Bishop Paul Loverde of Arlington, Va., has urged fathers to protect themselves and their children from pornography’s “relentless assault,” stressing the need for everyone to cultivate Jesus Christ’s “purity of heart.”
“Every home now stands in the pathway of this attack on our children’s innocence and purity. If we are not vigilant, our sons and daughters will pay a steep and heartrending price,” Bishop Loverde said.
“I call on every man in the Diocese of Arlington to search his heart and renew his commitment to purity,” the bishop said. “I call on every husband and father to renew his sacred commitment to his wife and children.”
Bishop Loverde’s comments come in the preface to the 2014 edition of his 2006 pastoral letter against pornography, “Bought with a Price.” The pastoral letter reflects on pornography’s harms, criticizes “false arguments” from pornography proponents and reflects on the spiritual importance of human sight.
“Today perhaps more so than at any time previously, man finds his gift of sight and therefore his vision of God distorted by the evil of pornography,” the bishop said in his pastoral letter. He invoked Jesus Christ’s beatitude, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”
He rejected the claim that pornography harms no one, charging that it dehumanizes its viewers.
Pornography “obscures and destroys people’s ability to see one another as unique and beautiful expressions of God’s creation, instead darkening their vision, causing them to view others as objects to be used and manipulated,” the bishop said.
It changes the relations between men and women, often in “subtle ways,” he added. Pornography damages the family and “tears at the marital bond.” It “distorts the truth about human sexuality” and reduces sex from “the expression of a married couple’s intimate union of life and love” to “a demeaning source of entertainment and even profit for others.” Pornography is an “insidious toxic poison” that depicts the body “solely in an exploitative way” and is especially damaging to children.
Pornography production, viewing and distribution is “an offense against the dignity of persons” and “objectively evil,” Bishop Loverde stressed.
He lamented pornography’s present status as “mainstream entertainment” that is easily accessed through television, the Internet and portable devices like cell phones. This availability, he said, makes it more difficult to protect “the precious virtue of chastity.”
The bishop directly criticized the pornography industry as a “multi-billion dollar criminal enterprise,” saying that legal protections for pornography contribute to “the debasement of our culture and the victimization of our own children.”
He called for the passage and enforcement of anti-pornography laws, describing these actions as “the demand for an end to the exploitation of persons and the degradation of public morality.”
Bishop Loverde rejected claims that Christian opposition to pornography derives from “hatred of the body.” Rather, he explained, Christians believe in the resurrection of the body and recognize the importance of the body as “an integral part of the human person.”
The pastoral letter’s new edition, available in PDF format, includes a study guide for individuals, families and groups, and a plan for life. The pastoral letter is interspersed with short summaries and recommended practices to combat pornography.
The new edition also includes a foreword by Catholic apologist Matt Fradd, author of the book “Delivered: True Stories of Men and Women Who Turned from Porn to Purity.” Fradd discusses his first encounter with pornography at eight years old, his continued use of pornography, and its harmful effects on himself and on society as a whole.
Fradd tells how he abandoned his vice through a gradual process that drew strength from his wife’s love and the grace of the sacrament of confession. He emphasizes the promise of forgiveness and healing through Jesus Christ.
Bishop Loverde encouraged Christians who have used pornography or are using it to turn to the Sacrament of Penance and make its mercy “the cornerstone of the struggle against pornography.”
He recommended they form close bonds of Christian friendship to hold themselves accountable while avoiding any “occasion of sin” that would enable pornography use.
Christians should respond to the problem of pornography through “morally uplifting” pursuits, he advised. They should “never compromise” in order to meet “the expectations of a decadent culture.”
The bishop also urged prayer for pornography’s victims and acts of spiritual work and fasting for those who produce and distribute pornography.
He particularly addressed young people, lamenting that they have been targeted by the pornography enterprise and will have to endure “the impoverished notion of intimacy that results from a culture that has confused love with self-gratification.”
“Know first that God has destined you for a true and fully human love that finds its center not in manipulating others but in sharing and flourishing in a communion with your beloved,” he told the youth.
The full pastoral letter is available at the website of the Diocese of Arlington: http://www.arlingtondiocese.org/purity/pastoral_letter.aspx