September 28, 2008


Porn is one of the most difficult addictions to overcome because not only is the body addicted to its own chemicals/hormones, but at times, no outside stimulus is needed, one has only to recall the pornographic images already stored in one's brain.


Another reason porn is one of the most difficult addictions is the incredible, diabolical ease with which one gets started. You don't have to buy anything. It's not illegal. You don't have to be of age. You don't have to leave the house. It's portable if you do leave the house. It's available 24/7. And if you use a computer at all, you're going to see porn whether you want to or not. You WILL be solicited. And if you do SEEK porn in a moment of weakness, all you have to do is type four letters and hit enter. Done.


With alcohol, you may or may not be an alcoholic. You'll find out if you start drinking. With porn, everyone is a pornaholic because everyone has a body, everyone is a sexual being. All it takes is ONE LOOK. One of the most basic human actions. Looking. Vision. Seeing. Since men are aroused visually, porn is much more addictive for them. However, WOMEN, too, are increasingly becoming addicted to porn, and this also needs to come out in the open, lest women think that THEIR porn addiction is worse, more "unforgiveable," less feminine somehow.


Porn taps into the deepest, most fundamental longing of the human person: to be loved, body and soul. To be affirmed as man or woman, body and soul.


Porn ruins the best gift God gave us: each other. The gift of woman to man and man to woman. Or, as JP2G says: woman FOR man and man FOR woman. What could be more diabolical? "Diabolical" means literally to "split," "divide."


Porn addiction is a "new" way (because of its newfound availability and prevalence) for men to abandon their families.



But how can we prevent that first, unsolicited drink that gets poured down our throats against our will when we're 10 years old?

It's not going to be easy.

Should we head for the hills and unplug and opt out of the media culture that we're all swimming in and depending on in so many ways? That's a decision that everyone has to make for themselves and their families. And is it even possible?

Fr. Benedict Groeschel, CFR, a psychologist has this profound (paraphrased) insight: Even though we may claim we believe in free will, we have been so brainwashed by popular psychology--Freudian and other deterministic schools of thought--that we don't really believe in the possibility of humans to change, and we hamstring ourselves from the get-go. Our willpower has been seriously undermined by ourselves. (I'm not saying that addicts can be healed by applying sheer willpower, but that addictions can be averted and thwarted, in part, by willpower, starting with the RECOGNITION of our willpower.)

If you opt to stay in the media culture and use computers, cable/dish TV, cell phones, etc., (all porn gateways) here are some action items. If they don't work, we need to rework them, because we'll lose the farm. We'll lose everything, as porn addicts are able to tell us firsthand.

--Pray. Live a sacramental life.
--Communicate your values about sexuality in an open, positive way with your children of all ages. Constantly.
--Be honest with your spouse about any and all sexual failings as they happen.
--Get help immediately for porn problems.
--Instruct yourself, your family and others in Theology of the Body.
--Instruct yourself, your familiy in Media Literacy and Media Mindfulness.
--Communicate about media with your children. Constantly.
--Get a serious porn blocker for your computer / TV.
--Have TVs and computers in public areas of your home. Have designated times for use.
--Train your children to use their willpower.
--Talk to your children about porn.
--Have your children report to you any porn that makes its way into your home.
--Consecrate yourselves to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
--Communicate constantly with your children about the true love that God wants for them and how to attain it.

Unfortunately, porn is a part of all of our lives now. (It's SO not fair.) Deal with it.

September 25, 2008


Pornography use is progressive, addictive, toxic and fatal (if not dealt with). Is there any hope? Plenty. But before listing resources, it's important to simply talk about what pornography IS--because that conversation just isn't happening in the Church (in any big way) beyond official Church documents and: "It's bad, stay away." And that's tragic, because bringing porn into the light is the ONLY thing that breaks its hold.

Actually, SEX hasn't been talked about in the Church (in any open way) beyond a kind of listing of "thou shalt nots." The devil is laughing up his sleeve at all this because while the porn industry is going mainstream, Christians are clinging to a puritanical and dangerous silence with regard to sex. Therefore, who gets to tell the young and not so young their story about the meaning of sex? Whoever isn't too shy to talk about it: Internet porn, Howard Stern, Playboy, "Sex and the City," "Gossip Girls," the Spice Channel, etc.

Enter John Paul II's "Theology of the Body." John Paul II talked about sex. A lot. About its beauty and goodness and desirability and centrality to our lives. He talked about how God invented sex, not as a forbidden fruit, but as an expression of our Godlike ability to give and receive love the way God loves: freely ("I do"), faithfully ("only you forever"), fully (total gift of self: body and soul), fruitfully (open to new life).

"Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it."

–John Paul II the Great

Since most porn users are men, we'll speak about it from the male side. Those lovely ladies don't really love you. They're being paid to act like they love you. (Drug use, STDs and suicide are high among porn stars because they are living a lie.) What about those porn stars who build their own empires and seem to suffer no consequences? Also a lie. They are living a radical body-soul split that will take its toll.

How do you know if you're addicted to porn? If you use it at all, you're addicted, because porn is addictive by nature. Porn is a multi-billion dollar business off of people's addictions.

Pornography is having sex with a fantasy. The porn user becomes addicted to their body's own chemicals. They become capable of being aroused ONLY by fantasy-images, and not their real-life, flesh-and-blood spouse. Therefore, porn emasculates.

Men lose interest in the real women around them, family, work, sports, hobbies, etc. The addiction becomes all-consuming. The addiction is also costly as bigger and more extreme thrills are needed. Porn addicts fear telling anyone because they fear losing everything: wife (whom they've rejected through porn), respect of family, friends, co-workers, church family. So, as angry as the revelation of a porn addiction may make us, if we make it too difficult for the addict to come clean, or too difficult when they do, everybody loses. God is bigger than addiction. God forgives those turning from addiction. God heals addiction.

Men who fight porn addiction in their lives are true heroes. They give the lie to a culture that says porn is normal and manly and harmless. As despicable as porn is, men willing to fight the battle against porn addiction need support and encouragement, like any other recovering addicts. Women need to applaud these men, who are strong in their weakness. "In weakness, power reaches perfection." Remember, these are the good guys, not the bad guys. These are the guys that don't want porn anymore and have risked everything to take a stand AGAINST porn (just as they risked everything FOR porn). These are men of incredible courage and character who are fulfilling their true vocation of upholding the dignity of women (and their own).

Shame and secrecy is the deadly combination that feeds the addiction. I once heard a priest say: "Why did Jesus call us 'children of the light'? Because we make our mistakes in the open." If we began openly acknowledging sex in a happy, healthy, reverent, non-graphic, non-trivializing, age-appropriate manner, the "naughty" factor that drives people to "forbidden pleasures" would be removed. Sex is the two-ton elephant in our Christian living rooms that nobody talks about because they don't seem to know what to say. The Theology of the Body is the answer.

September 16, 2008



Want your kids, grandkids, or religion class to feel empowered when it comes to media and making good media choices? There's no better way to understand how media is constructed than to make media ourselves. "Creating media" is one of four skills encouraged by the "media literacy" movement.

All you'll need is a video camera (or digital camera that takes a few minutes of video) and a computer (all Windows programs have "Windows Movie Maker" software). You can be as simple or elaborate as you want with everything else. Gather the kids and here's how to lead them.

1. "What's your big idea? What's your movie about? (Try a Bible story or parable--the story's already there!) Describe your movie in one sentence. Make your description exciting, fun, mysterious, or all three! What's the title of your movie? When you make the movie, who will do what? Remember, movie making is a team sport--no divas or divos! Respect each person and let them do their job. The writer tells the story by writing. The director tells the story by directing the actors and filming. The editor tells the story by editing. You can also have a producer (who makes sure everyone has what they need to get the job done). There's plenty of other jobs, too: casting director, actors, director's assistants, producer's assistants, wardrobe, hair, makeup, craft service (food!), location scout, prop master, agents, managers, lawyers, etc.

2. "Writer(s): The most important thing to know about writing a screenplay is: 'Show, don't tell.' Don't have too much talking. Use lots of action and tell the story through what people will see.

3. "When the story is written, have a "story meeting," and make sure everyone is OK with the story. The writer(s) job is now finished. Make copies of the script for everyone.

4. "Actors rehearse their parts by themselves, and then with the director. Actors can make suggestions about their parts, but the director has the final say.

5. "When all finished filming, have a 'wrap party,' and watch the raw footage!

6. "Now it's time to edit. The director can work with the editor. The editor gets rid of mistakes and everything that is unnecessary and makes sure the timing feels right. The editor can add narration, music and special effects. The editor can create the opening title frames and the credits at the end. In the credits, make sure to thank everyone who helped, even in little ways!

7. "Have a premiere (opening show). In Hollywood, everyone wears black to a premiere. Give yourselves a big hand!

8. "Have a meeting after the premiere. What did you learn from making this movie? What would you do differently? How could you have worked together better? Would you like to try another movie-making job?

9. "Start planning your next masterpiece!"


September 15, 2008


Do you know what the Catholic Church's position is on abortion? Helping the poor? You probably do. How about the Catholic Church's "official" position on the media? (By media we're referring to the whole enchilada: media content, technology and culture.) Not so sure? You're not alone. Contrary to popular belief, the Catholic Church has been trumpeting (at least in her documents since the mid-twentieth century) that the media are gifts of God. Any gift of God can be abused, but that doesn't make it any less a gift. More recently, the Church has declared that Catholics must be an "active, listening" presence in today's world which is created in part by the media. When you think about it, isn't that what the Church is called to be in the world in general? "Active"—we're "in the world, not of it," helping our fellow human beings, creating a "civilization of love." "Listening"—we care deeply about the struggles of our contemporaries, their sorrows and joys. We strive to listen to the heart of humanity.


So, what do we call this "official" position of the Church toward the media? "Media Literacy." The Church began wholeheartedly adopting the language of Media Literacy in the 1992 document: "Dawn of a New Era." Then, in 2003, just two months before he died, Pope John Paul the Great signed off on "Rapid Development," a small document on the "new media." New media refers to the recent explosion of new media technologies and applications: internet, wireless capabilities, digital technology, cell phones, social networking internet sites like Facebook, mp3 players, texting, computer games, instant messaging, etc. John Paul II repeats over and over in the document: Do not be afraid of the new technologies! Do not be afraid to use the new media! Put out into the deep! (And JP2G also gave us the example—he wasn't exactly a scaredy-cat when it came to media.) Not being afraid of media is a big part of Media Literacy. How can we be "literate" in something we're apprehensive of? (Both Vatican documents are available at


The "National Directory for Catechesis" from the U.S. Bishops (what every catechist has under their pillow when they go to sleep at night) is full of Media Literacy. Here are some powerful Media Literacy quotes from the NDC:


"Especially in the U.S., 'the very evangelization of modern culture depends to a great extent on the influence of the media.' In fact, the mass media are so influential that they have a culture all their own, which has its own language, customs, and values."


"If the Gospel message is going to make sense to the next generation of Catholics…catechesis needs to find more sophisticated ways to employ these new technologies."


"Reality, for many, is what the media recognizes as real; what the media do not acknowledge seems of little importance."


"Communications media themselves are suitable subject matter for catechesis."

"The Church's mission requires her to be 'in the very midst of human progress, sharing the experiences of the rest of humanity, seeking to understand them and interpret them in the light of faith.'"


"Those to whom the Gospel message is addressed today, both young and old, are, in a sense, children of the media."


"The anonymity and lack of accountability in cyberspace requires a more sophisticated level of MEDIA LITERACY that has ever been needed in the past."


So, as you can see, the Church is asking something new of us.


What's the history of the Media Literacy movement? Although Media Literacy is not a religious movement, Catholics have been involved from the beginning because we care deeply about communications and culture. Canadian (and convert to Catholicism) Marshall McLuhan, a brilliant scholar and professor, wrote extensively about how media was profoundly changing the way we live and relate to one another. He was famous for his dictum: "The medium IS the message." Fr. Walter Ong, SJ, was also an early ML pioneer. Canada has been teaching ML in its schools at all grade levels for many years now, and the United States is catching on. Pittsburgh is the first diocese in the U.S. to mandate ML in its Catholic schools.


The best way to define ML might simply be: to question media. (A comprehensive definition can be found at We don't want to be cynical with regard to media, but we want to understand as fully as we can what our fellow human beings are trying to communicate to us and why. In this stance of inquiry, our relationship to the media is such that WE are in charge. WE have the power. WE are asking the questions. Teach young people to ask questions of the media, and instantly, they, too, are in charge. ML does not avoid media, but engages in dialogue with media.


There are five basic approaches we can take to media in life: 1) stay away  2) look mostly for the bad  3) MEDIA LITERACY: think critically, participate actively  4) look mostly for the good  5) couch-PC-console potato. Which do you think is most helpful for navigating the media culture we're all living in?


Media Literacy also wants us to develop four media skills: 1) access media (use it!)  2) analyze media  3) evaluate media  4) act (anything from giving feedback to creating media ourselves). As an example of skill #4, check out Chicago seminarian, Andy Kirchoff's blog:  Andy plays and critiques video games from a Catholic perspective.


