Wednesday, December 27, 2006

re: "Bought With a Price: Pornography & the Attack on the Living Temple of God"

These excerpts are from Bishop Paul Loverde's "Bought With a Price":

"What was once the shameful and occasional vice of the few has become the mainstream entertainment for the many - through the Internet, cable, satellite and broadcast television, cell phones and even portable gaming and entertainment devices designed for children and teenagers. Never before have so many Americans been so tempted to view pornography. Never before have the accountability structures - to say nothing of the defenses which every society must build to defend the precious gift of her children - been so weak....

"Pornography depicts the body solely in an exploitative way, and pornographic images are created and viewed only for the purpose of arousing sexual impurity. Hence the production, viewing and spread of pornography is an offense against the dignity of persons, is objectively evil, and must be condemned....

"The immorality of pornography comes, first of all, from the fact that it distorts the truth about human sexuality. It perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other (CCC 2354). Rather than being the expression of a married couple's intimate union of life and love, sex is reduced to a demeaning source of entertainment and even profit for others. Pornography violates chastity also because it introduces impure thoughts into the viewer's mind and often leads to unchaste acts, such as masturbation or adultery.

"Pornography offends also against justice. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others (CCC 2354)....

"pornography represents a serious abuse of the means of communication, and, in that regard, is a violation of the eighth commandment....

"the use of pornography - i.e. its manufacture, distribution, sale or viewing - is gravely sinful. Those who engage in such activity with full knowledge and complete consent commit a mortal sin. Such actions deprive them of sanctifying grace, destroy the life of Christ in their souls, and prevent them from receiving Holy Communion until they have received absolution through the Sacrament of Penance.

"The gravity of this sin becomes clearer when one considers the tremendous damage the use of pornography causes to society. It damages first of all the family, the basic cell of society and the Church, because it tears at the marital bond. Since it immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world (CCC 2354), a man's use of pornography turns his attention and affection away from his wife. It creates in his mind unrealistic and often immoral expectations for their intimate life....

"Pornography's availability and intrusion injure the common good by producing a consumerist and licentious view of sexuality, particularly of women. Inculcating and guarding the precious virtue of chastity becomes increasingly difficult....Society's interest in preparing young men and women for marriage also suffers when the media presents as a mercantile plaything the holy act of intimacy that is proper to the sacred bond of marriage.

"Perhaps worst of all, however, is the damage that pornography does to man's 'template' for the supernatural. Our natural vision in this world is the model for supernatural vision in the next. Once we have distorted or damaged that template, how will we understand the reality? Our Lord has given us the gift of sight with the intention that we ultimately may see Him. The sinful use of this faculty both warps our understanding of it and - worse still - cripples our ability to realize its fulfillment in heaven. What man should use for receiving the true vision of God and the beauty of His creation, he uses instead to consume false images of others in pornography. How can we understand the supernatural sight God desires for us - i.e. the contemplation of God in the beatific vision - once our natural sight has been damaged and distorted?....

"like the people Israel who were called out of Egypt , members of the Church, too, find themselves inextricably tied to the same culture of death from which God has freed them....

"we find ourselves assuming secular attitudes and becoming confused about the true nature of sin. This confusion becomes deadly when we use it to justify our own sinfulness, or seek to 'define away' the evil nature of sins that tempt us. This is nowhere more evident than in the confusion that some Christians experience about the true nature of pornography....

"The justification of pornography often begins by viewing the activity as a private exchange between the viewers and those who produce and distribute the material....The illusion inherent in this rationalization is that all the participating parties complete the exchange as the same persons, with no harm done, as when they entered. Like all rationalizations, this is an illusion.

"The first illusion is that the viewing of men and women in intimate relations does no harm to them as persons. Often this is not true on even a physical plane....

"By taking an essential aspect of the person - human sexuality - and making it a commodity to be bartered and sold, to be used and discarded by unknown others, the pornography industry commits a most violent attack on the dignity of these victims....

"Every year, thousands of men and women are lured into the pornography industry by the promise of easy money. The industry preys on the most vulnerable: the poor, the abused and marginalized, and even children. This exploitation of the weak is gravely sinful....


"More and more of these victims are younger, even children. When these, the most vulnerable and innocent of our society, become victims of the dehumanizing demands of an industry willing to destroy innocence for profit, it is an unspeakable act of violence....

"The entire pornography industry exists to realize profit, and there can be no profit without customers. Those who seek out and use pornographic images are active participants in the victimization of others....And the viewers themselves are degraded.

