A Catholic Monthly Magazine

Pornography: ‘Create in us a clean heart, O God’

Fr Kevin Head sm

Fr Kevin Head sm

"A society that makes light of chastity and winks at pornography in the name of freedom brings on itself precisely those behaviours that involve lack of self-respect, lack of respect for others, and lack of self-control. Society’s confusion about sexuality has consequences beyond sexuality itself. " Seeking Faith, NZ Catholic Bishops’ Conference website.

There’s been much in the media about pornography during the past few months. The New Zealand athlete Nick Willis used Facebook to talk about his struggles with porn, and his being ‘porn-free’ for two and a half years. Porn remains a temptation for him, and he struggles with images that return unbidden.

Willis said that his addiction began when he was lonely as a teenager. Porn gave him ‘some form of intimacy’ that was lacking from his life. He grew to realise that it was a false intimacy, an ‘unnatural solution’ that led him to feel ‘empty and lonelier than before.’

Pornography-addiction-01-763x1024Willis gives credit to his wife, Sierra, for helping him break the cycle of addiction. He and his wife are Christians, and his faith seems to have given him strength to maintain his resistance to looking at pornography.

A survey of 5,000 students in the US in 2008 found that 93% of boys and 62% of girls under 18 had watched pornography on the internet.

In a media release in March this year, the Australian bishops quoted a 2012 Australian study that found that more than 40% of children first saw pornography between the ages of 11 and 13. The bishops go on to say, ‘There is clear evidence of the harm that pornography can inflict on children, with those kids who have seen it more likely to regard women as sex objects, agree with sex before marriage, have sex before their peers do, adopt risky sexual behaviour ... and molest other children. Adolescents exposed to pornographic material are more likely to be sexually violent.’

In an article in The Sydney Morning Herald (7 February 2016), Liz Walker, a director of sex education programmes for young people, is quoted as saying, ‘We already have a generation of kids who view degrading violent sex as the norm – devoid of connection, intimacy and love. If somebody doesn’t speak out soon we are staring down the barrel of tomorrow’s sex offenders and a barrage of intimate partner violence.’

In their pastoral letter on pornography, the Catholic Bishops of the United States describe pornography as both a personal sin and ‘an industry of sin.’

The bishops provide practical advice, urging parents and guardians to safeguard their home from harmful material that comes through television, the internet and mobile devices; to know about and use filtering software on family computers, mobile phones, laptops and tablets; and to encourage openness and trust on the part of their children, ‘so they know that they can come to you if they see a sexual image; by talking about it with them calmly, you can give them a healthy framework in which to interpret it.’

They continue, ‘Rely on the Father’s mercy, especially if you face the difficult situation of a child who has seen or uses pornography. Many good families experience this; you are not alone, and the Church is here for you.’

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