Pornography is not a topic most adults are comfortable discussing. This is especially the case when it comes to parents addressing it with their children. Regrettably though, it’s the topic that’s becoming more and more necessary to address in our digital age. Too many parents, grandparents and guardians think their children have not been exposed to internet-based pornography. This is simply not true. Statistics tell us another story.
First exposure to internet pornography is often during the elementary school years. This often oc-curs by accident. Picture this: your child typed in the wrong word on social media, your nephew clicked on the wrong YouTube video, or your godchild’s friend showed him his first sexually explicit image on Insta-gram. When parents and guardians haven’t created an environment where it’s safe and welcome to talk about uncomfortable topics, children will often hide these experiences out of shame and embarrassment. Pornog-raphy steals childhood innocence, creates guilt and disgrace in those who either occasionally or habitually use porn, and it exploits the individuals who are in the industry. It creates an impediment to obtaining deep and lasting relationships with our Lord Jesus Christ, who is to be the center of our very lives, homes and vocations. Pornography is a bondage and a fake. It is a mockery of true and holy intimacy that is celebrated through the Sacramental life of the Church.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines pornography this way: Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It 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. (CCC 2354)
In 2016, the bishops of the United States wrote a formal statement about pornography that is entitled: “Create in Me a Clean Heart: A Pastoral Response to Pornography.” This document reminds us that pornography causes damage to oneself, one’s relationships, society and the body of Christ. That is why it can never be justified and is always wrong.
Why is porn always sinful? In the pastoral letter, we read: “Pornography use hurts the user by potentially diminishing his or her capacity for healthy hu-man intimacy and relationships. It presents a distorted view of human sexuality that is contrary to authentic love, and it harms
a person’s sense of self-worth. Occasional use can turn into more frequent use that can then lead to an addiction to pornography … [and it] also damages the community. It can increase isolation between people because of the feelings of shame and self-reproach it generates. It breaks down trust between family members, and it damages the ability of parents and other adults to be virtuous role models for children.” (“Create in Me a Clean Heart.” Pg 7)
The pastors of the Diocese of La Crosse, under the direction of Bishop William Patrick Callahan, are committed to helping parents make their homes safe and equipping them to overcome pornography where it is present. They recognize the immediate need to address the issue of pornography because of the rise of the widespread availability through devices that seamlessly connect to the internet.
Unlike a decade ago, pornography is instantly acces-sible, seemingly anonymous, and mostly free to any individual – child or adult – who has a smartphone, tablet or computer. In one or two clicks, anyone can be exposed to the porn industry, which appears to be endlessly novel and exciting. In very little time, any-one can view porn and become instantly gratified in a virtual reality that degrades God’s beautiful plan for human love and sexuality.
“Widespread availability of the Internet means that pornography is in the home, at work, and often liter-ally at one’s fingertips with the prevalence of mobile devices. The Internet’s perceived anonymity can entice a person to view images or engage in activities that he or she would hesitate to do off-line, and the novelty of Internet pornography can itself be intoxicating, affecting brain chemistry and seducing viewers to keep clicking. In contrast to a magazine, the Internet has no final page.” (“Create in Me a Clean Heart.” Pg 10)
The Diocese of La Crosse understands that it has a sacred duty to protect the children and families it serves. It must uphold the truth about each person’s God-given dignity by rejecting anything that would harm it. Thus, it will do what it takes to guide and equip parents and individuals with forming children to live virtuous and holy lives online and offline.
Following the directives of the U.S. Bishops, it be-lieves that, “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.” (“Create in Me a Clean Heart.” Pg 15)
To provide you with the tools you need to overcome pornography and to make your home a safe haven for children and adults – one free of pornography – the Diocese of La Crosse will celebrate its first annual Safe Haven Sunday on March 10. Within the context of Mass, parishes in the diocese will provide age-appro-priate teaching and resources that will support and protect individuals, marriages and families, making all homes a safe haven.
By celebrating this awareness day with the 2019 theme, “Equipping the Family, Safeguarding Children,” we as a community are saying we want holy, healthy and safe homes, free of pornography and other online threats that deprive the home of its role as a safe haven. To help marriages and families, each home will be given Covenant Eyes’ book, Equipped: Smart Catholic Parenting in a Sexualized Culture. This book includes a unique seven-day text-to-opt-in program: The Equipped 7-Day E-mail Challenge. This Challenge provides practical tips any caring adult can take to cre-ate safer digital environments for themselves and our young people. We encourage you to take advantage of these resources and ask that you be intentional about taking the steps suggested to ensure safety and joy for you, your loved ones and the greater community.
Pornography doesn’t need to be fought alone. The resources provided to you on Safe Haven Sunday will both encourage and teach all individuals and families dealing with the effects of pornography that loving support is available. It’s worth battling pornography for wholeness and purity for you, your spouse, your children and the future of everyone in the Diocese of La Crosse.
Safe Haven Sunday is made possible through a partnership with CovenantEyes.com. The Diocese of La Crosse thanks the La Crosse Diocesan Council of Catholic Women for their financial support.
By: Alice Heinzen, Director of the Office for Marriage and Family Life
- Begin the 7-Day E-mail Challenge today by texting the word “secure” to 66866.
- For more information about Safe Haven Sunday on March 10, visit: diolc.org/shs.
- To read the full statement from the U.S. Bishops, visit: usccb.org/cleanheart.
Thank you for the gift of marriage and family life. We entrust to you our home, where our marriage and family lives and grows. We ask you to make it a safe haven for all who live and enter these walls. May our home truly be a holy place for both young and old to be formed in the truth regarding life, love, sex, and marriage. May each of our members
be protected from and guided in seeking to avoid pornography, while embracing the freedom and purity of life in Christ.
If there are past wounds that have occurred due to the availability of pornography on our family’s devices, lack of awareness of parents, or because of indifference, we ask you to send forth your Spirit to heal, bless, renew, and consecrate this home as a safe haven with your son Jesus Christ at the center of our lives, today, tomorrow,
We ask this through the intercession of the Holy Family of Nazareth, Saints Joachim and Anne, the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Amen.