Pornography and fidelity

Parish Diary

Fr. Peter Daly

March 4, 2010


Fr. Peter Daly talks about internet pornography addiction.


            Years ago, when Jimmy Carter was running for president, he got in trouble giving an interview to Playboy magazine. In a moment of disarming honesty, he admitted that he had at times “lusted in his heart” after women. The press punished him for his honesty.

            President Carter is a Christian gentleman. He recognized the danger of a divided heart in marriage. He also understood “spiritual” infidelity.             The early 1980s of Jimmy Carter now seem like an age of innocence compared to the internet fueled pornography of today.

            Americans are “lusting in their hearts” and on line as never before.

            Teens are “sexting” by sending pornographic pictures over their phones.

            Adults are downloading horrible stuff on their home computers where their children and spouses find it.

            They don’t even have to go looking for it. It comes to them in pop-up messages and unsolicited e-mail.

            Pornography is not a new problem, but with the internet it is a growing problem.

            It puts people at risk.    They are at risk of losing their spouses, their jobs, their careers, and even their very souls.

            Ironically, they don’t even derive any pleasure from it. Internet pornography leaves them exhausted. As soon as they turn away from the screen, they feel worse. The word people almost always use when they describe their feelings is “drained.”

            It drains their time, their energy, and their bank accounts. It also drains their self respect and joy.

            All for what?  For an illusion.

            This is what we mean in the baptismal rite when we ask people, “Do you renounce Satan and all his false allurements?” Internet pornography is the classic “false allurement.”

            In recent years I have seen internet pornography make a train wreck of people’s lives.

            Marriages are ruined as husbands are unfaithful to their wives on line.

            Jobs are lost and careers ended as people use their employer’s computers at work.

            Military personnel and law enforcement officers are disciplined because of abuse of the internet.

            People even go to jail if they visit child pornography sites.

            Addiction to pornography even leads some people to depression and suicide. A psychologist recently told me that internet pornography is common in cases of depression and suicidal thoughts.

            This is serious business.

            The people who get caught up in this are often very good people in every other respect.

            Once I was interviewed by a federal agent regarding someone in the community.  After the interview he said, “You know Father, people are not always what they appear to be.” I smiled and answered, “You know, special agent, after 24 years of hearing confessions, I’ve come to suspect that might be true.”

            So what can we do? What should I do as a pastor?

            First we need to talk about the problem. This is a sin and addiction that thrives in secrecy and silence. If we talk about it, we break its power.

            Second we need to treat it like an addiction. For many people it is an addiction.

            We have groups for people addicted to alcohol and drugs. In every community we need groups for people addicted to pornography. There is already a net work of sexual addiction (SA) groups. We have to make a place to help people which will not at the same time put children at risk.

            Third, we need prayer. Jesus said that there are some demons that can only be exorcised by prayer. It should be mentioned from time to time in the prayer of the faithful.

            The problem of “lusting in our heart” is no longer a transitory temptation. It is a powerful presence on line which catches people in its “world wide web.”