In the world we live in today, we are bombarded by many strange notions of sexuality whether it’s pornography on the Internet or TV adds selling shampoo with sex. Lust is so common in our modern world that you are seen as strange or prude if you don’t embrace the laissez faire attitude about this free-love notion of sexuality.
It’s Only Natural
Jesus Christ teaches us in Matthew 5:27-28, “You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Still, many people, even many “good” Christians, reject this teaching. Some say it’s only natural for people to act on their sexual impulses whatever they are. Others say that the sensual temptations around us are too much to resist.
But human beings are not animals controlled by instinct or by passions. If a man is angered by the actions of another, he is not free to act on that “natural” anger and injure the other. Unless a person is mentally ill, his reason must control his understanding of his external surroundings and his internal passions. Christians must ignore all these bizarre secular notions of sexuality and follow the teachings of Christ. The Catholic Church and God clearly condemn pornography. As we saw above, Jesus Christ condemned looking at any woman with lust and called it adultery.
Any Catholic who says it's okay even if he is a priest, even if it’s within the bounds of marriage is very mistaken. Am I just speaking about hardcore pornography? No. As our Lord said: “every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” and that includes any pictorial representation, whether it is intended to be “pornography” or not.
Sadly, I hear comments like these all the time: ”I'm not into that hard stuff that you were into. I'm not obsessed with it. I just like to look at the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition“; or “It's only natural. Men are attracted to beautiful women. There is nothing wrong with looking at some harmless pictures of attractive women once and a while”; and “I just use it to enhance my marriage. I'm a very sexual person and I need it to help fulfill my needs.” In addition to these arguments, I have also often heard the argument that “If you are married then it’s ‘anything goes’ as long as both the husband and wife agree.”
If you agree with any of the above statements, I urge you to read on and then ask yourself if it’s all right to entertain your fantasies with pictures of scantily clad women as long as it’s not the “hard stuff”!
The Slow Poison of Selfishness
Before my own conversion to the Catholic faith, I too used the above arguments to “justify” my own indulgence in pornography. However, in my heart I knew it was destroying me, and it was certainly destroying my marriage. The attitudes that are so prevalent in our modern age are disordered. The majority of people form their opinions and attitudes based on popular media and that is the problem. The popular media is saturated with selling the human body as a product. We are told that sex is the primary goal of all humans. However, contrary to popular belief, it is one of the primary causes of the destruction of marriages and yes, even Catholic marriages.
It’s bad enough that adultery afflicts some Catholic marriages, and that artificial birth control is welcomed into far too many sacramental covenants, but I see that the deceptions of our sex-saturated society slowly poisons many marriages little by little with the ultimate goal of destroying families and more importantly, leaving men impotent to defend them.
In many ways, the sex-hungry pagan attitudes of our Western media resemble the debauchery of the waning days of the ancient Roman Empire. Though many people are either blind to or choose to remain silent about its real harm to our society, pornography is very destructive to our morals. It is a major contributor to the problems that we face in the world today. Pornography is just one of the aspects of the “culture of death” that seeks to destroy the family, devalue the dignity of human beings and disdain any references to God. Pornography is a symptom of a disordered view of the human person and the purpose of sexual behavior.
Pornography is based on selfishness no less than the “choice” to kill children in the womb and so-called “freedom” to entertain any sexual perversion at any cost. It reduces human beings to valueless commodities to be ogled and disposed of like used tissue. Sadly, many of the individuals whom pornographers target and then dispose of are vulnerable young men and women. Their vulnerability to exploitation by pornographers often is a result of their introduction to homosexual behavior. They have been told that this type of behavior is normal and desirable, but it warps their sense of themselves and makes them easy prey. The root cause is the intrinsic evil of obstinate selfishness flaunted by the media.
