As I write this blog post on the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, the words from the inaugural homily of John Paul II ring loudly in my heart. “Be not afraid…open wide the doors to Christ . . . Christ knows the heart of man, only He knows.”
In this post, written especially to my brother priests on this most precious feast day, I offer words of encouragement as we all strive to proclaim the gospel to the modern world.
Be not afraid! When we consider the world we live in today, we know that the lives of many of our young people, married couples, and parents of young children are being torn apart by internet pornography. This is not a new phenomenon, but increased access over the past decade has facilitated a wide spread epidemic of early exposure (as early as 7 in my experience), ruptured marriages, and addiction.
In a recent talk given by a campus minister at a very active Newman Center, he estimated that 90% of the “really good guys” have a pornography problem.
Sexualized cyber-bullying is on the rise—even in our Catholic Schools, and statistics are showing that this is a problem for young girls as well as young boys today.
Be Not Afraid . . . To Speak About Pornography.
Many people ask me, “Father, why don’t more priests talk about this?” As I reflect on my answer, I can’t help but say that the evil one is a master strategist.
In 2004, I was in my third year of theological studies and the clergy sexual abuse crisis was in full swing. Many considered this a great attack on the Church, and it was. However, to use a military analogy, as I look back now it seems that the evil one was simply “prepping the objective.” The sexual abuse crisis is like an artillery strike that is able to take out anyone who is not properly prepared for attack. It took out many priests and financially crippled dioceses. But the most damaging effect is that is provoked other good priests to “take cover.” To go into their bunkers for fear of being hit.
In those bunkers there was a great fear to talk about two things: kids and sex. So, who in their right mind would think to talk about kids looking at porn? Then came the attack. After an artillery strike the ground troops come in. They came in the form of iPod and high speed internet. By 2007 the “smart phone” became the one device we needed for everything. By 2010 smartphones were being marketed to kids. Today a vast majority of children have a mobile device that can access the internet by the time they are in junior high school, and those devices are delivery systems for pornography. It’s an X-rated theatre in their pocket.
Be Not Afraid to Educate Your Parents!
Sometimes we are reluctant to educate parents because we do not share in natural parenthood. However, as priests, we are fathers of a parish family. As spiritual fathers our role (like that of natural fathers) is to lead, protect, and provide for the spiritual good of every family in our parish. Therefore, it is our duty to educate parents about the danger that the internet poses to our children. It, in fact, is a work of mercy to “admonish the sinner” and point out occasions of sin. Even a minimal amount of education, like showing all parents the Unfiltered workshop from Covenant Eyes, will start to break down fears and taboos around talking about pornography and sexual sin. It gives permission to parents to approach you and ask for help when they do not know what to do.
Be Not Afraid…to Collaborate With others!
Sometimes our own pride keeps us from addressing issues. There are experts in your local area that are willing to help you out. Find out if there are Sexaholics Anonymous groups in your area and contact them to see who you might make referrals to. One of the most valuable things I have done has been to “cold call” local counselors and ask them if they are experienced with sexual addiction counseling.
Finally, be not afraid to seek help yourselves!
Recent surveys show that over 50% of pastors have looked at pornography within the past year. Although this statistic includes all denominations, it would be naïve to think that we, priests, are any different. Jesus Christ has chosen you! He loves you! And His mercy is for you, not just for your people. If we are to be ministers of mercy, we must not be afraid to seek His mercy for ourselves. There are many tools available to assist you. There are good counselors who will set up phone meetings. There is a brotherhood of priests waiting to welcome you. Be not afraid of Christ’s mercy!
If you have specific questions about how to help others, or would like to get in touch with me, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will get back to you as soon as possible.