom are accessibility, affordability, and anonymity.

We'll see what the bishops conclude from surveys made prior to the Synod. Will it matter to them that this year 43 percent (of Americans) say they approve of porn? That's up seven points over 2017!

Social scientists are divided about the dangers of porn: some say it enhances life; others that it destroys. But the experts are rarely speaking as moral theologians, although some come close to seeming so when focusing on kids and porn.

And childishness, it seems to me, is at the heart of the porn epidemic. I'm not referring to children “performing” in porn films or watching porn, although the average age at which kids first see porn is 11, and “child porn” is a criminal epidemic.

It may seem odd to think of sexual excess as childish, but it is. A part of contemporary culture that ought to frighten us – more, certainly, than it does – is the extent to which childhood has extended into adolescence and adolescence into adulthood or, rather, what ought to be adulthood. Prefatory to St. Paul's famous statement (1 COR 13:11) about giving up childish things, is his joyful declaration that he has become a man – a Christian man.

No true Christian man (or woman) may watch porn, because porn is morally illicit.

To those men and women who struggle with porn, whether addicts or “casual” users, I suggest giving the devil his due: put a reminder message in your computer calendar or a sign on your laptop screen or desktop monitor reminding you that pornography is Satan's work – that every time you access a porn site you are doing the devil's bidding.

Recall that angel-devil gag in cartoons and sometimes in live-action movies: a figure in red sits on the left shoulder with one in white on the right. The one whispers seductively; the other pleads plaintively. I think we know what our guardian angels want us to do. Likewise (although the Church in this regard is less definitive than on the subject of guardian angels), there are demons lurking about, urging us to sin. The Catechism makes three-dozen references to demons, which include the references to Satan himself. The Catechism says each of us is assigned a guardian; it does not say that we get a demon too. This may be because Satan played no role in writing the Catechism. Even if he had, his additions would all be lies.

Paul also says (in most translations) that Satan “is the god [or lord] of this world, [who] has blinded the minds of those who don't believe.” (2 COR 4:4) And those unbelievers include any nominal Catholic, Protestant, Jew, Muslim, or “None” who watches pornography.

A sound, secular argument may be made against pornography by evoking natural law (empirical deductions from its effects on relationships, productivity, depression, etc.), although the mere mention of natural law evokes in secularists the “specter” of religion, which – in the new understanding of public policy – violates the separation of church and state.

But public policy ought not to be the main concern here. It's personal behavior that matters, which for any Christian should involve a simple calculus: acts of impurity violate the Sixth and Ninth Commandments. The Catechism (2354) calls them “grave offenses.”

The Catechism also pleads that “Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials,” but there is little will in the public sector for such prevention. So it's up to us.

The Catechism's paragraphs 2351 and 2352 are also apposite. They deal respectively with lust and masturbation, which are the impetus and consequence of porn. Not that there should be any doubt, but pornography violates the Commandments against adultery and coveting a neighbor's wife (and, surely, a neighbor's husband). And Jesus addressed this when he said (MT 5: 27-30) “everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

He goes so far as to say that if either eye or hand causes you to sin, cut out the eye, cut off the hand. That's better than going to Hell.

But better than blind or lame is vigilance, because, as our first pope said, “Satan prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (1 PET 5:8)

A Post-it note will do: “Satan loves porn.”

Published with permission from The Catholic Thing.


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