"It is a mistaken notion that the singular effect of sinful moral choices is the harm these choices cause to others. Certainly, the immediate effect of choosing to participate in pornographic viewing is the spiritual and emotional violence committed against those whose images are viewed. Yet, the personal and existential effect on the one choosing to view pornographic images lies at the heart of these sinful actions.

"The human person, the only creature with a moral sense, progressively builds or destroys his or her character by each and every moral choice. Thus one becomes virtuous by the very act of practicing virtue, and one becomes depraved by practicing acts of vice....

"The false promise of intimacy offered by pornography leads instead to an ever-deeper alienation that cripples the user's ability to experience truly intimate human contact....

"If the person is not master of self-through the virtues and, in a concrete way, through chastity-he or she lacks that self-possession which makes self-giving possible....

"Once given over to this vice, the family member makes great efforts to keep this betrayal secret. Ultimately, however, it is vain to expect that a secret that distorts the core of human sexuality can fully remain a secret from those to whom we have pledged our love and our lives....

"The first to feel the violence of pornographic use is the spouse....The use of pornography is a violation of the commitment of marriage. Even if tolerated by the spouse, how can one possibly not feel rejection and betrayal when one's committed partner turns to illusion and fleeting happiness in pornographic images? This rejection, if left unhealed, will often lead to the permanent destruction of the marital commitment.

"As is the nature of all sin, the ones who suffer the most are the innocent. Children who naturally strive to imitate and integrate the self-giving love of their parents instead find themselves faced with tension, betrayal and selfishness. It is understandable then that they may come to believe that true love, a sacrificial and self-giving love, is an illusion.

"Just as it is a vain hope for a spouse using pornography to keep this sin a secret, it is also a vain hope to think that the material itself can be kept a secret....

"All married couples will face times when marital intimacy is not possible. For some, these times may be prolonged. To pose such deprivation as an excuse for the use of the pornographic is to cheapen the promise of faithfulness upon which any marriage is founded. To embrace pornography as a substitute for marital intimacy is a tacit admission that the spouse is a means to meet biological 'needs' rather than a partner in the communion of human love....

"There cannot be a 'temperate' use of pornography, just as there cannot be a 'temperate' use of hatred or racism. To pose such a possibility is to accept giving in to evil one step at a time. Any seeming relief will be fleeting and the long-range consequences will make future resistance even more difficult, possibly escalating into an addiction....

"Without the self-mastery that comes from controlling and, when necessary, struggling with one's destructive behaviors, including pornography, maturing young persons find themselves in the fearful condition of being unable to control either the world or themselves....

"Those who defend the 'free speech' rights of pornographers often present the Church's defense of purity as puritanical rather than pastoral. Defenders of this criminal enterprise pose as defenders of a true humanism, portraying Christian teaching on chastity as 'anti-human.' The Church is presented as hating the human body and so reacting against human nature.

"This lie has been restated so many times through the long history of the Church that many accept it as central to Christian thought. In fact the exact opposite is true. The Church has always condemned a dualistic understanding of spirit as good and the body as evil. God created all things, both spirit and matter, and saw that all these things were good (cf. Gen 1). It is the resurrection of the body which is our hope, and our recognition of the body as an integral part of the human person is the foundation of Christian chastity.

"The Church does not pose an opposition of body and soul but rather the necessary completeness of both body and soul for a true and life-affirming wholeness. Far from denigrating the human body and treating sexuality as an evil thing, the Church affirms the sacredness of the body. Because of this sacredness, the marital act is recognized as having a sacramental and sacred character which the Church seeks to protect....

"Where the pornographic mentality has invaded even mainstream media - and certainly, what is now offered on cable and even broadcast television increasingly approaches pornographic content, citizens must demand that public officials whose service is to regulate such media take immediate and effective action. Contrary to the self-serving defense of some media outlets, such actions are not censorship, but rather the demand for an end to the exploitation of persons and the degradation of public morality....

"Christians of every generation are called to live in conformity with the truth of Jesus Christ and to stand apart from those aspects of culture which are contrary to this truth. A most effective way in which believers can combat the plague of pornography is by the witness of their lives....

"Within one's capabilities, each person should make every effort to contribute healthy and chaste entertainments that can be shared by all. In the fields of art, literature and music, we must never compromise our own Christian dignity to suit the expectations of a decadent culture....

