Church teaching on pornography

Obviously the Church teaches that pornography is evil. What are some specific reasons for this teaching?

Those who defend the "free speech" rights of pornographers often present the Church's defense of purity as puritanical rather than pastoral. Defenders of this criminal enterprise pose as defenders of a true humanism, portraying Christian teaching on chastity as "anti-human." The Church is presented as hating the human body and so reacting against human nature. This lie has been restated so many times through the long history of the Church that many accept it as central to Christian thought. In fact, the exact opposite is true. The Church has always condemned a dualistic understanding of spirit as good and the body as evil. God created all things, both spirit and matter, and saw that all these things were good (cf. Gn 1). It is the resurrection of the body which is our hope, and our recognition of the body as an integral part of the human person is the foundation of Christian chastity. The Church does not pose an opposition of body and soul but rather the necessary completeness of both body and soul for a true and life-affirming wholeness. Far from denigrating the human body and treating sexuality as an evil thing, the Church affirms the sacredness of the body. Because of this sacredness, the marital act is recognized as having a sacramental and sacred character, which the Church seeks to protect. (Taken from Bishop Loverde's pastoral letter "Bought With a Price".)

Simply put, pornography is a grave offense that reduces what should be a beautiful union of two people into mere entertainment and, let us be clear, profit. Each person has human dignity, and pornography uses and manipulates all involved - those creating it become mere objects and those consuming it use their fellow humans. It is a cycle of mutual degradation.

Statistics seem to reveal that addiction to pornography is growing, thanks mainly to the Internet. Is the Church doing anything to combat this trend?

Never before have so many people - of all ages - been able to gain easy access to pornography. The temptations seem to find us - through pop-up ads, while channel surfing, etc. Therefore important technological controls like blocked channels on the TV and filtering on the web are important tools, especially for families. For example, we distributed via the Herald, our website and parishes, the booklet "Sex and Cell Phones: Protect Your Children," which gave parents and guardians information on shielding children from sexual content via their phones. Also, I wrote a pastoral letter, "Bought with a Price: Pornography and the Attack on the Living Temple of God," which has been distributed in English and Spanish.

Moreover, a national summit is being organized by pureHOPE (formerly called the National Coalition Against Pornography) and the Religious Alliance Against Pornography (RAAP), a subsidiary of pureHOPE, for April 13-14, 2011, at the Maritime Institute in Linthicum, Md., (near Baltimore). Entitled "Convergence: Uniting Leaders to Combat Sexual Exploitation in the Mobile Age," the summit's purpose is to assemble a diverse and influential group to address the social costs of the proliferation and normalization of pornography, including its increased accessibility through mobile devices and its role in driving demand for sex trafficking in the United States and across the globe.

Along with Cardinal William Keeler and Archbishop George Niederauer, I am a member of RAAP.

How would you counsel those within the diocese who may be involved in this industry?

I address several of the false arguments I often hear in regards to pornography in my pastoral letter, "Bought with a Price." But to those involved with the industry, I remind you that the intimacy you promise is illusory and false, the damage is real and permanent without the intervention of competent counseling.

What can the Catholic community do to prevent the spread of pornography in their neighborhoods?

We must ask our public officials to work to pass laws that contribute to a culture that respects the dignity of all citizens. I encourage them to contribute to the forming of a society that supports the life and the dignity of every person. We should not be surprised that we live in a culture that is in some ways repellent to Christian virtue - it was the same in the time of St. Paul. The most effective way in which we can combat this plague is by the witness we offer through our own lives.

Bought for a Price

Bishop Loverde's 2006 pastoral letter on pornography can be found at under "Bishop Loverde."

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2010