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Legatus Magazine

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Judy Roberts | author
Mar 01, 2010
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Porn: The marriage killer

Porn addiction is like alcoholism; addicts never recover, but are continually recovering . . .

Christopher West

Christopher West

Wherever he talks about the beauty of God’s plan for marriage, Christopher West hears from husbands and wives whose lives have been marred by pornography.

During his popular presentations on Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body, West typically receives pleas for help from those caught in the snares of a pastime that promised pleasure, but brought only pain.

“It’s usually during breaks, over meals or drives to the airport. Someone will ask,‘Christopher, can you pray with me?’ I get notes handed to me or e-mails. Often wives will come to me sharing the addictions of their husbands.”

A major threat

West’s experience is reflected in statistics that show a significant number of people are involved with pornography, now estimated to rake in $10 billion per year. According to a 2007 pastoral letter on pornography issued by Bishop Robert Finn of the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, Mo., 40 million U.S. adults regularly use Internet porn. A full 20% of men and 13% of women admit to accessing porn at work, and 47% of Christians surveyed said porn is a major problem at home.

Although pornography well predates the Internet, the World Wide Web has greatly enhanced its availability, enabling users to access it privately in their homes or offices without the risk of being seen at an adult video store.

But such secrecy cannot shield users or their families from pornography’s effects. In a recently released Family Research Council study, Dr. Patrick Fagan said porn wreaks havoc on individuals and families by altering attitudes and behavior.

“Among adolescents,” the report said, “pornography hinders the development of a healthy sexuality, and among adults, it distorts sexual attitudes and social realities. In families, pornography use leads to marital dissatisfaction, infidelity, separation and divorce.” The report called porn “a major threat to marriage, to family, to children and to individual happiness.”

The Catechism of the Catholic Church also addresses pornography, saying it is a “grave offense” against chastity “because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other” (#2354).

Dr. Patrick Fagan

Dr. Patrick Fagan

Although pornography is sometimes touted as a means of enhancing sex, Fagan, director of MARRI (Marriage & Religion Research Institute) and senior fellow at the Family Research Council, said it takes the sexual vitality out of marriage. “It corrodes a man’s capacity for the sexual,” he told Legatus Magazine.

West said he believes this occurs because, despite pornography’s lure of greater sexual pleasure, it can never satisfy the deepest longings of the human heart for what St. Paul called the “great mystery” of the “one flesh.”

“God gave us that desire,” West said. “When we go to pornography to satisfy that desire, it’s like eating junk food. It’s not going to satisfy the legitimate hunger and need of the heart.”

Fighting the addiction

Not only does pornography fail miserably to fulfill the consumer’s deepest needs, it even harms those who don’t use it. Fagan said research shows porn is now the leading cause of marriage breakdown. His study found that when porn usage reaches the level of addiction, 40% of addicts lose their spouses. It has financial implications as well. Some 58% of addicts suffer considerable financial losses and about a third lose their jobs.

In response to this plague of porn, several dioceses have established programs to build awareness of porn’s devastating effects, provide support and healing to those affected by it, and educate Catholic families on what they can do to guard against its influence.

The Kansas City-St. Joseph Diocese’s program encompasses Internet-awareness initiatives at several parishes, spiritual-care support groups and a secure phone line for those seeking help.

In addition, a number of bishops have written pastoral letters on porn. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops addressed the issue in its 1998 statement, “Renewing the Mind of the Media.”

When it comes to getting help, a porn addiction can be compared to alcoholism in that the addict never recovers, but is continually recovering, said Fr. John Mulvey, a family therapist in the Diocese of Venice, Fla.

Father Mulvey, who counsels adults and teens with pornography problems, said his treatment plan begins with three months of face-to-face counseling in person or via webcam, followed by weekly group meetings via teleconference or in the client’s community.

“I’ve found that the way back is through a reconnection with Christ and the Holy Spirit,” Fr. Mulvey said. He also recommends a daily routine that includes scripture reading, meditation and a personal review of why they’re in recovery.

Father Mulvey trains addicts to counteract fantasies by quickly relocating their minds to something else. “One of the things I have them do when they feel a trigger is just to say quietly, ‘My name is, my wife’s name is, we live in, I work at such-and-such a company.’ I call it taking a cold shower.”

Although helping porn addicts and working to stop its availability is important, Bishop Finn said he devoted a major portion of his pastoral letter to prevention through strengthening chastity and the other virtues.

“We must work to build ourselves up interiorly as a fortification against these spiritual attacks,” he said. “We shouldn’t underestimate the supernatural dimension of these influences in our culture. Satan isn’t giving up, so we must exercise our spiritual muscles and get stronger.”

Bishop Robert Finn

Bishop Robert Finn

Clearly, Bishop Finn said, the Catholic tradition offers much to ground people in the development of virtue, including the grace of Reconciliation and Holy Communion.

Men and women who travel for business, the bishop said, and find hotel porn to be a challenge should spend as little time alone in their rooms as possible, talk to their families often and decide not to turn on the TV.

Bishop Finn said Catholic business people can also help by finding out which hotel chains have paid large financial premiums to exclude adult channels from TV room packages and then supporting these facilities for conventions or business travel.

Judy Roberts is a Legatus Magazine staff writer.

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Resources

My House Programs
http://myhouse.archkck.org
www.diocese-kcsj.org/myhousekcsj/

Men of Valor/Women of Virtue Conference
www.nationalcoalition.org/kcmenofvalor.asp

Fr. John Mulvey
www.freedomsa.us

Family Research Council study
www.frc.org/pornography-effects

Other sites
www.familylifecenter.net/strugglewithporn.asp
http://pornharms.com

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