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A Strong Bishop Speaks Out on Porn Print E-mail
By Austin Ruse   
Friday, 07 March 2014

I don’t remember the first electric moment I saw pornography for the first time, but I do remember how we as little boys in the early 1960s were obsessed with the images in Playboy.

I remember how casual it all seemed to be among the adults, though not my own Mom and Dad. A lady across the street said her husband was sick at home and he needed some paperbacks or something to pass the time and would my father trade some paperbacks for this guys Playboys. My father declined, but how is it that I even knew about it? Even the existence of such magazines we keep hidden from our daughters.

I remember one of my friends would swipe Playboys from his dad and we would stash them out in the woods. What boy of a certain age does not remember viewing Playboys made damp from being stashed under logs and leaves. I remember the smell.

I recall the serious trouble I got into when my mother discovered a crudely drawn “Playboy: Entertainment for Boys” that I drew up and stapled and shared with my friends. My father delivered the trouble – though I don’t remember if I got the belt or the disappointment lecture.

These thoughts and more came back to me as I read the opening essay in the Pastoral Letter of Bishop Paul Loverde of Arlington, Virginia. It will be officially released, appropriately, on the Feast of St. Joseph because the letter emphasizes the father’s responsibility to protect his family from the scourge of pornography. This is his second letter on pornography and, as far as I know, only the third by any bishop in America, the other being from Kansas City Bishop Robert Finn.

Matt Fradd tells the story of rummaging through an old trunk in a relative’s garage and found a “glossy magazine picture of a completely naked woman. I gasped, and my heart seemed to stop – I had never seen anything like it.” He said he felt awe and then guilt.


      Matt Fradd

Isn’t this the way, the familiar way so many of us first saw such things?

Fradd launched into years of increasing use of such images. He writes that he  “came to understand how when husbands and fathers use porn they not only make themselves slaves to sin, they also deeply wound their ability to love and protect I the way their vocation demands.”

Fradd’s happy ending, after years of struggle, is not much the way these days. Because the world is awash in porn, how much harder do the first digital images hit young brains and how much longer do they enslave them, even well into marriage and family life and sadly beyond, when marriages and families are destroyed by these images.

Bishop Loverde is a true shepherd for publishing the second edition of Bought with a Price (Kindle edition):

In my nearly fifty years as a priest, I have seen the evil of pornography spread like a plague through out culture. What was once the shameful and occasional vice of the few has become the mainstream entertainment for the many. . . .The plague stalks the souls of men, women, and children, ravages the bonds of marriage and victimizes the most innocent among us. It obscures and destroys people’s ability to see one another as unique and beautiful expression of God’s creation, instead darkening their vision, causing them to see others as objects to be used and manipulated.

He lays out the threat, which is well known to those who have either been a consumer of porn or simply up-to-date on its spread in both width and depth. But he adds: “Perhaps worst of all, however, is the damage that pornography does to man’s ‘template’ for the supernatural. Our natural vision in this world is the model for supernatural vision in the next. Once we have distorted or damaged that template, how will we understand the reality?” Our supernatural sight is damaged by the misuse of our natural sight.


       Bishop Paul Loverde

He addresses his letter to all the people of his diocese and one wishes at least his Catholic children would read this important document; young, single, or married, priests and religious: “No person living in our culture can totally separate himself or herself from the scourge of pornography. All are affected to a greater or lesser extent, even those who do not directly participate in the use of pornography.”

I think of my daughters and wonder who among their playmates at their orthodox Catholic grade school come from a family with a hidden porn problem? I feel as if I would kill any person of any age who showed my daughters the vicious images now available with a few even errant keystrokes of an iPhone.

Bishop Loverde goes thoroughly through what he calls “Four False Arguments”; 1) no victims, 2) temperate porn use can be therapeutic, 3) porn is an aid in maturing, and 4) Christian opposition is based on hatred of the body.

Among the victims, Loverde points out, is the dignity of those “performing” in porn who are often the “needy” and the “vulnerable” including the “poor, the abused, and marginalized, even children” who are turned into mere commodities.  Porn use dehumanizes the viewer, and erodes the family. A father is supposed to protect his family but through porn allows what Loverde calls “ a snake” to slither in around his wife and children.

Bought with a Price is in its own way a remarkable teaching document from one of the great unsung bishops of our time. Other bishops tend to get more of the attention when, all the while, Paul Loverde does his best to maintain the orthodoxy and faith of those entrusted to him.

His eloquent plea deserves a wide readership and close study by men and especially their boys – those boys who will come knocking on my door one day looking for my daughters.

St. Joseph, pray for us.

 
Austin Ruse is the President of the New York and Washington, D.C.-based Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-FAM), a research institute that focuses exclusively on international social policy. The opinions expressed here are Mr. Ruse’s alone and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of C-FAM.
 
 
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Comments (14)Add Comment
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written by Howard Kainz, March 06, 2014
We look upon ancient pagan idolators as weird for worshiping man-made images. Pornography is a modern form of idolatry that is most effective in desensitizing the heart to the spiritual.
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written by Bruno, March 06, 2014
I grew up together with the internet, and remember my first porn with that 56k connection. I think I was about eleven, and it wasn't an individual discovery; all boys were watching it too. Did I get addicted? I don't know, it stayed with me well into my twenties, and it seemed to me like a normal part of life. When I found out God after those years I realized the evil in all that, and in me as well, and prayed and prayed for a pure heart and forgiveness, and as He had promised, so it came to be.

So by God's grace I have defeated a nasty and invincible habit. It wasn't meant to be so, the odds were really all against me, for in the beginning I had not the intention to stop, nor, later, the belief that I could stop. Though my heart is not pristine, I now feel like breathing clean air. The struggle isn't over, it may perhaps never be completely. Still, who walks a mile can walk two. Especially with help from above.

How much porn harmed me, the space is not enough to say. The addicted may believe in his own lie when he says he is only hurting himself. Can a bishop leave his sheep esnared for the same reason? Terrible times we live, in which our bishops are afraid to give good counsel for fear of appearing like prudes. Wonderful times we live, for we have loving bishops as Bishop Loverde.
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written by Jack,CT, March 07, 2014
Are we sure anyone from the leadership of our church to be preaching about "Sexual Morality"?
I suppose most men can relate to the writers childhood experiences.
The fact is these are a part of "Biology" AS MUCH AS SIN.
Puberty......

I always felt that a statue of a person in there birthday "Suit" was ART,left up to interpretation.yes there will be those who refuse to look at anything but the genitals!
These people are the same that would undress someone of the opposite sex fully clothed.I am simply saying it is a little more complex than a statue or a portrait of a playboy bunny."

There are those who will go to extremes as evidenced by a billion dollar Porn Industry.
We can point fingers all day at the higher rate of this epidemic in the church and Blah.. blah..blah but the truth is sin is sin no matter the nature and only one confession to make,right.

Please do not misread me,I am so glad i had boys and You are so correct,it is scary!Yes the Bishop is totally correct,porn is all around us if not overtly,covertly and in subliminally in the advertisements that make children beg for those shoes or that new "tech' device!

So Yes Mr Ruse,St Joseph Pray for us all. Amen
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written by Walter, March 07, 2014
Austin, from a reader who often takes you to task, well done.
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written by Dan Deeny, March 07, 2014
A good essay on an important subject. I wish you could mention names: Hugh Hefner, Larry Flynt, etc.. These people seem to be happy. How is that possible?
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written by Myshkin, March 07, 2014
@Dan

Psalm 72 (73)

Their rejoicing will be turned to weeping, their joy to sorrow.

How useless to keep my heart pure
and wash my hands in innocence,
when I was stricken all day long,
suffered punishment day after day.

Then I said: ‘If I should speak like that,
I should betray the race of your sons.’

I strove to fathom this problem,
too hard for my mind to understand,
until I pierced the mysteries of God
and understood what becomes of the wicked.

How slippery the paths on which you set them;
you make them slide to destruction.
How suddenly they come to their ruin,
wiped out, destroyed by terrors.
Like a dream one wakes from, O Lord,
when you wake you dismiss them as phantoms.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit,
as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be,
world without end.
Amen.

Their rejoicing will be turned to weeping, their joy to sorrow.


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written by Richard A, March 07, 2014
Nothing I've read about Hugh Hefner's life recently describes someone who is remotely happy.
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written by Athanasius, March 07, 2014
As Pope John Paul II said, "The problem with pornography is not that it reveals too much, but that it reveals too little." It ignores the whole interior of the person being objectified.
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written by Austin Ruse, March 07, 2014
Dan, the only column I ever submitted that Bob rejected outright was one about the sexual practices of Hugh Hefner which are terribly sad and remarkably tedious. He cannot be happy. Bob Guccione died a pauper. Al Goldstein died sick, broke and alone. Larry Flynt is paralyzed from the waist down from a snipers bullet. You can't say these folks are happy.
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written by Hank, March 08, 2014
Yeah, porn is awful. It takes advantage of our essence, and deforms us. Stimulus, response. Without seeking to downplay the ravages of porn, I'm thinking of other things that operate in a similar way. Hyper commercial junk food, which enters the world under the pretense that it is food, but is in actually engineered to play on biological predispositions to eat fat, salt, and sugar when they are available, without respect to actual nutritive content. They stimulate craving, but leave us malnourished, and the body, knowing it is malnourished, returns to the trough again and again. There's an analogy in that.

Relatedly, though childless myself, I often take care of my niece, now eight. I've been seeing children's programming on television regularly for years now. It is (profanity deleted)awful. If you think about the thirst, the hunger, the need, that all children have for formation, for learning the ways of the world, what is important, what is good and what is bad, what is noble and what is shameful, and then you look at his programming, which is, in the main, designed to hold kids' attention and serve as an anchor for advertisements that stoke their natural materialism and unreflective craving for whatever is said to be "good" and worth craving... Oy. And so much of the programing professes to be helping kids learn about being decent human beings, like the aisles of breakfast cereals profess to be foods.

I've got to go, which is just as well. But the common thread I see in all this is the way in which people and corporations make money by disrupting basic human needs, and inserting various sorts of products into the mix, as solutions to that disorder. This comment is a case in point. I'm staring at a screen, and talking at who-knows-who, and spending more time doing so than I'm likely to spend engaged in actual conversation with another human being today. It is a feeble but convenient replacement for the human good of sociality, and I am always a little ashamed when I indulge in it.
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written by Penny, March 08, 2014
I could write a book about the ravages a man's descent into pornography can be. It may be laughed at in our culture and excused as being "normal and natural" but in fact it is the most deceptive, evil, damaging, and degrading thing that can take over a man and then his family. One addiction leads to another and so alcoholism was the accompanying companion that sealed the very bad deal for our marriage and family.

I watched my former husband go from a loving, faithful, good-hearted, decent, fun-loving, productive, hard-working, talented man who went faithfully to Mass with us, prayed the rosary with us to a hard-hearted, most unkind, mean, slothful, unfaithful, unhappy, sick, sick man who lost his fine reputation, all our money, our home, and pretty much all his relationships with his family, my family, and he turned on me with a vengeance and cannot stand my presence now. He exposed our oldest son to so much of the vileness also and it stole much of our boy's childhood away from him. Our whole life was turned upside down and inside out.

This should be a plea to all men to stay far, far away from the lure of what may seem to be a fun and exciting diversion of time. It is a trap the devil is setting for you to degrade you completely and make you his slave. Nothing but misery lays in store for you.

By the great grace of God, and the intercession of the Blessed Mother and St. Joseph we have made it through the worst part of the storm and have our heads above water, praise God. But the damages are there - broken marriage, broken family, and my former husband and my oldest son have lost all faith. I pray constantly for God's mercy and have hope to expect it.

" a snake to slither in and around his wife and children" - yes, yes, yes.

God bless Bishop Loverde and you also, Mr. Ruse.

I pray for all men for their protection from this scourge and for marriages and children also. I also pray a lot for our girls too - as so many of us are completely vulnerable victims of this so-called "victimless" activity.

Please men, realize that all your dignity, beauty, and God-given honor, happiness, and your vital role in this world is at stake when you expose yourselves to the horrors of pornography.

We women - your wives, future wives, mothers, sisters, daughters depend on you to uphold the honor of manhood that God gave you! A good, stable, morally sound man is a hero. You are our knights - do not fail us - we need you. And you need us.
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written by a man, March 09, 2014
I went to the men's conference with the bishop yesterday, Curtis martin and scalia rocked the house, and they called us all out on this...I dont know any gen x or gen y man that hasn't seen porn, and its time to do something about it. Its blocked on the internet in many countries, and there was a time when we had a law that required adult verification on websites - what the heck is wrong with us, we allowed that law to be overturned but have no problem clamping down on music downloads and gambling. We truly have vile and corrupt politicians and a mainstream media that cheers while they dance...as america burns down around us.
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written by Francis, March 09, 2014
One priest describes the use of pornography as unleashing a gang of demons into your home. If you only knew what you were allowing in, you would throw your computer in the nearest furnace.
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written by Jay, March 10, 2014
I recommend putting a cross or a picture of your family, the pope or anyone else of importance or reverence to you near your computer so as to remind you of your need to stay the course my brothers.

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