There is a growing epidemic rushing through our country unlike anything we have ever seen in history. Even though it has invaded our homes, our marriages, and even reached our children, leaving havoc in its wake, the media will not mention it. Today, pornography is a multi-billion dollar industry and it does not seem to be slowing down. Through the internet and our iPhones, pornography is overwhelming huge numbers of, particularly as I see it, Catholic men, and it is hard to underestimate the terrible effect it is having on husbands and their families today.
Porn addiction is like any other addictive drug. It is a form of slavery, leaving one feeling empty and guilty, yet searching for more. In his heart man knows that with pornography he has lost his God-given dignity, his freedom, and become a slave to his passions. Thankfully, many regularly come to the Sacraments to receive healing and strength. Trusting in Divine Mercy is always the answer.
Pornography is destructive for various reasons but perhaps most importantly because it strikes at the heart of our interior life and numbs our spiritual senses to the invisible realities that necessarily guide our life. “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). Purity is the necessary condition to seeing the invisible world. One has only to think of the purity of innocent children and their amazing capacity to see God’s presence all around them.
Yet the first effect of impurity is blindness of understanding: one can no longer see spiritual realities and the thought of eternity disappears. As St. Alphonsus Ligouri writes, “When a raven finds a dead body, its first act is to pluck out the eyes; and the first injury that incontinence inflicts on the soul is to take away the light of the things of God.”
Man’s fallen nature is so weak that he must recognize the need for God’s grace to live purity. St. Alphonsus writes, “Man cannot of himself acquire the virtue of chastity: God alone can give it.” Prudence therefore dictates that we must avoid the near occasion of sin and beg the Lord in prayer to receive the grace of chastity. Some of the saints have recommended three Hail in the morning and at night in honor of Our Lady’s purity as a proven practice to obtain this grace.
Some suffer from unchastity precisely because they are too self-reliant and proud and the Lord therefore does not immediately bestow the gift. St. Alphonsus states that humility is as necessary as self-control in the fight for chastity: “It happens, not infrequently, that God chastises the proud by permitting them to fall into some sin against purity.”The great promise given to us by the Lord is that for those who humbly acknowledge their weakness, prudently avoid near occasions of sin, and ask the Lord for help, the grace is always there to overcome the temptation. “God is faithful, and he will not let you to be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you will be able to endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13).
In this technological age we live in, I also see a grave mistake being made by far too many parents and I wish I could warn them before it is too late. Parents who allow their children, particularly their teenage boys, to have unsupervised access to the internet are inviting impurity and destruction into their families. I wish more parents understood that boys are learning from the internet that girls are to be the plaything of men, mere objects of pleasure.
Absolutely no teenager should have a computer with internet access in his or her bedroom. A house computer should be in a public space, have internet filters installed, used only when the parents are supervising, and regularly checked for the history of the web searches. Once again, parents are making a grave error when they give their children unhindered access to the internet, in particular with their sons. It is not that they do not trust their boys, but that parents need to have a clear understanding of the effect of Original Sin, traditionally called concupiscence; parents who are not attentive to this weakness in their sons will learn to regret it later.
Two good websites today to help men with addiction to pornography are www.integrityrestored.com and www.pornharms.com. There are also two very good pamphlets available: Breaking Free by Stephen Wood and The Pornography Pandemic by Patrick Trueman.
I hope this will help create awareness of this epidemic and help for those who have hope of restoring their dignity after having lost their way through impurity. May Our Lady inspire and protect our families from this onslaught in our culture today.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Father Greg Markey is the Pastor of St. Mary Roman Catholic Church in Norwalk, Connecticut. The parish, located in a suburb of New York City, is a vibrant, growing one, with a strong tradition of celebrating the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.