Since this site is dedicated to Glorifying God in everything we do, instead of writing this month’s column, below is a sermon by Cardinal Justin Rigali on this topic. You can read more of his columns (& access lots more resources) at The Catholic Standard and Times.
I have also introduced a (permanent) link on the left column to Setting Captives Free, an online resource center where one can enroll for very pratical and biblical courses on how to permanently break free out of a variety of bondages.
I encourage everyone who desires to walk in the light to do a course relevant to your need and make a serious attempt with the grace of God to glorify God in your thoughts, body and every action.
“God created man in his image; in the divine image he created him; male and female he created them” (Gn 1:27).
From the beginning of time, man and woman had a deep sense that the human body is sacred. Created in the divine image, the body is to be treated with respect. The People of Israel particularly gave evidence to this. The reverence with which they viewed the act of sexual intimacy as well as the procreative aspect associated with sexual love set the Israelites apart from other cultures in the ancient world. Many of these other nations engaged in acts and fertility cults which profaned the gift of sexuality. At times, when the People of Israel strayed and engaged in practices common to the pagan cultures, the prophets quickly corrected them, calling them back to fidelity to their covenant with God.
In his mission to the Gentiles, Saint Paul had to confront many pagan practices, including rampant sexual immorality. Many parts of the ancient Mediterranean world were infamous for their debauchery. Among these was the port city of Corinth. Paul patiently and zealously proclaimed the Gospel to these people, many of whom desired a better life, a more moral way of living. Ancient Rome, the capital of the Roman Empire, was also noted for the depravity of many of the more privileged citizens. The message of Christ, a message of love and of hope, of sacrifice, simplicity and chastity, was a welcome message among those who were disheartened by the corruption of the Imperial court.
In his Letter to the Romans, Saint Paul wrote: “I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship. Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and pleasing and perfect” (Rm 12: 1-2). To the Corinthians, Saint Paul wrote: “Avoid immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the immoral person sins against his own body. Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been purchased at a price. Therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Cor 6: 18-20).
Pornography: pervasive and destructive
In the climate of our society today, we recognize an alarming degradation of the gift of sexuality. Our society is inundated with sex and sensuality largely from the media. Films, television programs, and advertisements are loaded with sexual reference as well as the promotion of sexual promiscuity.
One of the most pervasive and destructive problems in our society is pornography: graphic films, photographs, magazines, etc., which violate human dignity by the gross misuse of the gift of sexuality. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that “Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of the spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of the participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense” (no. 2354).
Pornography is a cancer upon contemporary culture. Addictive in nature, many have been entangled in its lure and have caused great psychological and emotional harm to themselves and even to spouses and other family members. Furthermore, pornography frequently has been the underlying influence upon the behavior of rapists and sexual predators. Violence, sexual abuse, psychological trauma and ruptured relationships are the fruit of pornography, which, astonishingly, is a multi-billion dollar industry.
The accessibility of pornography has increased in recent decades. Through home video entertainment, cable and satellite television, and especially through the Internet, people have easy access to pornography. It has been reported as well that a hand held device, similar to a palm pilot, is being marketed which will allow consumers constant and private access to pornography at any time and in any place. This is a great danger for children.
Internet pornography is especially insidious. The Internet has become such an important means of communication and information within most households, schools and businesses. However, through the Internet, access to and use of pornography has become even more widespread, addictive and harmful. Father Stephen Rosetti, a licensed psychologist who is President of Saint Luke Institute, in an article titled “Internet Pornography: Raising the Alarm,” wrote: “Internet porn is doubly powerful by combining the addictive nature of the Internet with the addictive nature of sex. … Internet pornography has a ‘Triple A Engine’ which fuels its use: Anonymity, Accessibility and Affordability. It appears anonymous because one can use it in the privacy of one’s office or room, and not visit an ‘adult’ bookstore. It is accessible 24 hours a day. And it is affordable: many sites are free although there are pay sites” (The Priest, February 2006). In the same article, Father Rosetti sites the tragic consequences of this type of addiction: divorce, loss of family, social life and employment. Minors also could have access to this corrupting influence. Furthermore, as Father Rosetti also notes, minors can become ensnared by Internet sexual predators.
Morality In Media
In opposition to the degrading and devastating impact of pornography, efforts have arisen to eliminate this terrible cancer from our society. Among these is Morality In Media, a non-profit organization based in New York. Morality In Media seeks to stop the pornography industry through constitutional means.
The quarterly newsletter issued by Morality In Media reports on the regular efforts to combat obscenity and provides testimony of those whose lives were damaged because of pornography. In the October/November/December 2005 newsletter, one man explained his addiction: “When I finished high school and was not so busy, I was drawn to pornographic videos that I could rent from stores in my hometown. The more I watched, the more I craved. What I did not realize was that day-by-day, I was creating an empty pit in my soul that could not be filled with anything that this world has to offer.” The testimony of that author captures succinctly the trap in which people fall when they become exposed to and addicted to pornography.
I commend the efforts of Morality In Media and other organizations which, recognizing the positive value of television, film and the Internet, educate the public on the dangers of obscenity and pornography. I encourage all of the faithful, especially parents, to be conscious of the dangers of pornography and to ascertain that pornographic web sites are not accessible by children and youth.
Our contemporary age has experienced a vast plunge into carnal satisfaction and sensuality. Yet we know that in contrast to these problems we proclaim a message of charity and chastity. Genuine love and respect for human dignity enables us to see beyond the allurements of what some may consider “beauty.” Rather, genuine beauty lies in the awe with which we view the act of sexual intimacy, a love that is both unitive and procreative, a love that mirrors the sacrificial love of Christ for His Church. In acknowledging the beauty of sexual intimacy in the permanent covenantal love of husband and wife, we come to understand how pornography is a grave offense against human dignity. The mystery and beauty of the human body, too, is a reflection of the mystery and beauty of the Creator. Conscious of this great gift which has been entrusted to each one of us, let us all live, love and act chastely, with deep reverence for the sacredness of sexuality that we may echo to our own age the profound sentiments of Saint Paul: “Glorify God in your body” (1 Cor 6: 20)!
June 8, 2006