Monday, October 29, 2012

Social Costs of Pornography

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Readings for Sunday, October 28/ 30th Sunday in Ordinary Time:
Jeremiah 31:7-9
Psalm 126:1-6
Hebrews 5:1-6
Mark 10:46-52

“Every priest is taken from among men and made their representative before God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He is able to deal patiently with the ignorant and erring, for he himself is beset by weakness and so, for this reason, must make sin offerings for himself as well as for the people.”

This passage has always stuck out to me, especially as I discerned and pursued a vocation to the priesthood, because it clearly reminds me of who I am. I am a sinner, beset by weakness. I’m not better than anyone because I’m a priest. I’m not holier than anyone because I’m a priest. I have a past, parts of which I’m not particularly proud of, but I am not confined or defined by it. Rather, I am defined by the life I choose to live as my life moves forward and the same goes for all of us. We have all done things in our lives that were sinful, but the reality is that God’s grace is bigger than anything in the past and the Mercy of God is so generous that even the most grievous offenses are forgiven instantly when we simply come to open our hearts to the One who died to ransom us for Heaven. There is always hope.

For the past several weeks we’ve all been hearing the presidential and vice-presidential debates, the ads on TV, the news, webpages and other media sources talk about all of the things going on in the world today, particularly the problems that must be addressed. We’ve heard endless discussions on things such as the economy, foreign policy, energy, and a list of other things. But one thing that I haven’t heard a word spoken about is actually one of the most destructive forces in our world today, and that destructive force is the reason you received those white ribbons when you came into Mass today: pornography.

I came across a book a while back that really interested me because it was a book entitled The Social Costs of Pornography, but which wasn’t written from a religious perspective. For the Catholic Church or a group of religious people to write a book against it would be for the world to chalk it up as religious belief trying to justify itself by coming up with facts to back up beliefs. Instead, this book is written by regular people who have to deal with the effects of pornography in our world: lawyers, psychologists, sociologists, computer techs, and other professionals who see it every day in the people they serve. This book comes together to give us some disturbing information.

 A few facts to show the scope of its reach:
-$100 billion dollars is spent on pornography each year.
-45% of teens view it regularly; not occasionally – regularly!
-90% of children between 8 and 16 years of age have viewed online pornography.

Some might see those numbers and be unconcerned because they think pornography isn’t really a problem. It is simply a private thing that doesn’t affect anyone and those who act it out are doing so freely, so what’s the big deal, right? Well, the big deal is that it is destroying the culture around us by destroying the way that we interact with other people.

For starters, the people who are in the videos or images are often there not because they enjoy it but because they’ve been coerced. Many who have been able to get away from this industry describe how drugs were offered to the actors and eventually they became dependent upon them, such that they were willing to do anything for the camera in order to get another high. Also, human trafficking is a major problem, as there are an estimated 13,000-15,000 people who are bought and sold into this market of sexual exploitation each year; slavery is still going on in our world today.

The part that is more notably affecting the world outside of those actors and producers is not much brighter. The statistics and findings of the report in that book on the social costs of pornography indicate a number of very serious problems – and below is just a small portion of the findings. The fact that internet pornography is so readily accessible on phones, notepads, computers, and every other electronic device means that it is there at our fingertips 24-hours a day, which encourages addictive behavior. Divorce lawyers indicated that nearly 25% of divorce cases indicated pornography use as a major factor in the separation.

But more fundamentally, it distorts the view of the human person. It has been noted that the problem with pornography not that it shows too much of the human person but that it shows too little. A picture or video cannot capture the soul of a person, it cannot show the whole person who is there but rather reduces them to their body parts. Pornography essentially makes people who are meant to be loved into objects that are used instead and this transfers into normal social interaction. Thus, users of pornography find it more difficult to enter into actual intimate relationships because they are unable to truly love but rather are gratifying themselves at the expense of the other. This means that faithfulness in marriage and relationships in general is drastically decreased. Also, users are constantly fed lies that distort the reality of true intimacy, hide the negative effects of unfaithfulness and extra-marital sexual encounters, and fail to provide any accurate depiction of what it means to be a man or woman and how to interact with the opposite sex. In general, pornography takes everything that can build up the human person and strengthen family life and does the exact opposite. Is it any wonder that as the dignity of the human person is denied in our world we see an increase in violence, promiscuity, and addictive behavior? This evil silently destroying our country and unless we personally and communally take a stand against it, we will continue to see the family and human person become less and less honored in our world.

So I end with this – pornography affects each and every single one of us. If it is affecting you or has in the past because of your use of it, there is always hope. As I said at the beginning of the homily, there is no sin that Christ won’t forgive and for that reason we don’t have to be bound up by the sins of the past. In fact, Christ longs to free us from these sins and to bring us to wholeness because we weren’t created for slavery and sin but for freedom and life eternal. We simply need to come to Him with open hearts, recognizing that Christ has the power to do anything. Like Bartimaeus in the Gospel today, we must cry out for the Lord and know that we are heard and He desires to effect the healing the same as He did for Bartimaeus.

For those not affect by it personally, thank God and pray for those who are. Pray for our youth who are being bombarded with it. Pray for families being broken apart by it. Pray for those still caught up in the industry themselves. God’s love is being our understanding and His grace works in powerful ways if we call upon Him and Our Blessed Mother is a perfect reflection of that love and all grace passes through her hands, so let us also pray through the intercession of Mary, Undoer of Knots, that the bonds of sin might be broken and true freedom would be known by all.
For more information on pornography and getting help: