The Porn Epidemic and the Church’s Silence, Part I

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by Church Militant  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  February 23, 2019   

One man's lonely crusade

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By David Perata

About six months before the Pennsylvania grand jury issued their diocese victims report in August of 2018, I had two experiences with the Catholic hierarchy and clergy that left me scratching my head, and it wasn't dandruff.

As a Catholic author and speaker, in February of 2018, I mailed an information packet to 35 parish priests within the diocese of Sioux City, Iowa offering to deliver a presentation regarding the pornography epidemic that's been sweeping across our country. As a former pornography addict myself, I know the situation is a dire one. Millions of souls are affected by pornography every year. In the time that it took me to write these paragraphs, around 9,000 people typed the word "adult" into a search engine, at the rate of nearly 400 every second of the day.

Within the 40 million Americans who visit porn sites each year, there are an estimated 200,000 who are classified as "porn addicts." Particularly frightening are the over 100,000 queries related to child pornography. The median age for kids who first view porn is 11, but I've heard testimonies from recovered addicts who say they began at age eight.

So in light of the fact that the number of Christians viewing pornography virtually mirrors the national average, you'd think as I did: that priests would welcome an opportunity to educate their parishioners about this evil that is destroying lives and relationships at an alarming rate.

I received not one reply from any of the 35 priests. Not a one. 

I received not one reply from any of the 35 priests. Not a one. Not even a "thanks for asking." I had also contacted an officer in a Catholic women's organization, assuming she'd be more than willing to help fight against the abuse of women — silence. Even the press kit that I'd sent to the editor of our diocesan newspaper never saw ink.

This disturbed but intrigued me a great deal. Why total silence from all 35 priests? And the paper? And the woman's organization? It undoubtedly has everything to do with the subject matter.

The clergy's fear of offending parishioners by speaking about porn from the pulpit is often due to their own embarrassment, especially in today's climate. I once asked my spiritual director why priests don't address women's provocative attire at Mass. He said that it would create an ideological backlash from some of the women in the parish while inviting speculation as to why he was watching women at Mass.

And because pornography is so closely associated with masturbation, even younger parents are uneasy introducing the topic to their children. But kids are far less naive about pornography than their parents and grandparents. Access to internet porn is as easy as ordering a CD from Amazon — easier!

But it's this naiveté that allows porn use and addiction to flourish. That's why education is the best immunization. 


So it's no surprise that pornography is rarely addressed from the pulpit. But whenever a handful of brave priestshave spoken out, it's always been met with "it's about time" by their parishioners.

"Pornography is probably the greatest threat to the Church in its existence," stated author Josh McDowell in his book The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict. I think that most of us would have to concur with McDowell, considering how pornography is assuredly a dangerous component of what we've been seeing within the Catholic clergy of late.

If the silence that I'd experienced was in any way typical of parish priests across the country, then something is terribly wrong with how the Church disseminates critical information to its laity that is vital for the health of their souls. There needs to be a concerted, all-out Normandy invasion assault to defeat pornography.

I'm reminded of the polio epidemic that panicked the country when I was a kid. Between 1962 and 1965, roughly 100 million Americans (roughly 56 percent of the population at that time) were immunized against the disease. Can you imagine the challenge to distribute vaccines to 100 million Americans in a timely manner?

President Harry Truman in 1947 understood the concept of urgency when he said, "The fight against infantile paralysis cannot be a local war. ... It must be nationwide. It must be total war in every city, town and village throughout the land. For only with a united front can we ever hope to win any war."

It must be total war in every city, town and village throughout the land.

If you substitute the word "pornography" for "infantile paralysis," Truman sounds almost prophetic in that an epidemic is an epidemic — period. Any disease that accelerates to such massive proportions as to be classified an epidemic demands extreme and immediate measures to crush it.

Pornography education absolutely has to be dealt with at the parish level.

"The Sunday liturgy remains the basic setting in which most adult Catholics encounter Christ and their Catholic faith," states the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) document "Preaching the Mystery of Faith: The Sunday Homily."

The Sunday homily — bingo! That's precisely the way you educate the 39 percent of the laity that still attend Sunday Mass. It's the united front that Truman was talking about.

There are roughly 14,000 McDonald's stores in the United States. Can you imagine the distribution logistics involved in shipping hamburgers and fries to all of those outlets? By comparison, the Church has a little over 17,000 parishes strung out across the United States in pretty much the same way, minus the burgers.

The distribution infrastructure within the Church is already in place that has the potential to launch a campaign against pornography.

The USCCB is the corporate headquarters, with CEO Daniel DiNardo presiding over "district managers" in the form of bishops with thousands of "store supervisor" parish priests under his charge. So why isn't this being done?

Because the USCCB is notorious for acknowledging poor catechesis or tepid priest homilies or any number of other problem areas, and then doing little to solve the problem. It's like a joke with no punchline.

The big difference between a McDonald's and the USCCB is that corporations hire passionate and creative people to run their marketing departments who know how to sell a product on a grand scale. Is there anybody in the USCCB that meets these requirements? Undoubtedly, but out-of-the-box thinking is lost on inside-the-box people.

The U.S. Church should take some of the millions that they spend on predator claims and hire an outside firm to organize the distribution of pornography materials to the laity. Or maybe we should just send Ronald McDonald over to Cdl. DiNardo to give him a few pointers.

In Part II, I'll explain how the USCCB flat-out refused my parish distribution proposal, and describe how such a plan could be achieved.

David Perata is a Catholic author and public speaker who's currently working on a book detailing his pornography addiction.

 

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