The U.S. bishops approved his request by a vote of 226 to 5.
Bishop Malone said that pornography poses “serious pastoral challenges” for clergy and the faithful. Pornography is widespread and “more accessible than in the past,” affecting people of younger and younger ages. Fewer people disapprove of it, and its use is increasing among both men and women.
Pointing to statistics that pornography is “a significant factor” in nearly 60 percent of divorces, the bishop cautioned that it is “highly addictive” and capable of altering brain chemistry and causing harmful social consequences.
The average age of first exposure to pornography is 10-11 years old, an alarming fact, he said.
“Love resonates in the human heart, because we were made for it,” Bishop Malone explained. “But we also know that there are many obstacles to true, lasting love. There are many counterfeit versions of love that promise much but deliver little.”
“There are many ways in which the body, created in the image of God as male and female, becomes a place of exploitation and ‘use’ instead of a place of communion and love.”
Bishop Malone’s proposal drew strong support and suggestions from the floor of the assembly.
In the question period, Bishop David Ricken of Green Bay, Wis., spoke “very much in favor” of the proposal.
“There are great advantages to the advances in social media. This is the dark side of all of that,” he said.
He warned that pornography “captures younger and younger people” and is “destroying marriages and families at a very rapid rate.”
He praised his diocese’s anti-pornography addiction initiative Reclaiming Sexual Health, noting that there are many new resources and ministries on the topic.
Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City said that his diocese’s Catholic Charities affiliate reports that over 50 percent of family counseling clients had pornography use as a problem that impaired their marriages and family life. He suggested that awareness of this issue should be raised at Sunday Mass, if it can be done through lay witness.
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Bishop David Foley, retired head of the Diocese of Birmingham, Ala., praised the Sacrament of Reconciliation for combating pornography.
“I have found the power of the Sacrament of Penance in overcoming pornography is tremendous,” he said.
“It’s true confessors are hearing of this sin more often, but they are working with their penitents. The regular practice of confession is an answer, a strong answer, to this problem.”
Archbishop George Niederauer called attention to the Cincinnati-based Religious Alliance against Pornography, a 30-year-old organization co-founded by Cardinals Joseph Bernardin and John O’Connor.
In addition, Bishop James Conley of Lincoln, Neb., recommended the Covenant Eyes anti-pornography filtering and accountability computer program.
“I think it is the best out there,” he said.