Bishop’s letter on pornography still relevant

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It's been eight years since Arlington Bishop Paul S. Loverde issued "Bought with a Price," his pastoral letter on pornography. In 2006, the bishop called pornography a plague that "stalks the souls of men, women and children, ravages the bonds of marriage and victimizes the most innocent among us."

Public reaction to the first release was positive, with hundreds of letters and emails from clergy and individuals around the country.

"I would like to take a few moments to express my sincere thanks for the time and thought you put into writing 'Bought with a Price,'" wrote a man from Louisiana, who went on to form a small group of men to study the bishop's letter.

A Nebraska man wrote: "I am writing to express my immense gratitude to Bishop Loverde for writing this hard-hitting, methodical and truly pastoral letter regarding the issue of pornography."

But in the years since the letter's release, studies suggest that pornography use is as pervasive as ever. According to Covenant Eyes, an Internet accountability software company, the porn industry generates $13 billion each year in the United States.

The updated pastoral

"Since the scourge of pornography not only continues but, in fact, is intensifying within our culture, I thought it best to reissue my earlier pastoral letter 'Bought With A Price,'" said Bishop Loverde. "However, this reissuance now has additional resources and takeaways plus a study guide and a plan of life. All these are designed to assist better anyone who is struggling and seeking to be freed of this pervasive enslavement."

Matt Fradd speaks around the country about the evils of pornography for Covenant Eyes and was asked to write the foreword for the new edition.

In a phone interview, Fradd said that the bishop's letter "was articulate and compelling. It was an honest look at the problem."

When Fradd was 8 years old he happened upon a relative's hoard of porn in a shed.

"It's almost quaint," he said, comparing his experience with the availability of online porn now. "The Internet made porn accessible, anonymous and affordable. Use skyrocketed."

In his foreword, Fradd writes, "This new edition of 'Bought with a Price,' then, could not have come at a more critical time."

"Never before have so many Americans been so tempted to view pornography," writes the bishop. "Never before have the accountability structures - to say nothing of the defenses which every society must build to defend the precious gift of her children - been so weak."

As in the original, the bishop goes on to detail the false arguments often given for calling pornography harmless as well as ways for people to curb the use of pornography. A helpful addition in the new version are takeaways - important points to remember in a section - and suggestions on how to act on the takeaway.

For example, "The sacraments, prayer, and authentic friendship are essential weapons against pornography and all serious sin," writes the bishop. He shows readers a way to make that happen. "Look for a men's or women's group, Bible study, or prayer group to join so that you can be supported as a disciple and, at the same time, support other disciples."

In his conclusion, the bishop writes that we are at a threshold. We can continue to let pornography spread, or we can take steps to stop it.

The new version of the pastoral letter includes a color-coded study guide for use by individuals, parish groups and parents. The guide suggests questions that can assist groups in applying the takeaways, practices and tools found in the letter.

There is also a "plan of life" included that guides people in achieving a pure life. The suggestions include daily prayer, weekly Mass, and retreats and pilgrimages. There also are technical solutions for porn addiction that include installing filters and a monitoring system on your computer.

Interest beyond the diocese

Interest in curbing the use of pornography is reaching beyond the Arlington Diocese. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is tackling the problem too. Bethany Meola, assistant director of the Secretariat of Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, said that the USCCB is working to produce a statement on pornography with an anticipated release date of November 2015. She said the work will be similar in tone to the 1992 pastoral statement "When I Call for Help: A Pastoral Response to Domestic Violence Against Women." Meola said the USCCB is working with the Religious Alliance Against Pornography of which Bishop Loverde is a member.

Rick Schatz is the former president of Pure Hope, an ecumenical group whose mission is to "equip individuals, families and churches to pursue sexual purity and oppose sexual exploitation."

Schatz received a review copy of the bishop's pastoral letter and was excited about what he read.

"I think it's absolutely terrific," he said.

Schatz said it was positive, thorough and had a breadth of perspective.

St. Joseph, the foster father of Jesus and head of the Holy Family, has a prominent role in "Bought with a Price."

The bishop asks all men to look to St. Joseph as an example of purity and to turn to him for strength in the battle against pornography.

"Bought with a Price" will be distributed at the March 8 Arlington Diocesan Men's Conference at St. Joseph Church in Herndon. There will be a Kindle version available on

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2014