"Sadly, a great amount of the information available on the Internet is pornographic in nature. Some will find this instant access to impure images a temptation difficult to overcome. Do not justify the presence of a snake in the home for the benefits it may bring. We must remember our moral obligation not to place ourselves knowingly or deliberately in the occasion of sin. The inconvenience of losing instant access to information will be far outweighed by the ability to live an integrated and pure life.

"Spiritual growth is impossible without an honest admission of guilt and reconciliation. All Christians should avail themselves of the grace of the Sacrament of Penance and make this sacrament of mercy the cornerstone of the struggle against pornography.

"Finally, never underestimate the efficacy of Christian prayer. Pray for the victims of pornography, that their precious human dignity may be healed and restored. Offer concrete acts of penance through spiritual works and fasting for those who manipulate others in this crime of pornography, and who share in the complicity of its distribution. Through these acts of reparation, offer to God an acceptable sacrifice pleasing in His sight.

"Entrust the Church always to the protection of Saint Joseph....

"I turn with particular concern to my young brothers and sisters in Christ. I fear that the full burden of our culture's surrender to pornography will fall on your shoulders, both now and in years to come. Not only have you been targeted by this criminal enterprise as a source of financial gain, but you also have to endure the impoverished notion of intimacy that results from a culture that has confused love with self-gratification. Know first that God has destined you for a true and fully human love that finds its center not in manipulating others but in sharing and flourishing in a communion with your beloved....

"The true guardian and caretaker of the unique dignity of human persons is the family, and most particularly husbands and wives, who are custodians of the sacredness of life....

"While husbands and wives share equal dignity as persons, they do not share temptations equally - especially the temptations associated with the scourge of pornography. It must be admitted that the use of pornography is largely, although certainly not exclusively, associated with males. If a marriage begins to be damaged by pornography, it will most likely be introduced by the husband.

"Husbands, be aware that your solemn promise of faithfulness, which is the foundation of the formation of your family, is damaged by any use of pornography. Strive to bring honor to the promise you made at the beginning of your married life. The times where intimacy is difficult are opportunities to practice the sacrificial love of a spouse that only your noble vocation illustrates most perfectly....

"Wives who find that their husbands have entered into a sinful attraction to pornographic images or stories must be loving and forgiving, but also stern in calling the spouse to return to his true manly vocation of marriage....

"Husbands and wives must practice constant vigilance to ensure that the plague of pornography does not enter into the lives of their children....

"Most importantly, husbands and wives provide the clearest and surest teaching of chastity through the love, devotion and self-sacrifice they display in their relationship one to the other. Recall always that the Lord has entrusted to you by your very life together the perfect means to bring children to a true and mature understanding of human intimacy....

"I now turn to my brothers in Christ, my brother priests....While being students of the culture so that we may become more capable of evangelizing, we must be always alert lest we find ourselves being overwhelmed by the very elements we wish to banish....

"You and I are celibate men for the Kingdom of God . This tremendous gift of celibacy is an invitation to the intimacy that Christ shares with His Church. We must always embrace this gift with joy and grow in the self-giving love that is our inheritance. Submission to the lures of pornography is a serious sin against the gift of celibate chastity....

"Our sight, more than just a physical ability, also serves as an important means for understanding faith, heaven and salvation. Indeed, its proper end and fulfillment is the vision of God Himself. Man's final purpose is caught up with his ability to see. With this profound truth in mind, we can better appreciate the grave threat pornography presents to the human soul, to the family and to society....


"We stand at a threshold - either we can continue to allow this plague to spread with fewer and fewer checks, or we can take concrete steps to uproot it in our lives, our families, our neighborhoods and our culture.

"We are a people called to share in the pure and noble vision of God and His creation. We are also a people whose future glory has been bought with the precious sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. We must never forget the high cost of this purchase.

"A free people can combat the tremendous moral, social and spiritual danger of pornography with great courage. My fervent prayer is that Catholics, other Christians, and all people of good will understand this threat, confront it, facilitate true healing, and ever more fully live out our God-given use of human sight."




 




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I am an enormously blessed husband and dad. In regard to my Catholic theological background, I have a certificate in social ministry & a master's degree (moral theology concentration), as well as a catechetical diploma from the Vatican's Sacred Congregation for the Clergy (Nope, I am not now - nor have I have ever been - a seminarian, deacon, or priest.). I feel particularly proud to have a mandatum. I also have a doctorate in Christian counseling psychology.

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