At the opening of Lent, Bishop Paul Loverde has written an important and encouraging pastoral letter on the disturbing and increasingly pervasive issue of pornography. The full letter was released today and you can read it here Bought With a Price
It is good to see bishops address moral issues with clarity. And Bishop Loverde surely does that here. There are many things I like about the letter but let me highlight a few things here.
1. We live in a culture that makes light of sexual sin in general, and pornography in particular. Many people speak of it as a victimless crime, etc. It is not. Producing and peddling pornography is a grave offense against human dignity and a complete distortion of one of God’s greatest gifts. Bishop Leverde is extremely clear on this point, drawing from both Scripture and the Catechism. He emphasizes very strongly that the peddling and use of pornography is a grave, mortal sin – a sin that severs our relationship with God. It must be repented of. For those who struggle with compulsive or addictive behaviors, help must be sought. The bishop is clear. Whatever one’s struggles, we must not go on calling good, or no big deal, what God calls gravely sinful.
Jesus says we ought to be more willing to endure serious bodily harm than to intentionally look with lust at another.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’e But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. (Matt 5:27-30)
The good Bishop also uses other arguments and scriptures to strongly refute arguments that make light of the serious sin of pornography. It is good to read these strong teachings unambiguously articulated. Bravo!
2. While not failing to address all the faithful, he addresses the letter with a special emphasis on men. He does this not only because men are more prone to access pornography, but also because he summons men to leadership in seeking to protect their families from the great damage of pornography.
This approach comports well with my own pastoral experience. For though men can and do experience temptations to pornography, men also respond well as a general rule to being summoned to battle for what is right. Men do have a protective instinct that can be appealed to. Sadly, many in recent decades, in the wake of feminism, have shamed men for this instinct, or have sought to deny that it exists.
As a pastor and confessor, it is evident to me that the struggle with internet pornography has reached epidemic proportions. Many confessors struggle to know how to counsel those who are contending with compulsive and addictive tendencies. Among the approaches I use is to call these men to battle and to remind them that when they view pornography they are playing on the wrong team and lining Satan’s pockets with money. Even if they don’t actually buy it, each time they click on a site or picture they increase the page ranking for the site. And this increases its revenue.
To arms! Fight the good fight of faith. Do not provide recognition or resources for Satan’s evil design. Pornography is clearly a satanic attack on our families, on Matrimony, on women, and on children. It is a great darkness on our land. It must be resisted. Our families must be protected. Yes this is a great battle and the Lord is looking for some good soldiers strong enough to resist the tide. An old gospel song comes to mind: “I’m a Soldier in the Army of the Lord.”
3. Bishop Loverde makes good use of Scripture as well as sociological and natural law arguments. In the past I have read too many statements from the Bishops conference that make little or no reference to Scripture. About ten years ago the conference issued a statement on the problem of cohabitation and did not use a single quote from Scripture. When we have asked certain bishops about this they have indicated that since they are addressing the world, it is important to use sources upon which all agree. But of course the world includes Christians. I realize that using only Scripture may be less effective, but any document from the Bishops ought to quote “The Boss” from time to time! Bishop Loverde gets the balance right here.
Please take time to read the whole letter. There are many other good aspects in the letter such as a pastoral exhortation to priests, a message for parents, and a helpful study guide.