Father Leonard Peterson
From time to time I experience writer’s block when I sit down to string some thoughts together each month that just might be of service to you. So I turn to those good folks who happen to have read a piece or two of my composing. I often ask them for ideas.
One such instance happened recently along the sidelines of a Saturday morning football game featuring our parish youngsters. A good gentleman asked if I would address the topic of Internet pornography. I considered the good character of my idea man, and I decided to give it a try.
In my sacramental experience, the matter has been largely but not exclusively a male problem. Likely there is a psycho-sexual explanation for this, for which I am not qualified to comment. What I can say with some certainty is that this is yet another form of addiction. Like those caused by alcohol, drugs, gambling and food, this addiction is best conquered first by humble admittance. This is followed by reliance on a “higher power,” whom I would prefer to call “Our Lord.” Short of these two, failure results.
As my sideline idea man rightly commented, years ago an adolescent boy, with hormones raging, would hide his treasured copy of a girlie magazine under the tee shirts in his bureau drawer. Mom would inevitably find it and know for sure that her offspring’s childhood was over. Now such subterfuge is unnecessary because that whole sordid world of exploitation is available at the touch of a button.
Aside from its newfound convenience, along with a pervasive and permissive atmosphere, the chief evil of all pornography remains.
Pornography makes a commodity out of a person. A person (man or woman) becomes a pleasure object, of no greater value than an iPod or a golf game. As a male problem, pornography completely ignores the fact that God looks upon women as equal to men in their inherent value.
Is there proof of this? Certainly. All those beautiful scenes in the Gospel line up to put God’s outlook on display. Every time Jesus takes a counter-cultural stance in the male dominated culture of His time is a powerful sermon without words. Recall in John’s Gospel Our Lord’s startling chat in the noonday sun with that Samaritan woman at the well. Jesus may have shocked His disciples when they came back with lunch that fateful day because of what their culture taught them. But Jesus didn’t care so much about their dismay as the Spirit cares that we learn from His action.
His manly but gentle treatment of the woman caught in adultery is more evidence. Matching both of those was His Easter Sunday appearance to Mary Magdalene, whose joy met male skepticism when she first broke the news.
Capping all of that, however, was that prior spanine decision to become one of us for our salvation through the womb of a woman. It is she whose beauty is forever the fruit of her holiness: Mary our blessed Mother. This beautiful month our Church dedicates to her.
There is no doubt that pornography springs from a diabolical mind that is perennially at war with the Word.
In an everyday manifestation of how evil strikes, I remember from years ago how my high school students would ask me how they were to judge whether or not a TV show or movie was OK to watch. (They already knew, but it was a device to get me off the curriculum outline.) I would tell them to imagine how they would feel if Our Lord walked into their family room or local theater and sat down next to them. Would they be comfortable or ashamed? The classroom grew silent.
As a confessor, I have counseled penitents to take a prayer and practice approach. Work on the computer in a more public part of the home. If they’re at work, keep the office doors open. To amend for time stolen from their employer, put the amount of the cheated salary into the offertory basket or the charity jar at the convenience store counter. If the problem persists, find a support group. If not, start one.
I do not intend to be glib or dismissive of this growing phenomenon, but there is limited space here to do justice to the subject. I am sure that there is a profit motive for the purveyors of porn. Otherwise they would quit. The more important decision here is for current users to profit spiritually from the same decision to quit from an altogether different motive.
Father Peterson is pastor of St. Maria Goretti Parish in Hatfield.