Addressing pornography, and all sexual sin, from the pulpit is definitely a daunting task. As priests, we stand in the tension between proclaiming the truth about the danger to souls posed by pornography and the fear of scandalizing those who are innocent.
Sometimes we can even fail to teach the truth because we fear teaching people to sin. However, we also must acknowledge the fact that we live in a pornified culture, and our young people are often not as innocent as we wish they were. When offering mass for teens and young adults, most of them will be grateful that you are acknowledging this problem and providing insight and resources to those who need help.
The Sunday homily, where small children are present is a different matter. However, if we approach pornography as a distortion of authentic love we can always proclaim the truth about what love is. In my experience, and that of many therapists with whom I have consulted, pornography addiction is not always about sex. People look at pornography when they are Bored, Lonely, Angry, Stressed, or Tired (B.L.A.S.T). It is the place they turn when they are feeling unappreciated, small, or threatened.
In other words it is their refuge in times of trial. This being the case, any scripture reading, collect of the mass, or responsorial psalm which refers to the Lord as a refuge is an opportunity to preach about pornography.
Refuge in Porn
“In you O Lord, I take refuge”. These words from Psalm 71 provide a roadmap for the act of faith. When I need shelter from life, the Lord is there for me. Lumen Fidei tells us that “faith is God’s free gift, which calls for humility and the courage to trust and entrust” (LF 14). When I entrust myself to Jesus, I surrender myself completely to him, knowing that He wants the best for me, and He becomes my refuge. There are many temptations against this act of faith. People today can take refuge in television, work, checking their email, playing Candy Crush, checking social media, and most dangerously—in pornography.
When talking about pornography from the pulpit I have found that calling it “the dark side of the internet” works very well. People will interpret it according to their own experience and age level, and anyone who needs to hear about pornography will understand immediately that this is what we are talking about.
Pornography is a distortion of relationships and love, so any homily on the positive aspects of communion and love easily serves to refer back to the same habits which isolate. I also recommend referencing pornography when preaching on the family.
A Fish, Or a Snake?
The first homily I gave on pornography (listen here) was based on Jesus’ words, “what father would give his son a snake when he asks for a fish?” It was easy to point out that an iphone is precisely a fish that turns into a snake. As a “fish” it is a tool that allows us to call our relatives, read the bible, download prayers and devotions, keep our calendars, and it even will help us find our way when we get lost. However, in a couple of clicks it becomes a snake: it robs us of time and community, and it provides access to the “dark side of the internet.” This was a great opportunity to remind parents of their role to safeguard their children online and I pointed to a couple of resources like Covenant Eyes. Feedback from homilies like this was very positive from both parents and their children. It was a great homily on pornography—but it never mentioned “pornography”.
Pope Benedict XVI, in an address to the pontifical council on the family said, “The new evangelization depends largely on the Domestic Church. In our time, as in times past, the eclipse of God, the spread of ideologies contrary to the family and the degradation of sexual ethics are connected.”
A Consistent Message
Pornography eclipses God. It takes the place of God in the lives of so many. This being the case, one very direct homily on the evils of pornography is insufficient. A consistent simple message about the truth and beauty of human and divine love which calls the faithful to constant conversion and surrender to Jesus Christ is needed to inspire change in our culture. Our plan at Integrity Restored is to continue to populate this site with example homilies and teachings tools that will support your mission of proclaiming Christ to the pornified culture. To listen to my homily click here.