I remember one day teaching the Old Testament at an inner-city Catholic High School in Washington, D.C. My sophomore students and I were discussing one of the many love stories in the book of Genesis. In any case, during our discussion I cautioned my female students not to date or marry any boy who frequents pornography or is addicted to it in any way. In addition to being morally wrong and a sin against God, the reason for this admonition is due to the fact that the habit of watching porn creates an insatiable sexual appetite and unrealistic expectations for the male consumer. Moreover, and just as important, pornography depersonalizes women; it puts all the emphasis on bodily pleasures and hence undermines the value of a woman’s integrity and personal needs.
As soon as I said this, a hand shot up. It was a female student who was known for being “pure and innocent.” She said, “Mr. Tremblay, if we were to take your advice, there would be no boys to date.” After further discussion, I was made aware that most of my male students watched pornography on a regular basis. If that were not enough, I was told that they, quite often, talked about it with their female counterparts. In response to this realization, I dropped the Old Testament lesson plan and talked about holiness and chastity for the next 2-3 days.
I recount this story because just recently, my spiritual director, a Catholic priest, related to me that over 50% of the confessions he hears from men have to do with pornography. Many of these men are married and practicing Catholics.
One of the obvious causes of this seductive habit is the easy access to images of women in our technological and media driven society. The internet, television, and even the magazine racks in a grocery store, are loaded with explicit pictures, detailing every curve and feature of the female body. A man has to constantly exercise custody of his eyes and even more so, he must be disciplined with his thoughts. As Bishop Fulton Sheen said, a man arrives at purity more through prayer and reason. Praying is essential and without prayer purity is all but impossible. But praying is not enough! A man must reason his way through the images and impressions which are daily impressed upon his mind. Indeed, he must put these images in the proper context in order to diminish the intense but superficial appeal. In practical terms, how is this done?
For starters, Jesus indicated that these temptations warranted an aggressive approach; and this begins with attacking the problem at its source: namely, dealing with thoughts of a sexual nature that are both involuntary and voluntary. He said, "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.” (Matthew 5:27-30)
More on the praying and reasoning your way through temptations in the next blog.