Tag Archives: pornography

Safeguarding windows to the soul

As an Internet safety consultant, Legate Ryan Foley is keenly aware of the threat online pornography poses to families.

With desktop and laptop computers, cell phones and tablets now as common as coffeemakers in many homes, anyone who can tap a keypad or keyboard and view a screen can easily access pornographic images. Their availability is such that studies show 90% of children ages 8 to 16 have viewed pornography online – most while doing homework – and the average age of first exposure to Internet pornography is 11.

Allied with the Archbishop

For the last six years, Foley, vice president for business development at Covenant Eyes and member of Legatus’ North Georgia Chapter, has been working to inform fellow Catholics about this threat by giving presentations and developing faith-based resources to fight online pornography use and addiction. Now he has enlisted a major ally in Archbishop Gregory Aymond, who has made the issue a priority in the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

When Archbishop Aymond became aware of the severity of the online pornography threat and its potential impact on marriages and young people, he said he took the matter to prayer. “I felt a call from the Lord to respond to the problem in a pastoral way so I brought a team together to look at it.”

In the process, he learned about Covenant Eyes, which provides both accountability and filtering services for Internet usage. “They have a real grasp of the issue and the dimension where it is affecting people emotionally, spiritually and even physically,” Archbishop Aymond said.

New Year’s initiative

To call attention to the dangers Internet pornography poses to individuals, marriages, families and society, the New Orleans archdiocese has declared Feb. 11 Safe Haven Sunday. Plans for that day include offering parishioners a book, Equipped: Smart Catholic Parenting in a Sexualized Culture, and telling them how to sign up for a free seven-day digital crash course on protecting their families from Internet porn. Foley said the course is available to anyone and he recommended it as a new-year’s initiative for parents seeking to make their homes safe from the intrusion of pornography. It can be accessed by texting the word “secure” to 66866,” Foley said. “It isn’t that they don’t want to protect their kids, but there are so many entry points, whether it’s Instagram or Tumblr, and it’s kind of an overwhelming technical challenge for parents.”

Foley said parents wouldn’t think of giving a child a car and set of keys without instructions, yet technology has developed so quickly that young people have acquired devices before receiving any real education and training and before everyone appreciated the potential dangers. “We are now entering a moment when we see that wasn’t healthy and we’re now playing catch-up… There have to be restrictions and guidelines along with the technology.”

Although families who enroll in the free digital course will be told about the option of purchasing a Covenant Eyes protection plan, Foley said the bottom line is that the company just wants people to do something to protect their families, whether it’s setting up restrictions on their devices or having meaningful conversations with their children about Internet usage.

Keeping porn’s ‘cancer’ away

The number of people using accountability and filtering software like that provided by Covenant Eyes, he said, is insignificant compared to the number who have a device. For example, he said, 88% of children between the ages of 13 and 17 have a phone as do 48% of preteens between 9 and 12. “That’s pretty amazing,” he said. “If a kid has a smartphone and is in his room and bored, those are deadly ingredients for viewing porn.”

Because of the scope of the problem, Foley would like to see the New Orleans plan for Safe Haven Sunday picked up by every diocese in the country and become as big as Respect Life Sunday. He said several bishops already have expressed an interest in using it as a model. But Archbishop Aymond said designating a day to educate people is only the beginning of a fiveyear plan his archdiocese is undertaking. “We’re in for the long haul and we really want to make a change in the culture,” he said.

Before New Orleans seized the issue, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops had identified pornography as a social and moral problem requiring the Church’s attention. In their 2015 statement, “Create in Me a Clean Heart: A Pastoral Response to Pornography,” the bishops say, “The use of pornography by anyone in the home deprives the home of its role as a safe haven and has negative effects throughout a family’s life and across generations.” The bishops’ statement observes that although pornography has always been a problem, its impact has grown in recent years, largely because of the Internet and mobile technology. “Some have even described it as a public health crisis. Everyone, in some way, is affected by increased pornography use in society. We all suffer negative consequences from its distorted view of the human person and sexuality.”

Delicate affair of the heart

Pope Francis also called attention to the problem in a talk he gave Oct. 6 to a conference on “Child Dignity in the Digital World.” He said the harm done to minors by online abuse and exploitation should not be underestimated, adding that adults are hurt as well by such aspects of digital technology as addictions and distorted views of love. But he said it will take more than solutions such as filters and algorithms to address the problem and called for all involved to address the ethical issues inherent in it.

Legate Conor Gallagher of the Charlotte Chapter, a father of 12 who became attuned to the dangers of Internet pornography while writing the book, If Aristotle’s Kid Had an iPod (St. Benedict Press), agreed that technical solutions are not enough. Although he has Covenant Eyes software installed on all the devices used by his children and receives regular reports on what they are viewing, he said it is important that they do not see this as punishment and that they can talk openly with their parents about the content. “If they think you’re doing this because you don’t trust them, then it can be a wedge between you.” Gallagher, who is publisher of St. Benedict Press and TAN Books, said he and his wife tell their children that they have Covenant Eyes because they want to help protect them from outside intruders.

