Re-post from 2013
Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials. — CCC #2354
I spoke with a woman recently whose husband had indulged in pornography for several years of their marriage. She gave me permission to share the general lines of her story.
It was crushing to listen to the pain she suffered.
What stood out most to me as she recounted its disastrous effects on their marriage, was this statement:
What suffered most was my sense of personal worth and dignity. I felt demeaned and betrayed … The greatest harm was the immediate erosion of trust, and the terrible feeling of being insecure and worthless. I was clearly not enough for him … Having happened on some of the filth he’d been viewing gave me a vivid awareness just how vile the images and sounds were, and so knew this was what was in his mind each time he looked at me. Once I discovered it, his every gesture of physical intimacy toward me made me physically nauseous.
Eventually he got help in a 12-step sex-addict program, she forgave him, he rebuilt trust and their marriage has been renewed.
I thought about it over the next several days. I collected various thoughts in my journal.
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In a Christian culture men are gentlemen, careful to honor the dignity of each woman and promote her feminine genius. St. JP2 says that every man, like St. Joseph, is called to be a “protector of every woman’s honor and dignity.” Men honor every woman because every woman is held in honor in the heart of God.
The stats show that a staggaring percentage of men, and growing percentage of women, consume pornography regularly. Porn breeds isolation and self-absorbtion, trivializes and degrades the sexual act as a covenant sign, rewires the brain with an addict’s neuro-grid and enslaves the imagination. As theologian David Hart says well:
The damage that pornography can do — to minds or cultures — is not by any means negligible. Especially in our modern age of passive entertainment, saturated as we are by an unending storm of noises and images and barren prattle, portrayals of violence or of sexual degradation possess a remarkable power to permeate, shape, and deprave the imagination; and the imagination is, after all, the wellspring of desire, of personality, of character. Anyone who would claim that constant or even regular exposure to pornography does not affect a person at the profoundest level of consciousness is either singularly stupid or singularly degenerate.
I once wrote an email to an acquaintance, a Catholic married man who struggled with porn addiction. I remember agonizing over how to respond to his honest and tortured confession. Among other things, I wrote:
God loved your wife before you ever did, and He loves from all eternity each and every one of those women who are exploited in porn. High price for a cheap thrill. God loves them far more than you ever could, and will judge you one day on how you handled these pearls of great price — His daughters.
Along with links to resources for overcoming addiction, I included in the email Michelangelo’s painting of the creation of Adam. Under the picture, I wrote:
Note who’s held tight under the arm of God as he creates Adam. It’s the woman, Eve, whom God has not yet drawn from Adam’s side and entrusted to Him as His gift and image. She is still God’s dream awaiting creation … Pope John Paul II has a powerful comment in a letter he wrote on the dignity of women (Mulieris dignitatem) to this effect: “The dignity and the vocation of women find their eternal source in the heart of God. Consequently each man must look within himself to see whether she who was entrusted to him as a sister in humanity, as a spouse, has not become in his heart an object of adultery; to see whether she who, in different ways, is the co-subject of his existence in the world, has not become for him an ‘object’ — an object of pleasure, of exploitation. Christ’s way of acting, the Gospel of his words and deeds, is a consistent protest against whatever offends the dignity of women.” In invite you, my friend, to join the protest.
Sub specie aeternitatis — in the light of eternity — one sees everything differently.
Porn culture calls for the evangelization of imagination, which means the purification of imagination — not merely by a renunciation of porn’s graven images, but by an encounter with icons that uncover the true dignity and beauty of the human body made to glorify God.
The Christian gentleman stands on the front lines of the New Evangelization. Let God’s chivalrous revolution, once conceived in eternity, begin in time. In you.