An Industry of Mutual Degradation

Upon checking into a hotel — a Marriott, say — I often wonder if the owners of the establishment patronize the same kind of "adult" movies in their family homes which they routinely offer to the anonymous traveler.

I still find it incongruous that there, in a fine and well-appointed room, usually elegant and refined accommodations, one could, with just a few clicks of the television wand, access a running sewer of pornography. Thus, the hotel proprietor provides what was once commonly referred to as "a near occasion of sin" to his guest.

Such is the world in which we live. Protected by our courts, financed by ever-willing capital, enabled by digital technology, and sanctioned by our cultural elites (except for a few feminists), pornography has become as American as apple pie.

Who among us dares to object? As it turns out, an unassuming man, Bishop Paul S. Loverde of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, has written a pastoral letter on the subject, Bought With a Price: Pornography and the Attack on the Living Temple of God. The title is from St. Paul: "You were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body." (I Cor. 6:19-20)

It is an impassioned, eloquent, and courageous statement in defense of our common humanity and the dangers posed by the "plague" of pornography which has engulfed our culture. Says the Bishop:

This plague stalks the souls of men, women, and children, ravages the bonds of marriage and victimizes the most innocent among us. It obscures and destroys people's ability to see one another as unique and beautiful expressions of God's creation, instead darkening their vision, causing them to view others as objects to be used and manipulated. It has been excused as an outlet for free expression, supported as a business venture, and condoned as just another form of entertainment. It is not widely recognized as a threat to life and happiness. It is not often treated as a destructive addiction. It changes the way men and women treat one another in sometimes dramatic often subtle ways. And it is not going away.

 The bishop is moved by the testimony of the priests of his diocese who confront the realities of pornography in the confessional and the testimony of counselors and teachers who treat this affliction in social service agencies, schools, and youth ministries. He is also addressing the concerns of parents and the many religious leaders with whom he works in the Religious Alliance Against Pornography, an interfaith coalition.

Bought With a Price, a very substantive document, examines the current threat of pornography, confronts the numerous rationalizations offered as "cover" for pornographers, and provides specific counsel or guidance "to all Christians, young people, couples, and priests" on how to free themselves from "slavery" to pornography and seek God's forgiveness. While grounded in Catholic theology, its arguments are universal and appeal to anyone who values a well-ordered soul and commonwealth.

The pastoral letter concludes with a wonderful meditation on the gift of sight, conceived of literally and metaphorically, and its final end in seeing the vision of God Himself.

From Bishop Loverde's perspective, a perspective once common throughout Western culture but now almost totally obscured, pornography distorts the truth about human sexuality by reducing sex to a demeaning source of entertainment and profit. It leads to a host of other sexual transgressions.

Moreover, pornography offends against justice by doing injury to all its participants including actors, vendors, and the public. "Everyone involved in the production, distribution, sale, and use of pornography cooperates and, to some degree, makes possible this debasement of others," argues the Bishop. "Indeed, pornography has become a system and an industry of mutual degradation." Despite an ample supply of willing participants, those who produce, sell, and use pornography cannot escape culpability.

Bishop Loverde does not hesitate to characterize pornography as "gravely sinful" and, if engaged in with full knowledge and consent, a "mortal sin." Many churchmen have forgotten how to spell, much less say, these words; but Loverde stands up to the plate and communicates clearly and forthrightly to his flock and to all men and women of good will. He describes with precision the reasons for his strong position.

First, pornography damages the family, "the basic cell of society and the Church," because it tears at the marital bond. It immerses users of pornography in a fantasy world and thus turns a man's attention and affection away from his wife through the creation of "unrealistic and often immoral expectations" for a couple's intimate life. Thus, he approaches his wife "only as a means to his own gratification…"

Pornography also produces a consumerist and licentious view of sexuality, especially of women. Again, as a theological matter, it destroys our perception of reality and "the true vision of God and the beauty of His creation…"

The Bishop of Arlington does not view this as a strictly private matter at all. Given pornography's deleterious impact on women, families, and the character of the nation's citizenry, he does not hesitate to instruct political leaders on their duty:

Public officials have a responsibility to uphold and ennoble the standards of the communities which they serve. Protecting a billion dollar criminal enterprise which destroys the lives of both those depicted in pornography and those intended as audience through the excuse of protecting free speech is not service, but complicity.

