When I was first ordained the Internet was not yet a reality. But in these past twenty years it has surely exploded on the scene and it has become a dominant force in many people’s lives. Much of it’s effects have been good. Information flows more freely, and communication worldwide is almost instant. Remarkable “communities” of sorts have set up and ordinary people, showing great creativity can reach a worldwide audience. Remarkable really.
But one of the darker sides to the Internethas been the easy availability of pornography. As a priest I have had to help people who have fallen very deep into a kind of bondage around Internet pornography. There is a kind of addictive effect that sets up for many.
More than merely compulsive, Internet pornography is quite addictive to many. The difference between compulsion and addiction is that compulsiveness is a kind of “steady” bad habit but addiction requires more and more of the thing to satisfy. The many who struggle with addiction to pornography indicate that they cannot stop and that they need more exotic materials as time goes on. Stranger and stranger, deeper and deeper they go. Soon many find themselves drawn even to illegal sites featuring underage subjects and even children. This is usually where the law catches up with them.
Be very careful about your Internet habits. The danger of pornography on the Internet is that it is so easy to find, just a few clicks away. There is also the illusion of privacy. In the old days one had to walk into an “adult bookstore” and interact with people in order to get the products they desired. Today there is an illusion that viewing such materials is completely private. It is not. Do not be fooled. EVERYTHING you do on the Internet is public. Extensive records of your browsing habits are stored not only on your own machine but also out on the Web. New government laws now forbid the erasure of e-mails. There are newer laws coming in to effect each year requiring search engines such as Google and Yahoo to disclose browsing habits of individuals to law enforcement officials under certain circumstances. Those who routinely visit illegal sites are easily known to law enforcement officials who routinely monitor such sites. The main point is THERE IS NOTHING PRIVATE ABOUT THE INTERNET. When we are online we are out in public.
So be very careful about the Internet. Not only is pornography sinful, it is also very addictive to many and leads them down a very slippery slope. It demands more and more of their time. It devolves into stranger and more exotic appetites and often causes people to stray into unnatural and even illegal attractions. Addictions are also very hard to break once they are acquired. Don’t just avoid pornography, flee from it (cf 1 Cor 6:18). Take it from a priest who has had to help people deal with some very sad consequences. Pornography is not a “victimless” crime. It has many, many victims: broken lives, broken hearts, broken marriages, lost jobs, lost freedom, lost innocence. Share this message with others!
Here is a sobering video that elaborates on the addictive quality of Internet pornography: