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.


  1. Anonymous10:30 PM

    Thank you Sr. Helena Burns for a sobering and encouraging blog on pornography and its ill effects on our being and soul. Your encouragement of men standing up against porn, for dignity and respect of women, and self dignity is giving me encouragement in my own life and sobriety. I especially like your blog pic of Lady Gwen and Sir Lancelot. It embodies the spirit of my personal fight. God's Blessings to you and your fellow sisters. AMDG.


  2. hey john,
    glad you're encouraged. i have a lot more to say about porn that i hope will also be encouraging. Porn is one of the hardest addictions to beat, and as with all addictions, constant, tireless vigilance is necessary, and here we are swimming in a porn culture. We are media nuns, so this is very much our mission--part of our spirituality also is to pray for media users. Our Founder, Blessed James Alberione, was a media saint (and a filmmaker--died in 1971). I'm sure he would love to help you!
    God bless,
    Sr. H <><

  3. Anonymous10:44 PM

    Thanks S. Helena for your feedback. I would like to read/hear more about what you have to say about the matter.

    Christ's Peace,

  4. Sr. Helena -

    Great job on this series of posts applying TOB to this epidemic in our culture!

  5. Thanks, Clayton! And I'm just getting started.... :]