FORT WAYNE — Nationally recognized experts and Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades spoke about the harms of pornography, how to protect oneself and one’s family, and regain sexual integrity at a diocesan conference on Saturday, Oct. 5.
The Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend collaborated with Morality in Media and a national Catholic apostolate, Reclaim Sexual Health, in hosting the anti-pornography conference titled, “Ignite the Light in a World Darkened by Pornography,” at the University of Saint Francis, North Campus Auditorium. Our Sunday Visitor provided a grant for the conference.
Patrick Trueman, president of Morality in the Media, spoke about how pornography is now “overwhelming Catholic men.” Pornography is on computers, smartphones, and cable or satellite TV. It’s common in hotels and even in many retail stores and gas stations. For many men — and, increasingly, women — it is part of their daily lives.
Church teaching on the subject is clear. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: “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.” (No. 2354)
“Addiction to pornography is now commonplace among adults and is even a growing problem for children and teenagers,” Trueman reported. He offered alarming statistics: 79 percent of unwanted exposure to pornography happens in the home; 93 percent of children 12-17 have been exposed and the largest consumers of Internet pornography are ages 12-17; 80 percent of 8-16 year olds viewed pornography online while doing homework.
“Pornography’s addictive strength is a result of long-term, sometimes lifelong, changes in the brain,” he added. But he also offered hope for those with pornography addiction.
Brain science and hope
“There is hope, there is healing,” Jeannie Hannemann told Today’s Catholic.
“The ‘once an addict always an addict’ is heresy,” Hannemann said when it comes to pornography, “because we believe Jesus heals.”
Bruce and Jeannie Hannemann spoke about healing and breaking the bonds of pornography through their ministry, RECLAiM Sexual Health, a professional, Catholic online recovery program with additional resources designed to help individuals overcome pornography use and other unhealthy sexual behavior. A unique integration of Blessed John Paul II’s theology of the body, faith practices and brain science of change exercises, RECLAiM brings psychology and spiritual direction from a Catholic perspective to those in need.
The website can be found at www.reclaimsexualhealth.com.
The Hannemanns experienced the problems associated with pornography in their own marriage and shared their journey to sexual health. The ministry is under the guidance of Bishop David L. Ricken of the Diocese of Green Bay, Wis.
Family therapist offers advice
Dr. Jill Manning, a licensed marriage and family therapist, specializes in research and clinical work related to pornography and its impact on marriages and families.
She encouraged parents to teach healthy sexuality in a layered, step-wise manner throughout a child’s development, and emphasized this type of teaching is one of the best defenses against pornography’s influence. “It is best,” she said, “if both the mother and father are involved in teaching male and female children.”
She also encouraged families to discuss expectations and values around media use and avoidance of pornography. As part of this communication, she invited families to implement a family media pledge. The pledge she created, “Our Clean and Safe Media Pledge,” is downloadable at no cost at the Deseret Book website, http://deseretbook.com/mediapledge.
For protection of marriages, Manning suggested couples be unified on their definition of pornography. She encouraged them to establish an exposure rule. For example, within 24 hours of being accidentally exposed to sexually explicit content, share that experience with your spouse and debrief it. “Don’t let images fester,” she said.
Battle plan for sexual integrity
Bishop Rhoades, in his talk titled “God’s Plan for Living a Life of Sexual Integrity,” offered a battle plan — from a section of the catechism’s explanation of the ninth commandment.
“The are four elements to this battle plan, and the catechism assures us that if we put them into practice, with God’s grace, we will succeed in living a life of sexual integrity,” Bishop Rhoades affirmed.
“The first element of this battle plan is the virtue and gift of chastity, which ‘lets us love with an upright and undivided heart,’” he said. “Chastity is the virtue that ensures that our thoughts, words and actions correspond to God’s plan for our sexuality.”
The bishop explained, “Chastity is not only a virtue that we strive to achieve; it is also a gift that we receive from the Holy Spirit.”
“The second element of the battle plan for living a life of sexual integrity is purity of intention, by which we seek to find and to fulfill God’s will in everything,” Bishop Rhoades continued.
“Purity of intention” means that we make a commitment not only to avoid offending God in any serious way, but that we strive to do what is most pleasing to Him in every situation. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains, “‘pure in heart’ refers to those who have attuned their intellects and wills to the demands of God’s holiness, chiefly in three areas: charity; chastity or sexual rectitude; love of truth and orthodoxy of faith.”
Bishop Rhoades said, “The third element of the battle plan is purity of vision, both internal and external. It requires us to discipline our imagination and to refuse to dwell on ‘impure thoughts that incline us to turn aside from the path of God’s commandments.’ External purity of vision is closely linked with modesty, which ‘protects the intimate center of the person’ and refuses ‘to unveil what should remain hidden.’”
“The fourth and final element of the battle plan for purity is prayer,” Bishop Rhoades said. “Prayer, the catechism teaches, is the intimate moment when God’s thirst for us meets our thirst for Him.”
“The sacrament of Penance is a particularly powerful way of turning our hearts back to the Lord who loves us,” Bishop Rhoades said.
“… Regular reception of the sacrament of Penance is a powerful weapon in the battle for purity, for we are not only absolved from our sins but also given the grace to avoid those sins in the future.”
“Living a life of sexual integrity has never been easy, but it is not impossible. God in His great mercy has given us His abundant grace to win the battle for purity, and what is more, He has given us a most gracious advocate — His mother,” Bishop Rhoades said, “The rosary has always been recommended by the Church as a prayer that is as powerful as it is beautiful.”
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