Many of these books have romantic or even explicit content.
Church Militant spoke to a priest who wished to remain anonymous, who said there is a conscientious effort to desensitize children and young adults to what is outright wrong. The constant barrage of gay or transgender stories in books and media is an attempt to normalize those behaviors that "our conscience sees as grossly unnatural," he said.
"If we want our youth to be formed in the good, it's not by normalizing the bad — or perpetually exposing them to the bad," the priest added.
"Our intellect is meant for the good," he said. He also recalled humanity's fallen nature and said by reading bad books and media, bad thoughts can enter our subconscious and "can awaken illicit desires in our hearts and nourish them."
"We shouldn't be surprised if we start to desire those things we are reading," he noted.
The doctor of the Church St. Alphonsus Liguori wrote in an appendix to Theologia Moralis, "Just as holy reading can foster virtue, perverse reading urges us into vice; and more strongly so, since men are more naturally inclined to vice than to virtue."
The Catholic Church, under Pope Paul IV, published an Index of Prohibited Books in 1559 that remained in place to protect public morals until 1966. The Index of Prohibited Books came under attack during St. Alphonsus' life, and he wrote his treatise to defend "the necessity of prohibiting all books that can lead readers into error."
Like most of the great heresies, St. Alphonsus noted that the romance genre was created by a bishop — Heliodorus, a bishop of Trikala in Thessalia, who was ordered by a provincial synod to either burn his work our renounce his office. St. Alphonsus wrote, "He preferred to relinquish his office than to destroy his work."
Saint Alphonsus notes that "impious writers disguise their poison" with great care and attractive style. He quotes St. Gregory who said, "The heretic mixes together truth with perversity in his speech, so that, by exhibiting good things, he captures the goodwill of his audience; and by giving out the bad, he corrupts them with hidden errors."
Saint Alphonsus also urges us to "avoid the society of heretics." He says this admonition is written in both the Old and New Testaments. He quoted St. Cyprian who said, "Do not easily give ear to deceptive words, lest you mistake shadows for light … poison for medicine, death for health. … Keep yourselves far from these men's contagion, and avoid their conversations as if you were fleeing a cancer or the plague."
The effect of keeping bad company is also supported by scientific research. Doctor Michelle Cretella, the executive director of the American Academy of Pediatrics, explained there is decades of research backing up the fact that the behavior of children and adolescents is influenced by all forms of media — including books, radio, TV, movies, the Internet and social media.
"There is absolutely zero debate as to whether this is true regarding smoking, drugs, alcohol, sexual activity and violence," she said.
"Only in regard to the politically charged issue of LGBT identification is the public supposed to believe that socialization both within the family and greater society has no impact upon child and adolescent development," she said. "This is breathtakingly naïve and unscientific."
"The exponential increase in the numbers of trans-identifying children, from preschool through adolescence throughout the Western world, is only adequately explained by a social contagion phenomenon," she said.
A recent Brown University study found that rapid-onset gender dysphoria can be instigated through social contagion. They found with a well-loved adult or one of a close-knit group of friends "came out," other friends started to experience gender dysphoria as well.
The study found when these gender-dysphoric children were removed from the group, they once again embraced their birth gender and the dysphoria disappeared.
Another recent study in the United Kingdom found a 4,000-percent increase in the number of kids identifying as transgender over the past decade. Even the secular media reporting on the study noted that the promotion of transgender issues has "sown confusion" in children and worse yet, has "become an industry."
Licensed psychologist Dr. Laura Haynes also agrees that there is research supporting the idea that social environment can influence sexual orientation for some people.
"Hanging out with an LGBT social group versus a heterosexual social group or having same-sex relationships versus heterosexual relationships may contribute to shaping attractions and behaviors for some people," Dr. Haynes said.
She went on to explain that everyday choices indirectly influence behavior, including what we read and watch.
"Experiences in fantasy, not only reality, may influence who we become," she said.
Haynes noted a decade-long study by Lisa Diamond, a psychologist and a lesbian, who has been outspoken in blasting the "born that way and can't change" lie. She said sexuality is fluid and changeable. Haynes described the results of the study:
For women who could go either way, their sexual attraction and relationships were shaped by whether they hung out in an LGBT or lesbian social group or a heterosexual social group and whether they had relationships with women or men. Two women who were equally same-sex attracted and strongly so at the beginning of the study could wind up in very different places 10 years later. One may have settled down with a woman and the other would be happily married to a man. What made the difference? One stayed in her lesbian social group and had relationships with woman, while the other woman left her LGBT social group in college and went out into a male dominated career, so she had relationships with men. If these women reversed their social environment and experiences, they might start their attractions and behaviors moving in the opposite direction.
This research shows that people struggling with unwanted same-sex attraction or gender dysphoria should avoid associating with people that are affirming and encouraging them to act on the feelings. The priest noted that keeping bad company is linked to the occasion of sin that we are admonished to avoid.
He explained, with a bit of sadness, that priests "are in the trenches" and see the destruction in the lives of those living the active homosexual lifestyle experience first-hand. He said they have to help people overcome the self-loathing, substance abuse and crippling depression those who are living a life contrary to God's will are suffering from.
"You only have to remember that priests hear it all in confessional," he said.