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You walk by a man who is addicted to comfort, sensuality, and doing what feels good in the moment. Then, you walk by a man who is willing to offer his seat on the bus, is self-controlled, and aims for prudence and justice. Which man do you want your son to grow up to be? I will take a confident guess here that it isn’t the first.

The Impact Pornography Has On Vocations

Father John LoCoco, Vocations Director for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, shares how he has witnessed pornography affecting vocations.

“Ultimately, I think the average Christian has to really wrestle with the notion that we daily experience the effects of Original Sin. This state of Original Sin underscores all other sins, distorting and wounding our knowledge, our sense of truth, and our desire for God. There are many grave effects, but they could be best described as a “disordering” of our very lives. Indeed, we see handiwork of the Devil, don’t we? The Devil (Gk. diabolos) is drawn from another word which means “to split”, “to divide”. We are not whole. But the story does not end here! Christ has come to save us from death and suffering, yes, but also the disorder of our lives. 

The effect of pornography is twofold. When a young man who has been habitually struggling with pornography begins to discern a vocation, he can begin to feel unworthy and ashamed. It might even prevent him from truly taking the time to pray and discern this call. In this regard, the impact is quite serious. 

But I would say, more often than not, this sin (and really, any habitual vice or sin) can become a moment of great clarity, as the candidate begins to realize God’s saving power, His abiding love, and most especially, His providential plan for each one of us. Time and again, this is the mode of encounter, is it not? Christ embraces the sinner, heals them, and sends them forth. This moment of encounter and healing grace can have an incredible impact in the life of one discerning because they begin to see more clearly God’s love for them.”

Original Sin affects us all, priest, sister, or otherwise. As Father LoCoco writes, the sin of pornography is dividing. It keeps us from becoming whole. It may even keep us from prayer. Men and women must be people of prayer if they are to enter holy vocations. As children of God we must place ourselves before the love of the Father. Through His love and mercy, we can become who we were created to be. 

The Lies and Traps of Pornography/Rich Promises but Empty Results

Both men and women, boys and girls, struggle with the temptation and the consequences of pornography. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) writes that “what is presented as liberating, euphoric, and fulfilling ends up creating frustration, emptiness, and shame...Using pornography impacts the whole person, body and soul, and thus healing is needed for the mind, the emotions, one’s relationships, and the spiritual dimensions of the person.” If you want your son or daughter to grow up to be a well-formed individual, we’ll start with the preventative measures you can take to protect your children from pornography.

Protecting Our Children From Pornography

In order to protect children from becoming addicted to pleasure and prone to self-indulgence, we must do what we can to protect them from pornography. Once a child experiences porn, their focus turns towards repeating whatever they need to do in order to feel that same rush. The consequences of this begin with the distraction to “use” porn again. They continue by shifting their mindset to treat people as objects rather than unique individuals because their brain has been trained to consume, consume, consume.  When one grasps at immediate gratification they lack self-control, and are therefore not truly free. As Pope Saint John Paul II said, “There is no dignity when the human dimension is eliminated from the person. In short, the problem with pornography is not that it shows too much of the person, but that it shows far too little.” Father LoCoco writes,

“When a person habitually struggles with the sin of self-gratification and pornography a superficial analysis would simply note the sin of lust and move on. But as is the case for any person who struggles with any addictive tendency – alcohol, gambling, lust, gluttony, avarice, etc. – what is consider the object of their appetite is very rarely the primary focus. So, yes, this person suffers from these lustful tendencies but what they desire extends beyond to something deeper, emotional. There is a wound. They are seeking to heal that wound in a disordered way.

The man who seeks to conform his own life to that of Christ risks encountering his own woundedness because he has conditioned himself to seek instant gratification in moments of pain. That pain may be anxiety, stress, fatigue, or sadness; these are deep wounds. In our woundedness, we must seek Him. Only the Divine Physician can heal our pain, tend to our wounds, and set us back on a path of harmony and peace.