Virtually all advocates of a purely secular sexual code of behavior center on an “It's all about me” philosophy. Selfishness is at the core, rather than mutual love and care for one’s partner. Abortion is tragically too often the result of sex being separated from a committed marital relationship that is both open to life and centered on uplifting one another. The unborn child does not fit into the selfish program of using another person for self-gratification. This too is the supreme motivation behind pornography. It promotes intrinsic selfishness and says that sexual pleasure is more important than quality, life-giving relationships. The false message of pornography is that sexual pleasure equals happiness. But as I have experienced and I'm sure others have too, it actually causes much unhappiness and leaves a wake of destruction in our lives. It leaves a person feeling empty and used up and more and more selfish. Ultimately it may succeed in destroying a person’s soul and leaving him mentally afflicted, even spiritually dead.
The sexual union within marriage, between one man and one woman, is meant by the Creator to be an act of supreme love, giving and unity. It's a picture, if you will, of the supreme selflessness. Sadly, when pornography is allowed to be included in a conjugal relationship between a husband and wife, it brings a destructive force into many areas of the relationship. I'm personally aware of several marriages which have ended, in large part, because of pornography. I know of others which are currently suffering because of the husband’s addiction to pornography. In fact, my own marriage was nearly destroyed because of my own problems with pornography.
Polluting What Should Be Holy
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (2354) condemns pornography as “a grave offense…because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants.” The consequences of pornography are, in fact, contrary to the many blessings that God wills for us through His gift of the sacrament of matrimony. “Marriage,” declares the Catechism (1609) “helps to overcome self-absorption, egoism, pursuit of one’s own pleasure, and to open oneself to the other, to mutual aid and to self-giving.” Nothing can more clearly exemplify self-absorption, egoism, and self-pleasure than one’s willingness to make one’s marriage vulnerable to the evils of pornography.
So why is pornography allowed to intrude into so many marriages? The main reason is that we have been duped by society and the Great Deceiver. We have been lied to and told that we need this “toxic waste” in our lives or we are not normal. I'd liken it to serving a wonderful meal for dinner each evening, but adding a small amount of rat poison to it. Even a little is deadly over time. Conversely, while one spouse might initiate the inclusion of pornography in the relationship as a so-called “enhancement” to a couple’s sex life, both spouses are culpable. One spouse cannot initiate that to which the other does not agree. Sadly, many women will accept their husband’s perverse habits for fear they would only do it behind their backs anyway or even worse have an affair. I have often heard wives rationalize this behavior by saying, “I would rather have him looking at pictures of women than sleeping around.” They are using the so-called “lesser of two evils” argument.
For the truly serious couple who are devoted to each other, to their vows, and to the higher level of holiness into which they entered with Christ at the altar, God provides everything necessary for a blessed, happy and satisfying conjugal life: “God who created man out of love,” states the Catechism (1604-1605), “also calls him to love the fundamental and innate vocation of every human being. Since God created him man and woman, their mutual love becomes an image of the absolute and unfailing love with which God loves man. Man and woman were created for each other: it is not good that the man should be alone.”
Thus, we have been given everything that is necessary to live a holy and happy marriage as bestowed by Christ through His Holy Spirit in the graces received on our wedding day. When pornography is allowed to intrude into a marriage it only serves to adulterate and pollute what should be a pure reflection of Christ’s love for His bride the Church. What should be “of God” should be zealously defended against influences of this world, lest they become worldly and pass away with this world in its time rather than last forever, as do all things that are of God.
Therefore, it is not “anything goes” between husband and wife. God wants us to live a holy and pure life especially as husband and wife. Pornography is adultery plain and simple. Jesus Christ said so Himself in Matthew 5:27-28 quoted above. That includes looking at any woman for the sake of lust, including Sports Illustrated swimsuit models, Victoria’s Secret catalogs and even including your own wife! If a man that looks at the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition were honest with himself, he would have to say he is looking at the models in lust, not because he wants to give glory to God and praise Him for His great work in creating these beautiful women. If he says he is not lusting, he is lying to himself and to God and he’s certainly not honoring his wife by looking at them.
