As I enter my 6th year of intentionally addressing the pornography problem in parishes and schools, counseling couples with ruptured marriages, and equipping priests to better address this problem themselves, the utter truth of the words of the sixth beatitude ring ever more true. “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.” I am reminded every day of what Bishop Olmsted wrote in his pastoral letter to men, Into the Breech, “This is not a promise merely to be attained in Heaven! This is a promise to begin for us now, in our everyday lives.”
This promise is the real reason we exist. The pure of heart cannot see God. Pope Benedict XVI once wrote, “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.” With the degradation of sexual ethics comes an eclipse of God, an inability to see God, a kind of hopeless isolation. People often ask me, “Father, do you really like talking about pornography all of the time? My answer is, “No! I really like talking about Jesus. It’s just that in order to introduce someone to Jesus, we have to remove the obstacle of impurity. When we remove the obstacle of impurity, the concrete truth of this beatitude is self-evident.
There is the case of a man who after just two months of freedom from pornography who told me that his son spontaneously said to him, “I like the new Dad.” I like the new Dad—the Dad who is more emotionally present to me, the Dad who has more time for me, the Dad who notices me and responds to me, the Dad who loves me. “I like the new Dad” reveals the truth that the pure of heart do indeed see God, and they see Him now. The son was responding to the fact that his father was now free to love him, and the son was experiencing the love of God through the love of his Father. Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.
In another case, a couple was very involved in their parish and diocesan ministries. However, the husband was holding the secret that he had been addicted to pornography since his childhood. He had been involved in his parish men’s group which started the Exodus 90 program last year. Being in that program helped him to realize that he needed much more than the program had to offer, he had to get some serious help, and he would eventually have to come clean with his wife. He soon joined a Sexaholics Anonymous group, and found a counselor who was certified in sexual addiction treatment, disclosed everything to his wife and they started down the path to healing. With the help of a community, competent professionals, and a lot of grace they were able to return to their ministry roles after about a year. But now, the words they speak are spoken with more integrity than ever before. He no longer feels like a hypocrite, and she speaks about the passion, death, and resurrection of Christ from a profound place of experience and union with Christ. The gospel they proclaim is proclaimed loudest through the lives that they live. Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.
A priest came on one of our intensives to learn to better help his parishioners. However, in the midst of the intensive, he came to admit that he needed healing himself. The content helped to open him to the possibility of healing some of the wounds in his own life, and to take steps to live in a more integrated way. He, too, found some competent professionals and a community to walk with him. Six months later he sent me a short message, “I’m really looking forward to Masses this weekend, How is it possible that my life is this good? Thank you.” Following the changes he made in his own life, and the steps he made toward his own recovery, his parishioners and staff started to notice the change in him. Like the child I mentioned earlier, the parishioners were essentially saying, “I like the new Father.” Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.
I am a very grateful witness to the fruit of our apostolate which is always at the service of Christ and His Church. Our mission at its core is to remove obstacles so that the Face of Christ may be seen clearly by his Church. I ask your continued prayers for me, our ministry, and especially for all those who still live in darkness, that the love of God may break through each obstacle in their lives, that they truly come to live the beatitude which is most relevant at this time in history, “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.”