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Addicted to porn but still worthy of love: The Church is key to spreading this message

MAN,CHURCH,PEWS
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Carrying the message of love and forgiveness of the Savior, the Church has a particularly important role in fighting this scourge.

The Church, carrying the Savior’s message of love and forgiveness, has a role to play in confronting pornography.

On November 29, 2018, at the inauguration of the first congress at the Vatican on addictions and drugs, organized by the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, I.MEDIA interviewed Tebaldo Vinciguerra, an official of the dicastery and co-founder of the association Puri di Cuore (“Pure of Heart”), which works with family associations and Church organizations on the issue of pornography and the addiction it creates.

This expert says the Church has a role to play in keeping porn addicts from feeling “imprisoned, unworthy of being loved.”

What is the situation regarding pornography addiction in the world?

In a few words: More and more people, more and more easily, and younger and younger.

Developing countries are rapidly aligning themselves with the rhythms of the most industrialized countries. There is also an increase in cases of dependence among women, who are not spared, as well as clergy or spouses.

Neurological studies have established links between the consumption of exciting pornographic images, and the functioning of certain parts of the brain, the so-called “reward circuit”: These links are similar to those that develop when taking drugs. It is a cycle: there is excitement and pleasure, then there is a void, a sadness, so there is a need to start again. However, with pornography, no chemical or alcohol is ingested.

In France only a few months ago, Professor Israel Nisand of the National College of Gynecologists and Obstetricians sounded the alarm when he spoke of 9- and 10-year-olds who consume pornography for hours every day! Others have spoken out, even in the Church: I’m thinking of the book Free to Love published by the Emmanuel Community, or the pastoral letter Bought With a Price by Bishop Paul Loverde of Arlington, Virginia. 

Can the Church provide a cure for pornography addiction?

Certainly, the spiritual dimension is very important for any healing process, for any motivation that leads to the improvement of any situation. The particularly atrocious trap for the Christian, for the Catholic, is to feel imprisoned, unworthy of being loved, at each relapse. So the Church, carrying the message of love and forgiveness of the Savior, has a particularly important role in this regard.

Where pornography undermines the Creator’s plan for sexuality and tarnishes its nature of unconditional love, pastors must offer healing, and bring light. This is not limited to the indispensable pastoral care on this subject, nor to sexual and affective education, but also to a healthy collaboration with institutions as well as with the world of the human and medical sciences.

I know many priests who work with therapists, and also therapists who train priests on these topics. This collaboration should be further developed.

The pornographic industry seems particularly powerful. Does society really have the means to confront it?

It is powerful because it is diversified. The big production companies coexist with a myriad of small sites, local and amateur productions, of prostitution via webcam. Faced with such destabilizing “structures,” one must think of “structures of grace.” The mutual help of parents, the scientific and medical community, educators, and the Church is indispensable.

Sexual and emotional education — this is one of the highlights of the exhortation Amoris laetitia (2016) —  must start on time, with an integral perspective, and be age appropriate.

Those who receive a request for help or perceive a situation of distress must never neglect these situations, but know how to behave, how to orient, and, above all, how to listen. Everyone must be able to identify and avoid risky moments during which the temptation is stronger. Preparation for engaged couples, other moments of formation for couples, and confession are privileged moments to intervene.

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