Today, I want to discuss a topic that impacts many men and women across many age categories. I think it is necessary to speak on the topic of the pervasive presence and use of pornography in our society. All indications are that this is a widespread problem in our society, made ever broader by easy access and free content through the internet.
No one is immune from this invasion, and the problem exists in Catholic homes as it does in other homes. One of the realities of this topic is that a person, through no fault of his or her own, can be exposed to this material quite innocently. A misspelled word in a search engine can lead to exposure and that can place a hook in a person. If we are not careful, first exposure develops into repeated curiosity and that develops into habitual use that impedes healthy human development and spiritual development. First exposure happened easily enough in past generations, but we must admit that with the dawn of the internet, it happens much more easily and frequently now, and it comes directly into your home. First exposure to explicit material now happens in our homes, right in the room where your child is on the computer, tablet, or smartphone.
This is a matter that cannot be ignored in the parish, in your family life, or in each person’s examination of conscience. We cannot be silent while souls are being ensnared. Use of this explicit material makes its users spiritually crippled and deadened. It is serious sin that needs to be confessed, and especially before coming forward to receive Holy Communion. It becomes enslaving. It negatively impacts personal discipline, dating, marriage, and even the ability of a young person to discern a call from God to priesthood or to a religious vocation.
I hope I do not cause rash judgment or awkward situations here, but given the statistics on use of explicit material, parents, you should likely just assume that your child has been exposed, and that your middle school and high school aged child may already have a habit of use. You must speak with them. You must first treat this issue in your own life with serious resolve. You must take measures to control and eliminate the entry points for this material into your home. Use internet accountability and filtering software and even have everyone in the house turn in all cellular and internet devices each evening, where they remain locked in the parents’ bedroom until morning. Men, dear brothers in the faith, you especially need to take such measures to protect yourselves, your wives, and your children. You need to live courageously in your fatherly role of protector in your home.
As your spiritual father, I want to set the tone for our response to this moral epidemic by saying that in the spiritual family of this parish, no one is permitted to shame anyone else about this struggle. The devil knows what he is doing in trafficking this filth. Anyone who is struggling needs to know they are loved, they are supported, and that they are called to true and authentic human relationships. Jesus gives us the example from the woman caught in adultery who easily could have been shamed. Instead, He says, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again” (John 8:11). Therefore, in this parish, I am opening this topic for conversation, and I am asking you to continue it in your home and with your family. Opening this to conversation can allow healing to take place.
This is because in talking openly and honestly, we will draw each other, our spouses, and our children into more authentic relationships that, together with confession, prayer, struggle, and acts of penance, will result in lessening the grip of false virtual “relationships.” Anyone struggling needs to be prudent, but opening this matter— not to everyone, but to a trusted friend—can offer accountability in the battle. I want you to know that there are in fact people who do not use explicit material. The battle is possible. Victory is already won with Christ Jesus. Moreover, others in this parish will be ready to stand with you as you engage in battle. It is time to reject the devil’s message that tells you to keep this matter hidden. Kept hidden in the darkness, he increases his power over you. In the light, he flees.
Furthermore, we are also going to confess this matter with humility and honesty each and every time there is a fall and a sin. God is ready to meet you in this struggle. He already loves you as you hear this invitation to confession. He loves you and He wants you to have a deeper relationship with Him.
To fight against the evil of pornography in our lives and the lives of our families, I suggest a few important spiritual weapons.
- I want every person in this parish to learn how to pray the Rosary to invoke Mary in this battle. She brought us her Son who crushed the serpent’s head. Her intercession is powerful. Pray it in your home with your family. Additionally, you may wish to add the Novena for Purity to this time of prayer.
- Reverent worship is a weapon in the battle and so, in addition to faithful attention at Mass, I ask each of you to sign up for a Holy Hour of Eucharistic Adoration, or to share an hour with your family or another friend. Come receive blessing in the Lord’s real presence, and train your eyes to look upon the Holy One in our midst.
- Don’t forget the value of reading and praying with Sacred Scripture, taking on practices of fasting and using devotionals like Holy Water and religious medals.
- Finally, make a regular confession and take the necessary steps to find an accountability partner.
- In the back of the church, we have free resources for you to assist with striving for healthy and holy marriages and families, including how to talk to your children about internet dangers. You can also learn by joining The Equipped 7-Day Challenge: A Digital Crash Course by texting SECURE TO 66866 to receive seven days of emailed digital tips!
These emails contain videos with easy instructions for turning your home into a safe haven. The videos explain the latest apps, Google Safe Search, YouTube Restricted Mode, social media risks, how to address online pornography, and more. Again, this is all in video format, received in a series of emails. I know this resource will be helpful to you!
In conclusion, pornography is a grave offense against God and His gifts to men and women. God created men and women “in His image” to share in His divine life. Rather than respecting and cherishing this image of God, pornography promotes a harmful and destructive anthropology. It teaches people to use others as “objects”—in this case, a means of selfish, lustful gratification. In addition, since pornography attacks sexual desire and the conjugal act itself, it wages war on marriage. Let us be strong men and women of purity, chaste and holy, and fight to preserve the garment of salvation we have received in Holy Baptism.
May God help us to do so against the snares of the pornography epidemic!
This is taken from the message given by Reverend Father Robert T. Cooper, a Priest of the Archdiocese of New Orleans.