BALTIMORE (ChurchMilitant.com) - The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has written a document denouncing pornography and its harmful effects on society.
The document, named "Create in Me a Clean Heart: A Pastoral Response to Pornography," was approved at the general assembly in Baltimore by 230 votes to 4, with one abstention.
The bishops blasted what is known as the "pornography epidemic," with Bp. Richard Malone of Buffalo, New York calling the proliferation of pornography a "crisis" that threatens marriages and treats people as "disposable objects" rather than as children of God. "Virtually everyone is affected by pornography in some way," he said.
"The audience of this statement is broad because pornography affects so many people's lives and requires a collaborative, concentrated effort by all of us to counter its harms," the document says.
Citing Pope St. John Paul II's teaching on the theology of the body, the document goes on to say:
Because of the beautiful meaning and dignity communicated by our bodies — which communicate our very selves — our bodies should be treated with the greatest respect. We, and therefore our bodies, are not meant to be used but loved.
Pornography is proven to have many adverse effects on the body and the mind, as well as effects on how its consumers view themselves and the opposite sex. One study found that when men participating in the test were exposed to pornography, they rated themselves as less in love with their spouses or girlfriends. Another showed that men viewed their partner's physical looks more critically, among other things.
Given that pornography is also addictive and rewires the brain to crave and become dependent on it, it is no wonder why the bishops have written a pastoral document on the need to fight against it.
"The damage it causes to oneself, one's relationships, society and the Body of Christ needs healing. Pornography can never be justified and is always wrong," the bishops proclaim in the document.
The document ends with statements of love and compassion for those trafficked into the porn industry, a message of hope and invitation to confession for those addicted, and a strong rebuke to those in charge of the industry.
"The Lord, in His great mercy and justice, is calling you to turn away from your sins and follow Him. Christ is passing by: Do not wait to change your life," the document counsels.
The letter exhorts those who struggle with pornography to lean on Christ, Who is always with them, and to never lose hope, encouraging them to look to the lives of the saints as role models.
To learn more about the effects of pornography on individuals and relationships, watch our program Mic'd Up: Fifty Shades of Black: