A Strong Bishop Speaks Out on Porn Print
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.
 
 
The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

 

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