What can priests practically do to combat the porn epidemic?

What can priests practically do to combat the porn epidemic?

Online pornography is one of the fastest growing addictions on par with cocaine and gambling. Once confined to the pages of a smuggled Playboy magazine, pornography can now be in the hands of anyone with a smartphone, and is more prolific and anonymous than ever. Probably the most common place a priest will first find out about a pornography addiction is in the confessional.

BY MARY REZAC (CNA / EWTN News)

PORNOGRAPHY used to be a simpler problem for priests to address in the confessional – consecrate yourself to Mary, go to weekly Adoration – [however] the growing level of addiction makes it a much more complex problem for the Church to address.

That’s why Fr. Sean Kilcawley, the program directory and theological advisor for pornography ministry Integrity Restored, has started to put on intensive trainings for clergy, providing them resources and practical tips for how to address the growing crisis of pornography addiction.

“We try to equip the priest to get that person to come talk to them outside of confession, just to bring that into the light, so that the priest can then become the first responder in the field hospital of the Church.” – Fr Kilcawley

Preventative action: Stopping porn addictions before they start

Ensure that the parents of the parish are being provided with education and resources they need for pornography prevention in the home.

Parishes should hold mandatory meetings for parents of children who are either receiving the sacraments or religious education at the parish, where they can give parents an overview of Theology of the Body, as well as tips and resources for internet safety and how to address pornography.  

“Practical things priests can do to address pornography addiction generally fall into two categories: preventative and interventional.” – Fr Kilcawley

Recommended resources

‘Good Pictures Bad Pictures’: a read-aloud picture book that helps parents address the issue with very young children.

‘Wonderfully Made! Babies’: Starting at the 4th grade level. It puts the content within the context of theology of the body and the sacrament of Marriage

‘Plunging Pornography’: A book to leave in the bathroom for teens to find that can serve as a conversation starter.

‘Covenant Eyes’: An internet filter which sponsors a special service for parents, parishes and schools.

Interventional: What to do about those who are already addicted

“Most people who are stuck in addiction, they need a support group, whether it’s a 12-step group like Sexaholics Anonymous or a spiritual support group, where they are open and vulnerable and accountable about their lives. They need that, plus a counselor, plus a spiritual director that they’re working with regularly,” Fr Kilcawley said.  

Thou shalt not: The don’ts of porn ministry with Dr Todd Bowman, Christian Psychologist

The biggest cardinal mistake that clergy can make in regards to pornography addiction ministry is never mentioning it, Dr. Bowman said.

A mistake often made by untrained clergy in pornography addiction ministry is that they may suggest, explicitly or implicitly, that a pornography addiction is the fault of the spouse.

“It’s not the spouse’s lack of sexual interest that’s to blame for her husband’s sexual addiction,” Dr. Bowman said.

Addicted persons will often try “blame shifting,” he added, which creates “a spiritual crisis that compounds the betrayal trauma” of the spouse.

Not a fringe ministry – this is evangelization 101

It may be helpful for priests to view this as part of evangelisation, and not as a fringe ministry, Fr. Kilcawley said, because very likely, someone who is stuck in addiction is unable to have a good relationship with the Lord.

“Most people who are stuck in addiction believe they’re unlovable, and that if people really knew them they would reject them, and they don’t trust other people to meet their needs and so they have to meet their own needs, and their addiction is the best way to meet their need,” Fr Kilcawley said. “So if someone has those core beliefs, they can’t really know our Lord.”

“So anti-pornography work and anti-porn apostolates, they’re really the first stage of evangelization.”

Both Dr. Bowman and Fr. Kilcawley said they hope that increasingly, priests become aware of the urgent need to reach pornography addicts in their pews.

“We live in a culture where statistically, about half of Christians report looking at porn at least monthly,” Fr. Kilcawley said.

“So if that’s the case then, yeah we need a lot more (pornography ministry). It’s not a ministry for a few people, it’s more of a ministry for everyone.”

Random statistics about pornography

PornHub, one of the world’s largest sites with porn video streaming, reports that it averages 75 million viewers per day, or about 2.4 million visitors per hour. In 2015 alone, the number of hours streamed from the site was double the amount of time human beings have populated the Earth, according to TIME Magazine. Studies show the average age of first exposure to pornography is eight years old – and any kid with access to a phone or a tablet could accidentally stumble upon pornography.

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