Indeed, Bishop Loverde maintains that "Free citizens have the right and the responsibility to form a culture that supports the life and the dignity and nobility of every person." They should demand laws which place "reasonable restrictions" on the depiction of the human body and human intimacy.

In counseling prayer and repentance, as well as prudent steps to avoid temptation, the Bishop believes that every Christian must "live in conformity with the truth of Jesus Christ and to stand apart from those aspects of culture which are contrary to this truth."

Culture is formed by the choices of free people. It is important that we choose morally uplifting and life-affirming pursuits that contribute to the common good and the flourishing of all persons. 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.

Displaying uncommon moral realism, Bishop Loverde observes that pornography "is largely, although certainly not exclusively, associated with males." With love and forgiveness, wives must, therefore, be "stern in calling the spouse to return to his true manly vocation of marriage." This same realism moves the Bishop to insist on strict and clear controls on children's use of the Internet. He also offers strong direction to his priests to seek constant spiritual guidance and support "lest we find ourselves being overwhelmed by the very elements we wish to banish."

Bishop Loverde's motto on his coat of arms is ENCOURAGE AND TEACH WITH PATIENCE (2 Tim. 4:2). Bought With a Price is evidence that this shepherd very much practices what he preaches.

Mr. Marriott, call your office.

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  • Guest

    Thanks for the information. I personally will never use the Marriott hotel chain again unless they change their policy.

    It's important to remember in the postwar (WWII) era, America's most notorious pornographer was Reuben Sturman, the 'Walt Disney of porn.' By the mid 80's he owned over 200 adult bookstores. The contemporary incarnation of Sturman is Steven Hirsch, a 43-year-old Clevelander who has been described as the 'Donald Trump of porno.' Hirsch runs the Vivid Entertainment Group. As Abraham H. Foxman, National Director of the ADL, commented, 'Those who enter the pornography industry have done so as individuals pursuing the American dream".

  • Guest

    Hey, sorry you had such a bad experience at the Marriott. We liked our one stay at a Courtyard by Marriott. Incidentally, we chose that place because we had a friend working there at the time. He doesn't watch pornography. In fact, he doesn't even have a TV.

    The staff there were excellent. We didn't notice whether they offered pornography because there were so many other great channels to choose from. My husband watched a faith-friendly history documentary about the time of Moses and the Red Sea. In the morning, I clicked on EWTN, the Catholic channel, and viewed beautiful paintings and pictures during the Rosary. We'd stay in a Marriott again, if need be.

    Isn't a lot of that stuff pay per view, rather than automatically being piped into every hotel room? If not, there's always the option of changing the channel, or turning the TV off and reading a good book. I always thought I was responsible for my own choices. I guess next time I make a moral decision I'll have to get on the Internet and find out what the Marriott hotel chain is doing, since I obviously can't think for myself!

    Wow, I just don't know what's going to happen to me since I hang out with all these sinners and tax collectors! What kind of person would do that?


  • Guest

    Amykay, you are missing the point here. The article is not intended to point the finger at any particular vendor of pornography, but rather to highlight its prevalence in and danger to society. I think the article was quite good, and I commend the quoted bishop for standing up against this tactic of the Evil One in his war against the family.

  • Guest

    Every Catholic should boycott Marriott hotels………..if you don't already.

  • Guest

    Its not just Marriott, I think that was just an example, and an intro the larger point of the article.  If you want to find a hotel that doesnt offer an "adult" selection try checking out this website:

    Anyway, the article was quite good and I am looking forward to reading the actual letter.  Its encouraging to see a Bishop be such a couragious and honest shepherd of his flock.