The Gallaghers go over the reports with their children at random intervals. “We’ll see things on there that we want to know about. Like my kid doesn’t have an Instagram account, so why is he on Instagram? Or why did he end up looking at a YouTube video that is questionable? But we’re not pointing the finger and accusing. We know links can take you places and that things pop up. You can be watching a hunting video and then something else comes up. . . . If you have a relationship and can talk about things, then Covenant Eyes is like your best friend, but if you treat it like you’re a prosecutor in court, it can burn the relationship.”

Gallagher said he has little difficulty convincing other parents of the need to do something about the dangers of online pornography. “Every single person I’ve talked to knows it’s a potential problem… They all want to protect their kids and they know it’s dangerous out there.”

JUDY ROBERTS is a Legatus magazine staff writer.

Every Parent’s Battle: A Family Guide to Resisting Pornography

Dan Spencer III
Our Sunday Visitor, 175 pages

It’s a topic no one wants to discuss. Yet, we must. Pornography is a $13 billion industry that claims new addicts and destroys marriages daily. To avoid addressing it, especially with our children, is to do so at their peril.

Spencer’s book is a great resource in helping parents deal with the scourge. It describes how pornography leads to addiction, and is filled with spiritual and practical ways to porn-proof the home. It stresses the importance of open communication and establishing clear boundaries. Each chapter includes reflection questions and action steps, making it a practical tool. There’s an extensive list of helpful resources, including prayers, a purity pledge, accountability checklist and more.

Order: Our Sunday Visitor,  Amazon

Integrity Restored

PETER C. KLEPONIS writes that the plague of porn addiction can be overcome . . .

kleponisIntegrity Restored
Peter C. Kleponis
Emmaus Road, 2014
368 pages, $17.95 paperback

Sadly, pornography is no longer just a men’s issue. Peter Kleponis presents an alarming in-depth look at the porn epidemic that is ruining lives, marriages, families and careers. With gross annual income well over $14 billion in the U.S. alone, the insidious porn industry is darkening intellects and deadening hearts by corrupting how we perceive and relate to the opposite sex.

Subtitled Helping Catholic Families Win the Battle Against Pornography, Kleponis presents stories of real people — men, women, clergy, seminarians, and teens — who’ve suffered from porn addictions and went on to find healing. Freedom is possible. Integrity can be restored.

Order: Amazon

Guarding eyes, minds and hearts

Atlanta Legate’s anti-porn remedy helps men, women, families, seminarians . . .

Never before has the “private” act of viewing pornography had such public consequences. With the advent of the Internet, porn is pandemic. With gross annual income well over $14 billion in the US alone, the insidious industry is destroying marriages and families, darkening intellects, and deadening hearts by corrupting how we perceive and relate to the opposite sex.

Moral passion

Ryan Foley

Ryan Foley

Rather than simply lamenting the darkness, Ryan Foley is lighting a bright light. A member of Legatus’ Atlanta Chapter, Foley is vice president of business development for Covenant Eyes, a company  offering Internet filtering and accountability software. Complementing the software are educational tools, freely available on their website, that teach good Internet use and expose the dangers of porn.

“I’m applying my apostolic passion, my love for souls, to this initiative,” says Foley, 40. It’s a fatherly passion, too. He and his wife Melissa have children — Kyle, 15; Molly, 6 and  Clare, 5— who are growing up in a porn-soaked culture. Indeed, the largest consumer of Internet porn is the 12- to 17-year-old demographic. With so many young men’s perception of women being twisted by porn, Foley is concerned about his own daughters’ future marriage prospects.

Foley is one of six children brought up in a devout Catholic family. His father was an FBI agent, “so from a young age we were always discussing issues of justice, morality, virtues,” he explained. Service in the Air Force gave Foley a background in electronics and integrated systems that he later applied in the private sector in the field of high-tech security systems.

As a member of Regnum Christi, however, he later felt called to apostolic work and became executive director of Mission Network, an umbrella organization for all of the movement’s North American virtue-based programs. Later he started his own company, Faith Interactive, to teach parishes and faith-based organizations to “build software-based tools that would allow members to share ideas, conversations and opportunities.” He also helped start ePriest.com, an online resource for clergy of which he remains executive director.

He joined Covenant Eyes last year, applying his passion for security in support of families, working to protect them from Internet pornography.

Covenant Eyes

Covenant Eyes has two components. The filtering software lets adults set time limits and block websites based on a young person’s level of maturity. Used in tandem or separately is the company’s accountability software. It monitors how the Internet is used, rating sites according to maturity level and sending a report to an “accountability partner” whom the user selects, such as a spouse, friend or mentor. Today more than 110,000 people use it.

If no filtering/blocking settings are employed, says Foley, “Covenant Eyes users can roam wherever they want in the World Wide Web.” But because they know they will be held accountable to someone they esteem, “they might rethink which ‘countries’ they want to visit and ask why they would want to do go there in the first place.”

