People sometimes think of pornography as “harmless,” and wonder what the big deal is with something you do in private. The reality is that pornography is deeply harmful - to the men, women and children who view it - and to all of society. Viewing pornography actually can “rewire one’s brain,” causing neurochemical changes in the brain.
Pornography usage is anything BUT harmless. The damage to men, women, young people, children and families is staggering. Porn addiction has reached epidemic proportions, and is becoming considered a public health crisis. Here are some of the effects of pornography usage on marriages:
- It destroys the trust and intimacy between husbands and wives
- It leads to the end of marriages
- It creates obstacles to real communication and personal interaction between spouses and family members
- It stimulates a distorted view of sexuality that can lead to riskier behaviors
- It draws focus away from family life, and from God, and sets a destructive example for children.
The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), recently released the document, Create in Me a Clean Heart: A Pastoral Response to Pornography (Washington, DC: USCCB, 2015). Offering a word of hope and healing, our pastors remind us:
From the beginning of all time, God’s beautiful plan for each of us has been inscribed into our hearts and into our bodies. Our Church continues to hand on what we received from Christ Jesus. Each of us – male and female – is created in the image and likeness of God. Each of us is a gift, with inviolable dignity. Each one of us is a beloved child of God.
“Men and women discover the call to love written in their very bodies. The human person is the unity of a body and soul, and the body shares in the dignity of the image of God.
St. John Paul II often referred to the “spousal meaning of the body.” He taught that the body, in its masculinity and femininity, is inscribed with its own language – a language of gift and of communion of persons. Our bodies tell us we come from one another. We are not self-made or fundamentally isolated. Instead, we are each a son or daughter. We are in relation to others from the beginning of our existence, first to our mother and father, and through them to the entire human family. Our bodies also tell us we are for another, that we have the capacity for fruitful communion with one another, in particular with a person of the opposite sex if called to marriage. Written in to our bodies is a call to spousal, fruitful love.
Because of the beautiful meaning and dignity communicated by our bodies – which communicate our very selves – our bodies should be treated with greatest respect. We, and therefore our bodies, are not meant to be used, but loved.
One of the key virtues, to which all of us are called, is chastity. Chastity is a virtue that allows us to do what is right, good and truly loving in the areas of relationship and sexuality. Chastity integrates our own internal desires for sexual pleasure into our overall pursuit of holiness. Chastity is opposed to lust, which is an inordinate desire for sexual pleasure apart from the true meaning of sexuality and marital love. Chastity calls us to rely on God’s grace and to persevere with fortitude in order to resist temptation and make the right decision in challenging circumstances.
The Church’s teaching on the great harm and sinfulness of pornography comes from our greater understanding of the dignity and beauty of the human person as revealed by Christ Jesus, and the gift of human sexuality and marriage in God’s plan. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines pornography in this way:
Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of 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.
From this passage, the moral status of pornography is clear: producing or using pornography is gravely wrong. It is a moral sin if it is committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent. The sin needs the Lord’s forgiveness and should be confessed within the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. The damage it does to oneself, one’s relationships, society and the Body of Christ needs healing. Pornography can never be justified, and is always wrong.