Reprinted with permission from
First Things, 4/26/16.
Something is afoot. "Porn and the Threat to Virility"
recently hit the stands not in the form of a religious
tractate, but on the cover of Time. Just days prior to that,
"Amoris Laetitia," Pope Francis decried the "flood of
pornography" and its pernicious spread which deform
sexuality. If you missed both Time and Pope Francis,
then perhaps you heard the news last week from Utah. The
state declared pornography a "public health crisis."
I hope that we have reached a turning point in the public
debate on pornography. So too, I pray that you and I enter
this debate with new resolve. The science is on our side, to
say nothing of our understanding of human dignity and
sexuality. If we stand back, I fear we will be complicit in
handing further victories to pornographers and sex
traffickers and those who would rather make our children
"guinea pigs" in a lucrative $95 billion a year industry.
In 2014 I republished "Bought
with a Price: Every Man's Duty to Protect Himself and His
Family from a Pornographic Culture," my 2006 pastoral
letter on pornography, because in my role as bishop, I have
come to understand just how great and increasing a plague
pornography is on families, individuals, the Church, and
indeed, our entire culture. Admittedly, pastoral exhortations
cannot, in the stroke of a pen, effect a policy change. But
by defining pornography as a "public health crisis", Governor
Gary Herbert and the people of Utah have taken a stand as
vanguard in this fight to protect our human dignity.
In fact, sometime in the coming week, I ask you to take this
simple phrase - "public health crisis" - into an examination
of conscience in order to better grasp your public role and
your health in meeting this unprecedented crisis.
Our Public Role
A nationwide conversation is taking place. First, each of us
needs to ask, "What is my role in advancing the argument that
pornography is a public health crisis?" For one person, it
may be circulating the Time cover story and putting it on the
agenda at the next school board or PTO meeting; for another,
the town council; others may put the topic on the agenda at
the workplace or the next Knights of Columbus meeting.
Wherever you advance this vital discussion, take courage. The
Utah resolution shows that the Church is not alone in
recognizing just how destructive pornography is. Not one of
the eighteen reasons enumerated in the Utah resolution is a
faith-based argument against pornography. The need to address
the health crisis created by pornography belongs to every
Pornography is a public scourge, but how does it affect my
health? Each of us must take this question to prayer. After
all, is it not considered "safe" and "private" by many? What
is the harm?
I think we are intelligent enough to realize that health is
more than just the well-being of the body. We are body, mind,
and soul. Our bodies are wondrous "temples of the Holy
Spirit", as Saint Paul reminded us. Referring to health as
made in the imago Dei, we are, in fact, speaking of mental,
emotional, spiritual, and physical health.
Examining our conscience in the arena of "health," we ask how
can broken marriages and the ensuing emotional damage be good
for the spouses or the children? The average age of first
exposure to pornography is now 11. A couple dating today now
needs to ask about each other's past or present porn use, and
his or her attitude toward it. Is this a healthy society?
It is about time that we as a nation finally admit to
ourselves that pornography is not some benign "entertainment"
that affects only those who use or produce it. In the era of
rampant second-hand smoke which I experienced as a young
adult, there were countless people who discouraged any effort
to define carcinogenic smoke as a "public health crisis."
Now in these early months of 2016, do we sense the first
winds of a new and unlikely springtime? Please God, we do!
Moreover may we, by God's grace, herald a new spring by
taking resolute, immediate steps to protect our marriages,
children and our public squares from a second-hand smoke of a
far more devastating and destructive consequence.
Follow Bishop Loverde on Twitter @Bishop_Loverde.