Participants at St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Springfield, listen to a talk Jan. 8 on the spread of pornography and how to combat it. (Photo by Dan McCarty)

Pornography is affecting children and adults alike today, and to try and combat this ongoing issue, St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Springfield hosted a discussion Jan. 8 titled “Be Informed: How to Protect Our Kids in the Internet Age.”

Father Allen Hoffa, pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Summit Valley, Pa. in the Allentown Diocese, spoke about the pervasiveness of pornography and how one can be more equipped to nurture today’s children in what can be a dangerous digital environment.

The evening began with eucharistic adoration followed by the talk, a question-and-answer session and time for private confessions.

For the past three years Father Hoffa has been involved with the Lumen Christi Commission, a diocesan response to the issue of pornography. He is a speaker for Integrity Restored, an outreach whose mission is to inform, educate and engage those affected by addiction to pornography.

“Porn affects so many people in different ways,” said Father Hoffa. “It’s a threat to everyone, regardless of age or gender.”

He might not have made his way to Springfield had it not been for Rob Longo, co-founder and president of Stewardship: A Mission of Faith and a former member of St. Francis, his home parish. His organization offers a number of Christian ministries including Integrity Restored.

Father Allen Hoffa (Courtesy of Facebook)

Father Hoffa opened up the evening with the prayer of St. Michael the Archangel, which includes the words, “Defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil.”

“Pornography is affecting every person throughout the world,” said Father Hoffa.

The priest said when he was working in high school ministry he used to worry about drama – the ordinary problems of teenagers — but now he is concerned about trauma that comes from exposure to pornography.

He saw how it affected young people’s relationships, but in time he also saw how porn affects everyone. By joining Integrity Restored, he has helped make a difference in the lives of those struggling with porn.

“God has called you here, not just you and those you came with,” Father Hoffa said. “Christ calls you to share the good news with others.”

Pornography is a drug of choice, one that is affordable and even free, he explained. It’s also easily accessible, especially with cellular phones. Therefore its usage is increasing: 90 percent of boys use it before they turn 18 as do 60 percent of girls. The average age for one’s first exposure to this drug is 8 or 9.

Many adults also consume porn, particularly if they use a computer in their work. Father Hoffa said 79 percent of adults ranging from 18-30 years old use porn, as do 67 percent of those between 31-49. Additionally, 49 percent of those in the 50-68 range use it. Having the world at one’s fingertips can make it tempting to take a look at pornography.

“It’s every age,” Father Hoffa said. “Everyone is susceptible.”

Where does it come from? TV, movies, the Internet, video games, social media and cell phones all provide access to porn.

Through sources as diverse as TV, movies, the Internet, video games and social media, and easy access through cell phones, people consume porn and engage in personal conversations with sex workers.

It all invites damage to numerous lives, damage that may result in severe depression and social anxiety. Many people do not get help and ultimately they suffer in silence, which can turn into another problem: sometimes those active in their addiction — to pornography as much as to drugs or alcohol — act out when they are hungry, tired, lonely, angry, bored and/or stressed.

Getting help when one is in the grips of porn addiction is essential, according to Father Hoffa, as is an ongoing determination to protect oneself from porn.

“We have to be vigilant,” said Father. “We have to be about the good.”

St. Francis of Assisi parishioners discuss the talk Jan. 8 by Father Allen Hoffa, ““Be Informed: How to Protect Our Kids in the Internet Age.” Rob Longo, second from right, organized the event at the parish as part of the Integrity Resorted ministry that he leads. (Dan McCarty)

When it was time for questions and answers, Longo asked how grandparents may be involved in protecting their grandchildren. Father Hoffa explained how just this past Advent, the grandmother of a 14-year-old girl came to him expressing concern for her granddaughter. He recommended she speak to her own child, the granddaughter’s parent, and advised her to read the book “Wonderfully Made! Babies,” a Catholic perspective on procreation, and share it with the girl’s parents.

“We can’t go by generalizations,” said Father Hoffa. “Grandparents should get themselves educated and speak to their own kids.”

Many people had thoughts that they wanted to talk about privately, so two priests were available for the sacrament of penance.

Father Matthew Tralies, parochial administrator of St. Francis Parish, was on hand along with Father Richard Smith, a seminary classmate of Father Hoffa’s, and parochial vicar of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Morton.

Ellen Giordano, author of “Wonderfully Made! Babies,” attended the event and offered copies of her book. As a mother of five, she wanted to find a book to read to her children that explains how God makes babies. After reading so many books on the Theology of the Body, she decided to write one of her own.

“I’ve heard people find it wonderful,” said Giordano. “A mom read it to her 11-year-old daughter who didn’t know God had anything to do with making babies.”

Paul and Danielle Gallagher of St. Pius X Parish in Broomall came out to hear about the topic. As parents of four, they found the evening to be quite educational.

“It was very engaging,” said Danielle Gallagher.

Participants in the Jan. 8 event at St. Francis of Assisi Parish, Springfield take time for eucharistic adoration before listening to Father Allen Hoffa’s presentation, “Be Informed: How to Protect Our Kids in the Internet Age.”