An attack on the dignity of the person
In the last few weeks, we have addressed the topics of
migration and abortion among the subjects treated in this
column. These are issues that profoundly affect the dignity
of the human person. In this reflection, I would like
to alert you to another attack on human dignity: pervasive,
easily accessible pornography.
I’ve Gotta Be Me
In 1968, a song called “I’ve Gotta Be Me,”
figured near the top of the musical charts. While it can
be viewed as a harmless sentimental ditty, it can also
be assigned the role of theme song for the age that was
dawning. Selfishness is indeed part of our common lot
as sons and daughters of Adam and Eve. In fact their very
sin, which we call original, was founded upon selfishness.
The serpent tempted them through their sense of sight
and through their pride. He promised them: “ …
your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods ….”
(Gen 3:5). Their eyes were indeed opened, but what they
were opened to did not offer its promised reward! It rather
filled them with shame and brought them and their descendants,
beginning with their own children, untold heartache.
Every age has its own difficulties and challenges. The
Christian has been challenged from the earliest times
to “ … be blameless and innocent, children
of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse
generation, among whom you shine like lights in the world
….” (Phil 2:15). Our age, marked with a particular
selfishness, leading to so many other failures, certainly
possesses its own challenges. We, who have received the
fullness of God’s revelation, calling us to live
in communion with the Blessed Trinity, must ever be alert
to those things that would deprive us of this intimacy
both in this life, as a result of our sins, and in eternity
if we die unrepentant. Adam and Eve were tempted through
their senses and their pride. The serpent uses those same
avenues in this latest form of grave temptation, which
has become so easily accessible: pornography. Under the
false premises of freedom of expression and the freedom
of the person to do with his body as he wishes, a terrible
form of slavery arises from what invariably ends up as
an addiction to pornography.
As we have pointed out, selfishness is at the root of
our wounded human nature but it seems to be a particular
characteristic of our present age. Two of the victims
of this selfishness are proper and lasting relationships
and true intimacy. This is so because addiction to pornography
leads further and further away from a turning outward
toward other persons to a turning inward in selfishness
and self-satisfaction. Just as in the Garden of Eden,
the devil’s temptation, with all its promises, was
followed by deep disillusionment, so with this vice: what
the devil and society present to us as a harmless means
of pleasure and self-fulfillment which “doesn’t
hurt anyone” often fills us with shame and utter
Bishop Paul S. Loverde of the Diocese of Arlington, writes
in his excellent Pastoral Letter on this subject: “Rather
than provide some touch of human intimacy, the continued
use of pornography limits the person’s possibility,
and even the ability, to attain intimacy with another
person. How is it possible to enter into a relationship
of love and respect when the preparation for this human
encounter is solely based on carnal ‘need’?
How can the trust necessary for true intimacy be achieved
if actions are determined by secret desires? The use of
pornography damages the very human qualities that make
intimacy possible: specifically respect, trust and the
willingness to sacrifice for the other” (Bought
With a Price: Pornography and the Attack on the Living
Temple of God).
Pornography: evil in its root and in its fruit
There are those things that in themselves, are either
good or indifferent, which have their end or purpose determined
by how we make use of them. One example would be food.
Food (even if its taste may be indifferent!) is good.
If we use it for sustenance and even legitimate pleasure,
it remains beneficial. However, we can take this good
and turn it into a source of sin if we become gluttons.
Pornography, however, is never good or even indifferent.
Its root is evil because of the manner in which it is
obtained. This involves the debasing of the human person,
most frequently the woman, and reducing her to the level
of a money producing object rather than a person to be
loved. Horribly, this is sometimes even extended to the
exploitation of children for these purposes.
As well as being evil at its source, pornography is evil
in what it does to the person who makes use of it. It
can never be said that this is a harmless vice, which
“doesn’t hurt anyone.” It hurts those
who are abused by being its subjects and it hurts those
who use it by causing them to debase their own human dignity.
This is what makes this scourge also evil in its result,
both in the short and the long term. We have already mentioned
“turning inward” rather than outward to fruitful
human relationships as one result. A result in the longer
term is the warped vision of, or even blindness towards,
true human love and its marvelous joys when lived out
as it is meant to be, according to God’s plan. As
I said in an interview two years ago, when the truth concerning
the human body, revealed both in nature and in God’s
loving law, is not observed, “ … then we go
into the darkness of abandoning God’s plan”
(Interview with LifeSiteNews.com, published Feb 17, 2005).
