Fr. Peter Daly
January 8, 2008
Oh the internet! It’s a blessing and curse.
It makes possible all sorts of things, some good and some bad. It has redefined how we talk about things, meet people, get information and pass our time.
It has isolated us and it has connected us.
As a parish priest, who has a pretty low opinion of high tech, I have been slow to learn or to use the internet. But it has changed our lives.
On the plus side, we can get information instantly. I can put a line from scripture into the search engine and get citations and commentary in seconds. I can find quotes and authors more easily than looking on my bookshelf.
This year we were thinking about starting a new program for the homeless. Our committee was able to research how programs are run in dozens of communities and cherry pick the best pattern. It was fantastic. In only a few days time they assembled a complete operational manual. The internet can be a great help.
On the negative side, the internet has been dangerous and sometimes ruinous to spiritual lives.
The worst thing that it has brought directly into our homes is a flood of pornography.
Twenty one years ago, when I first started hearing confessions, pornography addiction was not such a commonly confessed sin. Now I frequently hear it from people of all ages.
One new penance that I have been using in confession is an internet “fast.” “Go one day or two days without the internet for your penance,” is what I tell them.
Years ago people had to leave their homes and go to some sleazy store across town to get pornography. It was a danger in the red light districts of big cities only. Now it comes into people’s bedrooms and family rooms and studies everywhere.
The problem with this ready availability.
So now people, even timid people, who would not be caught dead buying something in public are down loading unbelievable filth that makes them miserable.
For young people this World Wide Web is a spider’s web that catches them and holds them in misery.
This is not a question of some occasional dalliance with some mildly erotic stuff. For some people it is a totally debilitating.
A few years ago I counseled a man who had gotten into this addiction. He was on disability so he did not work. Eventually he completely stopped leaving his apartment. He stopped talking to people. Once he had been a trim handsome young man. He gained weight and started living in real filth. So complete was his addiction he even cut himself off from his mother.
One night his mother tried to get him on the telephone. No answer. So she went over and entered his apartment with the help of the manager. He was dead, surrounded by piles of filthy pictures that he had downloaded or purchased on line. She called the police and the sheriff called me.
When I got over to the apartment he was already cold. He was lying there naked on the sofa surrounded by these horrible photos. I remember crying as I anointed him and said the prayers for the dead over him. What a sadness!
Most addictions are not that bad but the danger is there.
The internet is a tool, a powerful tool. But like any power tool, it can be dangerous.
It brings the world into our homes, good and bad.
It used to be that the dangers were out there. Now they are right in the room with us. Beware.