What is a good father but one who knows himself, knows his mission, and is prepared to live it? Rejecting our wounds risks distorting that view not only of Him but of our own brothers and sisters, especially those assigned as our flock.”

So what can we do to ensure that our children see the whole person and learn to run to the Divine Physician? LoCoco goes on to say, “Nemo dat quod non habet, in other words, ‘no one gives what they do not have’. If you want to instill this respect into your children, be sure to possess it yourself. Easier said than done! But go to confession frequently. Grow into the practice of a daily examen. And pray!” You are not alone. There are resources available to help you!

Resources at the Ready

Your entire family can participate in the Safe Digital Family Challenge. This seven-day challenge will enable you to see more clearly how the internet is affecting your children. It will also provide you with the tools to create a safer digital environment for everyone in your family. Just a few things you will learn during this week include how to protect your kids on YouTube, setting restrictions, the value of accountability, and how to prepare your kids for social media.

While the internet has its dangers, it is also an effective and helpful tool providing a variety of opportunities from education to communication. In order to equip your child for the shaky waters of the internet, you can download the ebook Equipped. This resource will be your guide to supporting you in teaching your children to say no to pornography, while also touching on important aspects that will allow you and your child to communicate about topics like their God-given identity and how to understand sexual shame.  

Research shows that 25% of teens have unintentionally stumbled upon porn while browsing the internet. In fact, 90% of boys and 70% of girls ages 13-14 admit to having accessed porn at least once in the last year. If you think your child has already viewed porn and may be forming an unhealthy addiction to it, Covenant Eyes offers a guide titled Confident: Helping Parents Navigate Online Exposure. This step-by-step guide will help you to face this scary and confusing time with strength and assurance. It offers a four-step process to help you discuss pornography with your child or teen, it even provides scrips for talking with your child about pornography in the light of biblical sexuality. You’ll have access to answers to commonly asked questions, as well as a plan to help you protect your home and your devices.

Finding Freedom Through Support and Accountability

Seeking freedom from pornography leads one to a life of fulfillment. In order to repair the neurological damage that pornography causes, the USCCB notes that support and accountability are needed. Covenant Eyes is here to provide that support and accountability.

Peter Kleponis is a Catholic psychotherapist who is educated in how to deal with sex and pornography addiction. He isn’t shy to speak about the effect porn has on one’s vocation. Pornography, he says, “can definitely impact the vocation. We wouldn’t want an active alcoholic or drug addict to become a priest; why would we want a sex addict or pornography addict?” He says that it is an impediment to vocation because it is an addiction which becomes all-consuming. Yet, if a young person has already been exposed to pornography, it is not too late to find help.

Father Sean Kilcawly is the Director of the Freedom from Pornography Apostolate in the Diocese of Lincoln, NE. In an article in the National Catholic Register, Father Kilcalwy recognizes that about 90% of young men have already viewed pornography. Seminaries are working to find a solution to this issue. One of the strategies they are using is

“...creating a requirement for seminarians to achieve nine months or a year pornography-free before they start the third year of seminary. A requirement such as this goes hand-in-hand with assistance provided at the seminary, such as the support of on-staff psychologists and tools such as an accountability software called Covenant Eyes.”

There are tools out there for you and your family. The Church is here to help, and support can be found through Covenant Eyes.

Resource
Ally Covenant Eyes

Covenant Eyes: Screen Accountability™

Description

Be the best version of you.

Covenant Eyes Screen Accountability is designed to help you live with integrity on your devices by sharing your activity with a trusted friend.

Audience: Adults and supervised minors 
Language: English
Resource Type: Software 
Cost: $16.99 / month.  

Susanna Parent is a freelance writer and Wisconsin native, who now begins her mornings brewing French press coffee in the home she shares with her husband and daughter in the Twin Cities. When the sun sets, you’ll find her with friends enjoying a glass of red wine, preferably outside underneath twinkly lights. When not exploring all that the Twin Cities has to offer, she is indulging her wanderlust spirit with her family and writing about it later.