Bought With A Price
Pornography and the Attack on the Living Temple of god

II. The Nature of the Current Threat: A Grave Offense

Artists have often portrayed the human body, clothed and unclothed, in various depictions and poses. While the danger of immodesty exists even with regard to works of art, the evil of pornography is greater and more insidious. Pornography depicts the body solely in an exploitative way, and pornographic images are created and viewed only for the purpose of arousing sexual impurity. Hence the production, viewing and spread of pornography is an offense against the dignity of persons, is objectively evil, and must be condemned.

In a culture that sees pornography as a mere private weakness or even as a legitimate pleasure to be protected by law, we must repeat here the Catholic Church's constant teaching. In simple terms, the Catechism of the Catholic Church condemns pornography as a grave offense (CCC 2354).

The immorality of pornography comes, first of all, from the fact that it distorts the truth about human sexuality. It perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other (CCC 2354). Rather than being the expression of a married couple's intimate union of life and love, sex is reduced to a demeaning source of entertainment and even profit for others. Pornography violates chastity also because it introduces impure thoughts into the viewer's mind and often leads to unchaste acts, such as masturbation or adultery.

Pornography offends also against justice. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others (CCC 2354). The "participants" are used and manipulated in ways incompatible with their human dignity. Everyone involved in the production, distribution, sale, and use of pornography cooperates and, to some degree, makes possible this debasement of others. Indeed, pornography has become a system and an industry of mutual degradation. That some may be willing participants in no way lessens the culpability of those who engage in the production and use of pornography.

Further, pornography represents a serious abuse of the means of communication, and, in that regard, is a violation of the eighth commandment. We must remember that the right to use the means of communication (i.e. freedom of speech) is not an absolute right. It must always be at the service of the common good. Civil authorities must ensure that the use of the means of communication be in accord with the moral law. To accomplish this, civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials (CCC 2354).

I remind all the faithful, therefore, that the use of pornography - i.e. its manufacture, distribution, sale or viewing - is gravely sinful. Those who engage in such activity with full knowledge and complete consent commit a mortal sin. Such actions deprive them of sanctifying grace, destroy the life of Christ in their souls, and prevent them from receiving Holy Communion until they have received absolution through the Sacrament of Penance.

The gravity of this sin becomes clearer when one considers the tremendous damage the use of pornography causes to society. It damages first of all the family, the basic cell of society and the Church, because it tears at the marital bond. Since it immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world (CCC 2354), a man's use of pornography turns his attention and affection away from his wife. It creates in his mind unrealistic and often immoral expectations for their intimate life. He begins to approach her only as a means to his own gratification and no longer as his "suitable partner." Priests and counselors know very well how grave a threat pornography poses to marriage and how many families have already suffered sad division due to its effects.

Pornography's availability and intrusion injure the common good by producing a consumerist and licentious view of sexuality, particularly of women. Inculcating and guarding the precious virtue of chastity becomes increasingly difficult when pornography infects a majority of media outlets. Society's interest in preparing young men and women for marriage also suffers when the media presents as a mercantile plaything the holy act of intimacy that is proper to the sacred bond of marriage.

Perhaps worst of all, however, is the damage that pornography does to man's "template" for the supernatural. Our natural vision in this world is the model for supernatural vision in the next. Once we have distorted or damaged that template, how will we understand the reality? Our Lord has given us the gift of sight with the intention that we ultimately may see Him. The sinful use of this faculty both warps our understanding of it and - worse still - cripples our ability to realize its fulfillment in heaven. What man should use for receiving the true vision of God and the beauty of His creation, he uses instead to consume false images of others in pornography. How can we understand the supernatural sight God desires for us - i.e. the contemplation of God in the beatific vision - once our natural sight has been damaged and distorted?

Christians in a Secular World

Christians are intrinsically a people set apart. The reality of Baptism constitutes us as a community called into the desert, a people consecrated for relationship with the Creator of all things. Yet, like the people Israel who were called out of Egypt , members of the Church, too, find themselves inextricably tied to the same culture of death from which God has freed them.

[I]n the desert the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, 'Would that we had died at the Lord's hand in the land of Egypt, as we sat by our fleshpots and ate our fill of bread!' Exodus 16: 2 - 3.

It is not surprising, then, that we find ourselves assuming secular attitudes and becoming confused about the true nature of sin. This confusion becomes deadly when we use it to justify our own sinfulness, or seek to "define away" the evil nature of sins that tempt us. This is nowhere more evident than in the confusion that some Christians experience about the true nature of pornography.

Young Christians struggle to live the demands of discipleship amid the pressures of the surrounding culture. This process of integration becomes more difficult in a culture which, over the last generation, has abandoned the virtue of chastity.

Spouses - especially husbands - striving to grow in the fidelity inherent in their marital vocation, encounter temptations to escape and seek false comfort in images and fantasies.

Priests and religious, having committed themselves to a chaste and celibate life, find themselves in the midst of a culture that views celibacy as an impossible and even unhealthy goal. In moments of doubt, they may reach out for the false comforts of impurity. Their failure is all the more grave because of the scandal it brings to the Church. Single men and women are distracted by these fantasies from their most important task of discerning God's call in their life. In moving from impure thoughts to images to actual sexual misconduct, they undermine the foundation of trust and fidelity required for future happiness.

No person living in our culture can totally separate himself or herself from the scourge of pornography. All are affected to a greater or lesser extent, even those who do not directly participate in the use of pornography. Yet if those who have given in to this vice were to answer honestly whether pornography made them happier or better persons, only the most dismissive would answer "yes." An honest assessment reveals that the use of pornography is debilitating spiritually, socially and emotionally.

Why then do so many give in to a temptation so obviously contrary to the good of the human person? At least in part, it is because of the doubt and confusion caused by the false arguments of those who justify this behavior.

It is to these false arguments that I will now turn before offering counsel.

Next Page: III. False Arguments
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