The Five Core Concepts of Media Literacy are also turned into questions to make them easier to use. They can be used with any media.

  1. All media are CONSTRUCTED. Even the most "objective"-looking media (like a news report or documentary film) have been constructed and filtered through someone. Certain things were included, certain things were excluded. Question: How was this media constructed?
  2. Every media uses its own media LANGUAGE. Novels, plays, TV sitcoms, science fiction movies, oil paintings, comic books—all have their own unique language, rules, conventions. Question: What techniques were used to get my attention?
  3. Different people EXPERIENCE media differently. The easiest illustration of this concept would be a particular style of music. People will have completely opposite experiences of the same style of music. Question: How might different people experience this media?
  4. All media have embedded values and POINTS OF VIEW. There is no such thing as "values free" media. To even try to create "values free" media would itself be a value. Question: What points of view are presented/not presented in this media?
  5. All media messages are constructed for PROFIT and/or POWER. Profit and power are neutral. It's what we do with them. Power is acquired through media mostly by getting media users to agree with an ideology. Question: Who created this message and why? Who pains, who gains?


A new movement called "Media Mindfulness" seeks to bring the faith component to Media Literacy. A new book for use with pre-teens, teens and adults called "Media Mindfulness" is available from St. Mary's Press: Media Mindfulness adds two more questions:


  1. What CHRISTIAN VALUES does this media support or not?
  2. In light of my Christian beliefs, what will my RESPONSE be?


Still feel conflicted about media? Think of it this way. "Everything works together for the good of those who love God." That includes media! Make media work for you with the "3 D's."

DISCIPLESHIP—If we are disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, we want to honor, glorify and imitate Him in everything we do, yes? But the same way we don't ignore non-Christians, we don't ignore media that doesn't represent Jesus' way of life.

DISCERNMENT—God has given us so many tools for discernment, not just for making good choices in our lives, but also for discerning media: philosophy, theology, our minds, wills, hearts, consciences, imaginations, the Bible, the Church, mentors, etc. The more we know about our Catholic Faith (and also how media works), the better we will be able to discern our media experiences.

DISCIPLINE—Self-discipline, self-mastery. We need to be constantly asking ourselves: How is this particular media influencing my relationship with God, myself, my family, others, my enemies, Creation? Adjust accordingly.


In addition to Discipleship, Discernment and Discipline, we need to pray about and with media in order to stay strong in our own convictions in a pluralistic media world.


Media Literacy and Media Mindfulness is a lifelong journey because we are constantly having new media experiences and growing in our faith. There is too much at stake for us not to be media literate in today's media culture. As the National Directory for Catechesis states it: "For many people, experience itself is an experience of the media." And as the Center for Media Literacy puts it:

"Media: love it or hate it, it's not going away." 









September 2, 2008


Article published Saturday, August 23, 2008
'Basic Instinct' author writes book about faith
Joe Eszterhas, who has written the screenplays for movie thrillers, now is the author of a book on faith: "Crossbearer." 

Joe Eszterhas' latest book is a shocker, but not the kind that made him rich and famous.

The upcoming release from the man who penned dark thrillers such as Basic Instinct and Jagged Edge tells the story of his spiritual conversion and his newfound devotion to God and family.

In Crossbearer: A Memoir of Faith, to be published Sept. 2 by St. Martin's Press, Mr. Eszterhas describes how his life got turned around during the summer of 2001.

He and his second wife, Naomi, had just moved from Malibu to a suburb of Cleveland - where he had grown up; she was from nearby Mansfield. They felt Ohio would be a better, more wholesome place to raise their four boys (he had two grown children from his first marriage).

A month after the move, Mr. Eszterhas was diagnosed with throat cancer. Doctors at the Cleveland Clinic removed 80 percent of his larynx, put a tracheotomy tube in his throat, and told him he must quit drinking and smoking immediately.

At age 56, after a lifetime of wild living, Mr. Eszterhas knew it would be a struggle to change his ways.

One hot summer day after his surgery, walking through his tree-lined neighborhood in Bainbridge Township, Mr. Eszterhas reached a breaking point.

"I was going crazy. I was jittery. I twitched. I trembled. I had no patience for anything. … Every single nerve ending was demanding a drink and a cigarette," he wrote.

He plopped down on a curb and cried. Sobbed, even. And for the first time since he was a child, he prayed: "Please God, help me."

Mr. Eszterhas was shocked by his own prayer.