Any “bad trips” can occasion a conversation with one’s accountability partner. Foley is his son’s.

“Kyle is applying his own filter and learning to make good judgments,” he explained. “It’s a method of maintaining your online integrity that seems more in line with the Catholic notion of responsibility. I can’t always be blocking you. At a certain point you have to develop good habits and virtues that carry on through life.”

These habits and virtues are essential for boys and men specifically because they are online pornography’s main audience. “It’s a tool for the devil to steal our integrity,” Foley said. “Even seminarians aren’t immune nowadays. They’re good men, but affected by a bad culture.”

Priestly freedom

The largest Catholic seminary in the United States has been using Covenant Eyes for seven years. Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Emmitsburg, Md., houses 178 men in formation.

“The problem of Internet pornography gets worse each year as potential baggage that we might encounter in any kind of new seminarian,” said seminary rector Monsignor Steven A. Rohlfs.

If a young man comes in with a mild attachment to porn, Monsignor Rohlfs says they can work with him. “Usually they’re very eager to be free of it. It’s refreshing for them to hear they’re not going to be kicked out, but that I will help and I don’t have a shorter fuse than God does.”

Usually within a year of starting to work with a young man on this problem, “he has his freedom. That’s the operative thing, because when you’re addicted you don’t have your freedom,” he said.

Monsignor Rohlfs likes Covenant Eyes because it “treats the men as adults,” allowing them to go wherever they want on the Internet but with the knowledge that they will be held accountable. Each seminarian has two accountability partners. The first is his spiritual director, a priest, with whom he can discuss anything in confidence.

A report also goes to his formation advisor “who acts in the external forum,” meaning that troubling patterns in the Covenant Eyes reports — any problems a seminarian discusses with him in general — will be reported to the rector and figure into the seminarian’s evaluation, which is sent to the faculty and his bishop.

The upshot is that if these young men are ordained they will be better equipped to help boys and men struggling with porn as well as other dependencies. “If they have experienced the benefits of this sort of safety net themselves, one that encourages virtue and good habits, then they can recommend with confidence this remedy to other people,” said Monsignor Rohlfs. “It will make them better confessors.”

Covenant Eyes includes everyone at Mount St. Mary’s — students as well as faculty and administration — monitoring all Internet-accessible devices. Everyone has an accountability partner, making it what Foley calls a “Covenant Eyes campus,” something he is working to promote among Catholic schools from the elementary to college-level. “The men have to know we’re not asking them to be accountable in a way we aren’t,” Monsignor Rohlfs said.

A 50-year fix?

“I talk about the five A’s of Internet porn,” said Dr. Peter C. Kleponis, a counseling psychologist specializing in pornography addiction. “It’s affordable, accessible, anonymous, acceptable (especially among young people, who joke about it), and aggressive, a highly addictive substance that ’effects changes in the brain.”

The situation is dark, with over half of marriages ending in divorce because one party has an obsessive interest in Internet porn. But Kleponis is realistically hopeful.

“It will take 50 years to quell this epidemic,” he explained. “I compare it to tobacco. Decades ago doctors knew smoking was bad, but everybody was doing it. It was acceptable. It took 50 years of intense education and millions dying before we finally got the message. We haven’t gotten rid of cigarettes, but generally our culture has accepted the fact that smoking bad. We’ve been educated. Porn is the same. We need to educate people.”

MATTHEW A. RAREY is Legatus magazine’s editorial assistant.

For more information, visit CovenantEyes.com

Taking a stand

Pornography is a terrible blight on our nation and a horror for men and women alike . . .

Thomas Monaghan

Most mornings, as a part of my normal routine, I stop by a small “party store” after Mass to buy a newspaper. The other day when I went to get my paper, I noticed that they had added a porn magazine to their other offerings. I mentioned to the person working there that I was disappointed to see them add this. As a result, I have not been back since; there are certainly other places I can get a newspaper.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that pornography “offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. 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.

“It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials” (CCC #2354).

As you know, pornography is a horrible poison that does a lot of damage to our society — harming marriages and families with its effects. In fact, statistics are showing that more and more people are becoming addicted to it as the industry grows — particularly through the Internet. Today, it’s estimated that the U.S. pornography industry brings in as much as $13 billion per year, destroying millions of lives in the process.

Now I know that if that one store along my route stops selling porn magazines, it would not make a big difference to the whole pornography problem.

However, if enough other people were to voice their objection, it would certainly help. This is just one more way for us Legates to have an impact for good by taking a stand in our everyday lives.

Maybe in a week or so I will stop back at that party store and see if that magazine is still there. If it’s gone, I will tell them I am glad — and they will have won back a customer. If it is still there, I will again tell them how disappointed I am, and it may be the last time I stop by.

Thomas Monaghan is Legatus’ founder and chairman. He is a member of Legatus’ Naples Chapter.

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.



My House Programs

Men of Valor/Women of Virtue Conference

Fr. John Mulvey

Family Research Council study

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