Entrapped in a Web of Sin
Lust is not Love! Lust is disordered and harmful to our ability to see women and men for who they truly are God's greatest gifts to each other. Seriously! For it was not good for man to be alone. Lust is a result of the fall of our original parents in the beginning, and the Enemy is constantly attacking us with it to try to bring us down into Hell.
Our Lady at Fatima also said to the three child seers “More souls are falling into Hell because of sins of the flesh than any other sin.”
By looking at pornography or even “soft” porn, you participate in a whole series of sins. You sin by looking at it, which is lust and adultery. You contribute to others' sin by creating a demand for the industry thus the industry seeks women and men who are willing to participate in the industry because of the money, which is greed. The fact is many of these people who participate in pornography are usually from homes where the fathers either indulged in pornography themselves or the father was totally absent from the scene while they were growing up the sins of the father are thereby inherited by his children. There are many more sins that are committed and encouraged because of pornography. In fact, just about every mortal sin is committed in some way because of pornography, and it is spreading like the plague. Everyday the industry seeks to push the envelope of what is acceptable. It is constantly attempting to infiltrate mainstream society with more and more perversity.
When we indulge in pornography, we separate the body of the person in the pictures or movies from the whole person the unity of body, soul and mind as God created him to be. We “use” their bodies for our own selfish pleasure, and many today, especially young women, are convinced by the messages they receive from society that should allow themselves to be “used” in this way. The lines have been blurred between lust and love. Lust is selfishness and selfishness is the opposite of love.
The God Who Sees Is the God Who Frees
Saint Francis de Sales said the best definition of love is “to will the greater good for another.” This is exactly what Jesus did for us when He took upon Himself the penalty of our sins and died upon the Cross. He willed our greater good. Christ commanded us to love our neighbor as ourselves. That does not just mean the person that lives next door, but all people, male and female, all around the world, whether you know them or not. Men should respect all women who are older than themselves as they would their own mothers, and all women who are younger than themselves as they would their own sisters, except in the case of their wives.
A man should show an even greater respect for his wife than he would for any other woman. The relationship between a man and his wife is the most special and sacred union ever created by God and as such should be the greatest expression of love, as defined by Saint Francis de Sales. Using anyone, including your own spouse, for your own sexual and selfish pleasure is not love; neither is allowing yourself to be used for that purpose. It is a sin and a mortal sin at that.
I ask you to reflect on this passage from Sirach 23:18-21, 27:
And the man who dishonors his marriage bed and says to himself “Who can see me? Darkness surrounds me, walls hide me; no one sees me; why should I fear to sin?” Of the Most High he is not mindful, fearing only the eyes of men; he does not understand that the eyes of the LORD, ten thousand times brighter than the sun, observe every step a man takes and peer into hidden corners. He who knows all things before they exist still knows them all after they are made. Such a man will be punished in the streets of the city; when he least expects it, he will be apprehended…. Thus all who dwell on the earth shall know, and all who inhabit the world shall understand, that nothing is better than the fear of the LORD, nothing more salutary than to obey His commandments.
Addiction to pornography will not go away on its own, and I feel it is the greatest problem among Catholic men. You can never be free by your own power, no human being is strong enough to do so. It is only possible with the help of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Only He can set you free. Humility is the key. Satan holds us prisoner when we allow our sin to dwell in the dark, but when we bring it the light of Christ, Satan and his demons flee. Admit your problem and bring it out into the light of Truth.
© Copyright 2005 Catholic Exchange
Kenneth Henderson is the founder of the “True Knights” apostolate with a special mission of helping men and all people become free of addiction to pornography. He has appeared on EWTN’s Life on the Rock and is available to speak on many topics concerning authentic catholic family life. For more information visit www.trueknights.org, send an email to Info@TrueKnights.org or call 512-684-0767.