A challenge and a remedy
The challenge made to us in the face of this scourge is
made by Jesus Himself, who tells us: “Blessed are
the clean of heart, for they will see God” (Matt
5:8). This challenge of Jesus reminds us of the consequences
in eternity for our actions here on earth. Saint Paul
takes up this challenge by reminding us: “Avoid
immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside
the body, but the immoral person sins against his own
body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the
holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that
you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a
price. Therefore glorify the Lord in your body”
(1 Cor 6:18-20). When we are discouraged, or tempted to
think we are powerless, our friend Saint Paul comes to
our aid again when he quotes our Lord’s own words
to him. When he became discouraged and doubtful of his
own strength, Jesus said to him, as he says to us: “My
grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect
in weakness” (2 Cor 12:8).
If any of us were to go to a doctor, who diagnosed an
illness but did not offer a remedy, we would become very
disheartened, wouldn’t we? After having analyzed
this scourge of pornography, unfortunately too briefly
in the space and time we have here, I also want to put
forth some brief remedies and words of encouragement.
Steve Wood, head of a group called St Joseph’s Covenant
Keepers, has put forth a set of very practical steps leading
to freedom from pornography for those who may have become
addicted to it. I will share just a few of those steps
here with you:
• Destroy all your pornography … and do it
• Take radical steps to re-orient your life. As
the Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “Sexuality
affects all aspects of the human person” (2332).
• Find an accountability friend. Find at least one
person you can call on 24 hours a day to help you in time
of grave temptation.
• Pray and make use of the means of grace. The foremost
means of grace are the Sacraments, especially Penance
and Holy Communion. Ask for the intercession of our Blessed
Mother, the “Virgin most chaste,” especially
by praying her Rosary.
• Don’t give up after a setback. (12 Steps
to Freedom From Pornography, Steve Wood, Family Life Center,
Port Charlotte, Fla.)
It is important to remember that if we fail, as long as
we have been sincerely trying, we are not hypocrites!
We are merely sons and daughters of Adam and Eve in need
of the mercy of Jesus. In times of temptation, the devil
will try to convince you that something is not a sin.
If you give in to him, he will then tempt you to think
that your sin is unforgivable! As usual, he is wrong on
A ‘perfect storm’
The facts we have presented, along with alarming statistics
concerning teenage sexual activity, paint a frightening
picture not only for adults, but especially for our youth.
A new means of technology, especially attractive to youth,
is quickly becoming available. The Religious Alliance
Against Pornography has pointed out that all the elements
are in place to create what might be called a “perfect
storm.” This storm is made possible by current advanced
technology that makes digital video content available
using wireless handheld devices (a cell phone, for instance).
Reports suggest that the U.S. market will be flooded with
high-tech video mobile phones, already available in Korea
and Europe that have a capacity to transmit images that
will deliver the warped vision of human sexuality to a
younger and younger market. When parents choose to include
access to the Internet when purchasing video mobile phones,
PDAs and iPods for their children, they open the floodgates
to the possibilities, with all their tragic results, that
we have been speaking about here.
A special word to parents
There are several factors that need to be known by every
responsible Christian parent:
1. The Internet is very helpful, but also very dangerous
because there are hundreds of millions of pornographic
sites and secondly because sexual predators use the Internet
to seduce young people and to advance their agenda.
2. Presently, there are no adequate safety devices for
either home computers or for these new mobile phones,
PDAs etc. that can access the Internet.
3. If you purchase access to the Internet on these modern
technology devices, your child/young person will be able
to access all the pornography on the Internet and do so
4. Even if your child may choose not to look at pornography,
the pornographers have learned how to attach their material
to good sites so that your child may seek good sites but
may be automatically transferred to the contents of an
‘adult bookstore.’’Research shows that
unwanted pornography often leads to wanted pornography.
5. Although the main five wireless companies do not presently
plan to have any pornography on their platform, they are
exploring possible partnerships with other providers who
may include considerable pornography on their sites.
6. Minors who use mobile phones and PDAs that have still
camera and video capture capabilities are able to produce
and send sexually explicit images to others and to the
Internet. They can as a result be arrested, tried and
convicted as felons, and these penalties can be extended
to the parent or guardian who knowingly or unknowingly
signed the wireless contract for their child.
We have not been given the spirit of fear
Much of what we have reflected upon contains alarming
and sobering information. However, we do not pursue virtue
in a spirit of fear and powerlessness but out of love
for the God who created us in His Image. We are creatures
of a loving Father, redeemed by a merciful Savior and
sanctified by an all-powerful Holy Spirit. This is why
Saint Paul could write to Timothy: “For God did
not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power
and love and self-control” (2 Tim 1:7).
God has willed that we work out our salvation and proclaim
our testimony of faith in the times in which He has placed
us. Every age has had its particular challenges and the
scourge of easily available pornography is one of ours.
In fighting it, we are never powerless!
January 25, 2007