On Saturday, November 15th I found myself in the city attending a lecture on “Therapy of the Soul: Living the Virtues in a Culture of Addiction”.
The lecturer reminded me of Joe Pesce but was excellent. Initially, the topic was unsettling because it dealt with men’s addiction to pornography and the physical, social, and spiritual harm it does. Once I moved past my initial discomfort with the topic and started to understand the speaker and the need to address this problem of pornography in our society, I became more comfortable listening to it.
When the Q&A time began I asked how to deal with the problem of pornifying women, namely expecting women to live up to impossible expectations of having the perfect body, etc.
That question came from a Love and Fidelity conference I attended at Princeton University a couple of years back. Pamela Paul, the author of “Pornified”, studied firsthand the havoc that porn wreaks on women.
It was such a tough topic to hear, but it’s a topic that keeps getting brushed under the rug and no one wants to talk about it. Including me.
So, I addressed that issue and he said simply that these expectations are simply not a part of the true love and intimacy that comes from marriage.
Sex is not the most important part of marriage, but rather an act of love between husband and wife meant for procreation and bonding. And the physical aspect of attraction is a part of it but it is not all of it.
What bothered me came in the next question. A priest in the front said that when it comes to porn (and ultimately masturbation) the consequence should be damnation, from a Catholic standpoint.
I almost blurted out, “What hater-ade you sippin’ on?!!?!” But I kept my composure.
I mean, I was that guy in Confession (I didn’t confess my battles with porn for years) and my brother told me to go confess it and so I did.
Okay, so let’s be honest.
I did my clever little dance (as only I know how) around the fact that I had a problem on my hands and tried to make it seem like I had a minor problem on my hands.
Well, this priest in the Church that day saw that and told me that I might have a serious addiction on my hands, which didn’t help matters.
I went on, continuing in the sin, and then I confessed it again to a different priest and got a different answer. But this time I was open and honest about everything.
And he gave me practical solutions to kick this habit, and spiritual solutions as well. The priest acknowledged the sin and said it was wrong and disordered but he wanted to help and didn’t use it as a way to condemn me.
Even years after I’ve gained freedom from porn, with help from praying the Holy Rosary daily, frequent Confession, and Spiritual Direction, it still took a long time for me to accept that fact that God had forgiven me, and that I had to start forgiving myself and move forward.
Granted, I’m still a man (and a passionate Italian man at that) and its tough to live in an over-sexualized culture where it is in your face, everywhere you go, but that is my cross to bear and I happily bear it understanding that through suffering there is sanctification.
So, the Joe Pesce look-a-like finished his lecture and after cookies, soda, and a brief intermission the rest of the conference really didn’t do much for me.
Just being honest.
So I ducked out, and made my way to a Starbucks on the Upper East Side before I met a friend going to a fundraiser for Storm Theatre Group.
I was standing in line, when the Pretender’s song “I’ll Stand By You” came on.
It’s kind of somber, so I was thinking about turning and then I heard the words, “Nothing you confess can make me love you less”.
I’ve heard those lyrics a million times but they did nothing for me. Yet after the lecture God was putting something on my heart.
And then I realized that those are Jesus’ words, especially in the sacrament of Confession, His love knows no bounds.
And I was going to leave it at that until this passage from Romans 2:4 concerning God’s forgiveness hit me, “Or do you presume upon the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not know that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”
That is why penance and honest repentance is so crucial in the sacrament of Confession, He commands us a loving father to repent and turn away from sin.
Yes, we know from the Gospel that Jesus and his disciples weren’t a group of guys who held a weekly pity party but rather men who pushed each other to become better, always striving to follow in Jesus’ footsteps, no matter how many times they fell.
And that’s okay.
Just as long as they picked themselves up, learned from their mistakes, and kept advancing in the faith.
And the other thing that prevented me from writing this for a while was the fear of porn.
I found a meme on Facebook recently quoting Harry Potter and a reference to the fictional character Voldemort or in the story as he was called “he-who-shall-not-be-named”.
The meme read, “PORN. Fear of the name only increases fear of the thing itself”. And that is so true, we have to look this evil in the face if we ever hope to gain freedom from it (the true freedom that comes only with the help of our Lord and our Lady).
The speaker concluded by saying that perhaps this a particular problem for young men because if men cannot master the virtue of self-control they can’t really move on to the other virtues, and that is true as well.
Porn turns love and makes it disordered, turning it in on yourself, your wants, your desires, your fantasies, etc. It has nothing to do with anyone else, except with how others feed your needs and wants. And it only gets worse from there.
So all in all, the lesson learned is to fear nothing and to take refuge in the Lord and our Lady, knowing that they are our companions on this journey to becoming saints.
Given that porn is a particular struggle for men (and some women) think of it as a huge wrestling match. You know like the type from the WWF matches of 80’s glory.
Don’t depend on your own strength when going up against these huge, steroid jacked-up wrestlers, instead call on Our Lord and Our Lady to tag team for you, it’ll work every time. Hope that helps to put it into perspective. Take care friends.