Director of the Nazareth Project for Marriage and Family Formation
Archdiocese of Milwaukee
Looking back on February 6, 2011, is a favorite past time for true Packer fans — it was the day of “America’s biggest game,” the Super Bowl, in which the Packers were victorious. But on the day of America’s biggest game, more than 300 churches tackled one of America’s biggest problems by observing National Porn Sunday. Perhaps you saw the heart of the message which was a 35-minute video featuring organizer Craig Gross and the personal stories of several former National Football League players including quarterbacks Matt Hasselbeck of the Seattle Seahawks, Jon Kitna of the Dallas Cowboys, and Josh McCown, a veteran of five NFL teams. In his message, Gross noted that Super Bowl Sunday generates huge numbers of viewers (approximately 95 million), but research shows that 40 million Americans visit porn sites EVERY DAY.
Along with their Protestant brethren, Catholic leaders are confronting this issue head-on with a multifaceted approach. The Committee on Evangelization and Catechesis of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has made available resources outlining the devastating effects of pornography, and has spearheaded a “freedom from pornography” initiative. The bishops offer these statistics on pornography:
- In 2008, a survey at a Midwestern Catholic high school indicated that 48 percent of the senior boys and 29 percent of the freshman boys were viewing pornography one or more times each week (www.LoveIsFaithful.com).
- In 2008, 813 college students from six college campuses participated in a survey on pornography use and acceptance. Out of the young men, 86 percent had viewed pornography in the last year, 48.4 percent were viewing pornography weekly, and 19.3 percent were viewing pornography almost every day. Out of the young women, 31 percent had viewed pornography in the last year, and 3.2 percent were viewing pornography weekly. Of the students, 35 percent identified themselves as Roman Catholic (Journal of Adolescent Research).
- By 2004, U.S. pornography revenue exceeded the combined revenues of ABC, CBS, and NBC ($6.2 billion). Revenue from pornography is larger than the revenues of professional football, baseball or basketball franchises in this country (The Effects of Pornography on Marriage, publication no. 7-135).
There are multiple pastoral letters on the subject which deal with pornography’s significant role in the erosion of the family. Pornography before marriage can be considered “virtual promiscuity,” and, sadly, this promiscuity before marriage often becomes virtual adultery in marriage. This struggle can progress to actual adultery. Recently Bishop Robert W. Finn wrote “Blessed are the Pure in Heart - a Pastoral Letter on the Dignity of the Human Person and the Dangers of Pornography.” Bishop Paul S. Loverde, in his letter, “Pornography and the Attack on the Living Temple of God,” does not exaggerate when he shares that, “The most tragic and frightening victim of the scourge of pornography is the family.” He addresses the many false arguments about pornography, such as, “There are not victims, so no one is being harmed.” He also takes on the idea that there is such as thing as “temperate use of pornography.”
On a local level here in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, the Nazareth Project for Marriage and Family Formation hosted an all-day conference last month on the pornography epidemic in America. Dr. Peter Kleponis, Ph.D., spoke to priests, deacons, and seminarians in the morning and lay parish pastoral staff in the afternoon, focusing on effective ways to deal with the pornography problem. In his presentation, he addressed priests specifically on the place of the healing power of the sacrament of reconciliation as a source of grace in dealing with this addiction.
The problem of pornography is the result of an attempt to pervert and take sexual acts outside of their proper place between married couples. Ultimately, the answer lies in the realization of a true understanding of beauty that can help man to work to overcome concupiscence, and to overcome the temptation to use the other as a mere body. John Paul II, whose work has come to be known as the “Theology of the Body,” knew this and spoke to this often when he quoted Dostoyevsky, “Beauty will save the world.”
For more information on what you can do to combat pornography, contact the Nazareth Project for Marriage and Family Formation at firstname.lastname@example.org.