n his book Dancing With A Shadow, Daniel Schaeffer speaks of the technique that the Eskimos have devised to catch and kill wolves. They plant a knife in the ice with the handle buried. Then they put chunks of fresh meat on the blade and let it freeze. The wolves would smell the blood from afar and come to devour it. As they lick the frozen meat, they work themselves into a frenzy. Soon they are cutting their own tongues on the razor-sharp blade. They slowly bleed themselves to death.
Self indulgence leads to self destruction. Always.
This is the simple truth. Pornography is a killer. And today it is even more deadly because the fire is smoldering inside our own homes and offices and hearts. In the past, sexually explicit material was available only in out of the way places. Now it is accessible on the internet which is present in most of our homes.
“Internet use can be a little like visiting the best theme park in the world and coming across a toxic waste dump” said the US Bishops.
The highest traffic on the Web is to pornography sites. This says something about lifestyle. It is a 12 billion dollar industry in the United States alone and the third largest revenue producer for organized crime
Yet many are still naïve and believe that pornography is just harmless fun and that it has no detrimental effects. “I am not harming anyone.” “Life is already hard – what’s wrong in releasing some pent up tension?” “I am just giving some pleasure to myself.”
A man might think he can cross sexual boundaries and then lock his failures in a secret comportment of his life. But secrets of the heart live closely to everything else that is important to us. “Keep your heart with all vigilance”, says the book of Proverbs, “for from it flow the springs of life.”
A loss of conscience results in a loss of transparency. Always.
“It perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other” says the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Pornography destroys our capacity for intimacy. Seeing women as objects of self centered pleasures has a dehumanizing effect that blinds us to their pain and happiness. It blurs the image of God that we share.
It is impossible to walk in the Spirit while we feed ourselves on the rancid food of pornography. “The desires of the flesh are against the spirit” says Saint Paul.
Pornography only creates problems in relationships. Porn induced fantasies cause husbands to become dissatisfied with their wives physical imperfections. And so many women begin to feel insecure and inadequate.
Pornography, continues the catechism “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.”
Yes, it costs more than we think. “Nakedness is not only for a piece of cloth”, Mother Teresa once said, “but nakedness is a loss of that dignity, human dignity: the loss for what is beautiful, what is pure, what is chaste, what is virgin. Loss.”
Pornography is sheer nakedness. It defaces our body, the temple of the Holy Spirit. A man who sacrifices his soul for pleasure diminishes his capacity for good. It slowly desensitizes us. It cools our spiritual zeal.
Unfortunately even some of our best men and women, troubled by their passions, give in to this temptation. Samson was a consecrated man to God from birth. His downfall started when he started dabbling with loose women. Self centered pleasure lasts for a moment, however memories and regrets can live for a lifetime.
Jesus was right. “But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matt 5:28).
We have to be sincere and admit it to ourselves. Pornography is highly addictive. It forms a habit. It necessitates increasingly graphic material to maintain its ‘thrill’. It immerses us in a terrible cycle of self absorbed pleasure, regret, shame and concealment. Viewed many times in secret, pornography creates deception within marriages.
The problem is bigger than us. We are all subject to feelings of loneliness, rejection, anger and foolishness. We all crave for intimacy in relationships and pornography provides a powerful, thoughtless illusion of that intimacy. As the same Catechism says “Pornography immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world.”
Reality is many times so hard that we prefer to live in a dream world. Fantasy is more manageable. But all is unreal and deceptive.
There is a way out. Confession to God is the first step. But we need more. We need also honest and appropriate accountability in order to start building boundaries and restraint back into our lives.
Everything seems impossible. But God exists. And so everything is possible.
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission is hereby granted for any non-commercial use, provided that the content is unaltered from its original state, if this copyright notice is included.