Boot camp tackles porn, relationships

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"We love the body. It's the temple for the Holy Spirit. The body is beautiful, and sex is beautiful when it's an expression of authentic love," said Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde Feb. 12 at the Mid-Atlantic Congress in Baltimore.

The bishop was responding to the secular criticism that Catholics are ashamed of or disgusted by the human body, specifically sexuality and sexual activity.

On the first day of the annual conference sponsored by the Association of Catholic Publishers and the Archdiocese of Baltimore, the Arlington Diocese hosted a "boot camp" on pornography. The presentation was called "Bought with a Price: Every Man's Duty to Protect Himself and His Family from a Pornographic Culture" - inspired by Bishop Loverde's pastoral letter by the same name.

After the bishop's brief remarks, Frank Moncher of Arlington Catholic Charities and Father Sean Kilcawley, director of the Office for Family Life and Evangelization in the Diocese of Lincoln, Neb., gave in-depth presentations about "understanding and confronting the plague."

Moncher explained that one of the main issues with pornography "isn't just about sexuality. It's a problem of relationships and relationality."

With the Internet, children are "trending toward earlier and earlier exposure" to pornography, which forms a "barrier to healthy and flourishing maturity." According to Moncher, pornography harms the viewer because of the interplay of bodily, interpersonal, volitional and cognitive factors. It can cause stress, negatively impact family and peer relationships, and form obsessive and distorted thoughts, among other problems.

An addict will make "sexual material a priority and an organizing principal," preferring to consume pornography over spending time with loved ones. Moncher cited the bishop's examples of the costs porn has on courtship, family life, business and industry, and society as a whole.

Describing pornography as "an issue of justice," Moncher said, "there is an urgent need to protect the precious gift of our children."

He added that the Catholic response should be "hope for the future," "spiritual assistance," "consultation with a pastor," "prayer" and "psychological assistance."

Father Kilcawley said that in order for addicts to be cured, "they must believe they are loveable." Some Catholic parents and educators may give children the impression that love is a reward for good behavior, whereas love should be a constant.

"There is no greater injustice than a 10-year-old who gets exposed to pornography," he said.

After giving a primer on the theology of love, Father Kilcawley gave the audience some pragmatic advice on how to teach children about sexuality and prevent them from finding pornography online. He said that parents are responsible for giving children "the talk" about the birds and the bees and should use child-friendly books, such as Good Pictures Bad Pictures, as an aid. He also recommended using the Web filter Covenant Eyes and setting children's cell phones so that they cannot download apps.

"(The app) Snapchat is sitting on a mountain of child pornography," he said.

Moncher holds a doctorate in clinical-community psychology from the University of South Carolina and was formerly a Medical College of Georgia faculty member. A licensed clinical psychologist in Virginia and Washington, his work has been published in several field publications.

Father Kilcawley studied at West Point and served as an infantry officer for three years before entering the seminary. Since his 2005 ordination, he has served as an assistant pastor and high school teacher and studied at the John Paul II Institute for Marriage and Family in Rome. He also serves on the board of the Integrity Restored Network, a nonprofit committed to helping Catholic families heal from the effects of pornography.

After Moncher and Father Kilcawley's presentations came a panel discussion, during which audience members asked about the new movie "Fifty Shades of Grey" - a film Bishop Loverde criticized for objectifying women and mocking love.

Bishop Loverde closed the three-hour session with a reflection and prayer.

"For those people who are struggling (with pornography), it's not too late," said the bishop. "They must give their consent to God and reach out for help. "

Stoddard can be reached at cstoddard@catholicherald.com.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015