two individuals for obscenity violations not related to children, and those involved extreme depictions of bestiality and scatology. Of course, the Republican majority that has controlled the House of Representatives since 2010 has also failed to offer any serious new legislation to combat the porn epidemic.
Catholic teaching is clear on the personal sinfulness of using pornography, of course, but it is equally blunt about its deleterious social effects, as well. One way or another, pornography violates each of the seven principal themes of Catholic social teaching (CST). By its very nature, porn is an assault on the life and dignity of the human person; it is directly opposed to the integrity of the family and the health of communities; it tends to anesthetize the moral sense, thereby leading users to abandon both the rights of others and their own responsibilities; it encourages the exploitation of the poor and vulnerable, especially through sex trafficking; it traps performers and other workers into lives of degradation; it violates the solidarity we should show toward all people, especially those who choose pornography out of despair; and by making the gift of sexual intimacy a cheap commodity it amounts to hatred of God’s good creation.
All this is true, and yet if you ask any priest, he’ll tell you that the use of pornography is one of the most commonly confessed sins among Catholic men. And that’s for those who actually avail themselves of the Sacrament! How much deeper the problem must be in the wider, secular community. In the end, we can and should legislate against the production and distribution of pornography. We can enforce the law by prosecuting violators. We can even work to restore the social opprobrium that used to attach to pornography and its use. But we’re facing a demand problem – it’s a buyer’s market all the way – and only conversion, one heart at a time, will begin to roll back the culture of porn.