"I couldn't believe I'd said it. I didn't know why I'd said it. I'd never said it before," he wrote.

But he felt an overwhelming peace. His heart stopped pounding. His hands stopped twitching. He saw a "shimmering, dazzling, nearly blinding brightness that made me cover my eyes with my hands."

Like Saul on the road to Damascus, Mr. Eszterhas had been blinded by God. He stood up, wiped his eyes, and walked back home a new man.

In a phone interview this week, Mr. Eszterhas said it was "an absolutely overwhelming experience."

He went from doubting if he could make it through life without tobacco and alcohol, to knowing that he could "defeat myself and win."

He and Naomi have been faithfully attending Catholic Mass on Sundays ever since, and as the book title states, Joe carries the cross down the aisle. He asserts his nonconformity, however, by wearing jeans and Rolling Stones T-shirts when he does it. Despite the rebel attire, he says he carries the cross with more reverence than most.

Although he is a devout Catholic, Mr. Eszterhas writes bluntly of his disgust for priests who are pedophiles and bishops who have covered up for them. He and Naomi decided they could not, in good conscience, donate a dime to the church because of the clerical sexual abuse scandal.

He also writes about the inner turmoil he felt when he took his boys to catechism classes or other church events and kept a protective eye on them the whole time, making sure they were never alone with a priest.

And he complains about priests' homilies being boring and pointless.

When Mr. Eszterhas visited a nondenominational megachurch, he heard a sensational sermon. But he felt empty afterward, missing Holy Communion and the Catholic liturgy.

"It may have been a church full of pedophiles and criminals covering up other criminals' sins … it may have been a church riddled with hypocrisy, deceit, and corruption … but our megachurch experience taught us that we were captive Catholics," he wrote.

Mr. Eszterhas told The Blade that despite his mixed feelings over the church and the abuse scandal, the power of the Mass trumps his doubts and misgivings.

"The Eucharist and the presence of the body and blood of Christ is, in my mind, an overwhelming experience for me. I find that Communion for me is empowering. It's almost a feeling of a kind of high."

He said that living in the heartland, he sees how much Hollywood producers are out of touch with most Americans.

"I find it mind boggling that with nearly 70 percent of Americans describing themselves as Christians, and witnessing the success of The Passion of The Christ and The Chronicles of Narnia, that Hollywood still doesn't do the kinds of faith-based and family-value entertainment that people are desperate to see," Mr. Eszterhas said.

He has turned down hefty offers to write scripts for movies with sinister plots and dark themes like the 16 other ones he wrote that made it to the screen- some paying as much as $3 million a script.

Mr. Eszterhas said he spent too much of his life exploring the dark side of humanity and does not want to go there anymore.

He was born in Hungary during World War II, grew up in refugee camps, and then moved to the United States and lived in an impoverished neighborhood in Cleveland.

He worked as a police reporter in Cleveland and "was always fascinated with the darkness. I covered countless shootings, urban riots, and in several situations I was there before police were because I had a police radio and used to drift around the city until something happened," he said.

But after his spiritual transformation, he said, he had had enough of death, murder, blood, and chaos.

"Frankly my life changed from the moment God entered my heart. I'm not interested in the darkness anymore," he said. "I've got four gorgeous boys, a wife I adore, I love being alive, and I love and enjoy every moment of my life. My view has brightened and I don't want to go back into that dark place."

Mr. Eszterhas' love and appreciation for life was magnified even more last year when his surgeon told him he didn't need to schedule another visit.

"He used the word 'cured,' a word that oncologists generally don't use," Mr. Eszterhas said. "He said I didn't have to come back for any checks, that my tissue had regenerated to the point where you cannot only not tell that there was ever any cancer there, but you can't tell that there had been any surgery there.

"Naomi and I were, of course, overwhelmed when he told us. I think it's truly a miraculous blessing."

One miracle Mr. Eszterhas has hoped for but not seen since returning to Ohio is to see his beloved Cleveland Indians win the World Series. But he is using the Tribe's woes as a lesson in faith and patience for his children.

"I think that our deity may have a pretty nasty sense of humor," he said with a laugh.

His new book is evidence of Mr. Eszterhas' victory over writer's block, something that struck him after going sober. It was a difficult adjustment to write for the first time in his life without sipping wine or cognac.

But he was compelled to write Crossbearer as "a thank you to God" and "to tell the world what he has done for me."

When his wife finished the book, he said, she gave it a hug. "That's how I feel. I'm very proud of it."

- David Yonke