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November 19, 2015
Column #1,786
"Create In Me A Clean Heart"
Psalm 51:10


The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops issued a major pastoral letter on the harm of pornography, "Create in Me a Clean Heart," saying, "We have seen the corrosive damage caused by pornography -- children whose innocence is stolen, men and women who feel great guilt and shame for viewing pornography...spouses who feel betrayed and traumatized."

Pornographyís impact has grown exponentially due to the Internet. It is a public health crisis. Their statement is addressed to parents, clergy, parish leaders, educators, mental health professionals and those who can help protect children from pornography and heal the men, women and young people who have been harmed by its use.

They open with Scripture and Godís "beautiful plan for human love (that) was inscribed on the human heart and in the human body," in Genesis: "Male and female he created them." Since each of us "is created in the image of God, we are given the call -- the vocation -- of love and communion. Every human being is made for a relationship of love with God and with others," the bishops write.

They assert that our bodies "tell us that we are 'forí another...with a person of the opposite sex if called to marriage." Therefore, "Our bodies should be treated with the greatest respect." And "chastity is essential to love," whether one is single or married.

By contrast, pornography "perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other," causing "grave injury to the dignity of its participants" who become "an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others."

Sexual intimacy and its pleasure "are gifts from God and should remain personal and private, enjoyed within the sacred bond of marriage alone. Such intimacy should not be put on display or be watched by any other person."

Jesus taught that "sexual immorality is not only a matter of oneís actions but also a matter of oneís heart:" "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.í But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Mt 5:27-28).

They note that pornography "hurts the user by potentially diminishing his or her capacity for healthy human intimacy," a distortion of human sexuality that is "contrary to authentic love" and can turn into an addiction that isolates people due to "shame and self-reproach," and can break down "trust between family members."

Indeed one study reports that 52% of divorces involve porn addiction by one spouse. It also sparks adultery, domestic violence, the abuse of children in child pornography and sex trafficking.

Exposure to pornography "can be traumatic for children and youth. Seeing it steals their innocence and gives them a distorted image of sexuality," the bishops asserted, making them "more vulnerable to being sexually abused," to be "more accepting of premarital sex, to view women as sex objects." They are also "at increased risk of getting pregnant as a teenager."

However, Pope Francis reminded the Church of its calling to become a "field hospital" for the wounded. Therefore the bishops "proclaim the truth of the human person in love, to protect people -- especially children -- from pornography, and to provide the Lordís mercy and healing for those wounded by pornography."

The bishops urged people "to turn away from your sins...Christ is passing by: do not wait to change your life. Come down, like Zacchaeus, and make amends for the damage you have done. No sin is too great to forgive, but we exhort you to repent, convert and put an end to your involvement."

They noted there are support groups and resources to help in the Appendix of their report. I urge anyone who is addicted to read this uplifting 22-page paper by going to Pat Trueman, President of the National Center on Sexual Exploitation, praised it as "a forceful, pastoral statement on the harms of pornography."

However, he urged there be a comprehensive training program for all priests, teachers and youth group leaders, and urged churches to place educational materials on pornís harm and on "blocking and accountability software" in the back of every church, with a list of counselors who treat porn addition.

Three more suggestions: block your computerís access to porn. Go to Sexaholics Anonymous meetings that are in all cities. Join Covenant Eyes, which helps 350,000 addicts go straight by selecting an "accountability partner," who gets a report if you go to any porn sites. Parents can also monitor what their kids are seeing on i-phones.

Pornography is a plague that can be conquered.

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