  • Guest

    Amykay missed the point is an understatement. The filth is everywhere. Can anyone say "censorship", that's what it's going to take. We have our choice: censorship within the confines of a Christian culture or censorship under the mullahs. It's coming our way.


  • Guest

    The article mentioned the "ample supply of willing participants".  There is often a serious misunderstanding in this area of pornography.  While some may be willing(mainly the males), most of women enter these films through the sexual abuse they directly received at a much younger age.  Often we forget about this root cause of lack of self-esteem, which leads to a loss of hope and self-dignity.  Thus, they become easy prey for those who seek women in the various sex trades.  Some are even forced into pornography from their parents!  Let us never forget the devastating damage done to these people, and pray for their deliverance from such a sordid lifestyle. 

    T. Snyder

  • Guest

    There is nothing wrong with pornography. Many people enjoy it, and have no negative psychological effects. There is no evidence to support that pornography makes men view women in any different way. Many lovers enjoy erotic television together, and it brings them closer. When viewed by people with immature minds it may cause objectivization of the sex act, but that should be up to the parents to be responsible in knowing when their child is ready to view such material. If a woman or a man does not their lover viewing pornography, then it is their obligation to discuss this with the person. It is frankly no business whatsoever of any clergy in any way. Catholicism is against pornography anyhow, so proper catholics should not be watching it. Again though, since not everyone is catholic it is not up to catholics to decide if porn can or cannot be shown in hotels. If a devout person is offended by porn on a channel, then he/she should not buy that channel for the evening.

  • Guest

    personally, i see nothing wrong with porn. truly, it's a person's will to do what he or she wants, and if that's to have sex for the masses, then so be it. how about instead of casting blame on the woman's "lack of self-esteem", we should point the finger at the true culprit at hand. it was your god who allowed us freewill, and in doing so, unleashed a world of "wickedness" to the generally good catholic populous. while there is no doubt that the case of being forced into pornography, for whatever reason, is true in some regards, let us not forget that no everyone shares the views of the shallow minded dogmas that you have chosen to follow. a person is free to do what he or she does. whether it leads them to or way from your god, just as god gave you the gift of controlling what you watch and what you whine about.   and please gentlemen, where would we be without our beloved porn? it is our nature to spread our seed, and i happen to find self satisfaction as a safer way to avoid unwanted and unneeded pregnancies. and yes, i  can say censorship, just as i can say you're a freaking moron for even mentioning this. the last thing we need is someone, especially a biased, bigoted group of people to tell me what to do.

  • Guest

    FrownWhat is wrong with you?!?

    Pornography is a problem, a BIG problem!

    If you think otherwise, then why are you even here?Frown

    sorry, but I just can't understand you people.Frown

  • Guest

    Bubba and mellow_anarchist, even I, the female who supposedly missed the point, wouldn't take it that far. Are you two perhaps being extreme for the sake of argument, as in Jonathan Swift's A Modest Proposal? Or are you the guys who call the front desk at the hotel to get the dirty movies put on your credit cards?

    It's sad that some people see external censorship as the only answer. Whose job is it to police my actions–mine, or Corporate America and Big Daddy Government?

    I do think people can get addicted to porn just like alcohol, drugs or gambling. Lazar is within his right to avoid hotel chains that offer porn as a selection. I draw the line at his insisting that all Catholics do the same. He and I obviously had very different experiences at the same hotel chain, which is what spiked my curiosity in the first place.

    Bubba and mellow_anarchist, maybe you guys should self-police a little when posting on Web sites. It's one thing to debate a point; it's quite another to resort to name-calling.

  • Guest

    abernathy51, you asked why I am here. I am here because in this article is a call to make erotic media illegal under the lie that it is harmful in any way. If one does not wish to view it, one does not have to. There are those who find pleasure/entertainment/whatever else in it, and they have the right to have their smut. It is simply not up to the government to decide. It is protected under free speech, because it is an expression of speech, as is all media.