By Fr. Anthony Aneke
The lockdown period provided a rare and amazing opportunity for the couple Harrison and Mercy happily married few years ago to spend more time with each other. They had a happy home and were blessed with two lovely and intelligent kids. Harrison enjoys the luxury of a high paying job which often takes him away for few weeks. Mercy his wife, is a successful school teacher in a prominent high school. It was in fact a perfect family. At about 9.30 pm last Monday evening, the children were fast asleep. In about the next ten minutes, Harrison who was obviously exhausted but nodding pretentiously as he converse with his wife finally gave up and slept off. Mercy, bored but not sleepy, decided to keep the moment busy with the phone of her amiable husband. What happened to mercy in the next few minutes was more than a shock, as she was sitting face to face with hundreds of explicit pornographic contents (images and pictures) carefully downloaded and gracefully stored in her soul mate’s phone. The unthinkable has happened.
How do you think Mercy feels? Suspicious? Used? Guilty? Traumatized? Betrayed? Rejected? Violated? She thinks, “We are married; what were you looking for?”
The complexities of Internet Pornography
The horror of Internet pornography starts from a variety of different situations: an accidental click on an ambiguous web address leads to a site with pornographic images; a moment of curiosity and loneliness leads a husband to type the letters of a sexual phrase or word into a search engine to see what emerges, downloads them for future gratification. A normal regular user of pornographic magazines feels the thrill of exploring a site with endless links, where there is no final page. A young man visits an “adult” website, blog, or internet forum he has heard in a useless company.
Loneliness, curiosity, fantasy, apparent recreation or hearsay; each of these circumstances can provide the glimpse that introduces the rush and paves the way to a complex pattern of temptation that promises satisfaction, but delivers dangerous frustration and sin. Even the most devoted family man and virtuous churchgoer runs a high risk and considerable vulnerability in the face of modern information technology. The images, along with apparent secrecy and seemingly easy entry, gain quick access to a man’s most persistent drives or appetites. To be sure, the cunning trap of internet pornography outwits the clever and overwhelms the naïve regardless of his talents, gifts, skills and potential. The extensive patterns and destructive habits of sexually explicit images on the internet are like a tsunami that only erodes, but decisively overwhelms, in a matter of moments, healthy boundaries that have been in place in years. The menacing reach of Internet Pornography has captured a considerable number of well-meaning men.
The thrust of this write is Healing. How are we delivered from the shackles of internet pornography? Healing the wounds of Internet Pornography is not magic, but a journey, a spiritual journey indeed. As so, with the guidelines of Fr. J. Brian Bransfield which makes Jesus as our guide, we will take Jesus in his meeting and conversation with the anonymous woman of Samaria. Although Jesus is our guide, he is also the destination. In him, all journeys end.
Prevalence of Internet Pornography
Pornography is a twelve billion to fifteen billion dollar industry in the United States, and fifty-seven billion dollar per year industry worldwide. The growth of the porn-industry has doubled in value since 2006. Sex represents the third largest economic sector on the internet. The first is buying computers themselves, and the second is buying software. The third most searched for word on internet search engine is sex. Video pornography takes in more annual revenue than professional baseball, football and basketball combined. There are more than four million pornographic websites. (Patrick Carnes et al, in the shadows of Net: breaking free of Compulsive Online Sexual Behaviour).
According to Fr. J. Brian Bransfield, there are three basic reasons often given for internet pornography: Gratification, Validation of the need of the intangible self, and Financial profit. Promiscuous sexual gratification is the pursuit of physical indulgence without responsibility or accountability to the sanctity of human sexuality. Validation is the experience of persons who previously have not understood their sexuality in a mature matter, and who explore sexual topics through the filter of the internet, which allows for apparently anonymous discussion with other persons. The internet provides a screen through which persons can hide and think themselves ‘safe’ as they explore previously misunderstood issues of sexual feelings and inclination. Sadly, such persons have apparently never benefited from a safe and virtuous setting in which to discuss and understand human sexuality. Instead, they have, through the internet, found a highly unsafe and vice-filled place to discuss and explore sexuality.
The Real nature Pornography
“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 spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its 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. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials.” (CCC. NO.2354)
The Catechism of the Catholic Church maintains that pornography is an offense against both human dignity and chastity. This teaching is founded on the human person created in the image and likeness of God (Gen 1:26-27), the call to chastity as expressed in the sixth commandment, “you shall not commit adultery” (Ex.20:14; Deut 5:18), and the fulfillment of this commandment in the teaching of Jesus in the Beatitudes, in particular, the sixth beatitude, “blessed are the clean of heart” (Matt 5:8). In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus locates the heart as the center of morality: “You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery,’ but This I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart”(Matt. 27-28). The Church teaches that we reach such purity, the successful integration of the sexual appetite, through the virtue of temperance. The virtues in general, and temperance in particular, are not unreachable spiritualized ideals meant for the very few. The virtues arise in our lives from the action of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is always seeking inroads such that we can be drawn deep inside the mystery of Jesus and realize that we live the Christian life not on the basis of our own strength, but that all things are transformed by Christ who conquers all. Sanctity and holiness are not old-fashioned; they are a daily way of life.
Man is called to blessed happiness. Because of sin, the adventure to happiness is filled with traps. False illusions of happiness spring up before us. These promise happiness through selfishness. Healing means restoring the ability to discern and discover true and authentic happiness and the ability to distinguish the telltale signs of false promises of happiness that only appear alluring but are very dangerous. So often we find a mistaken notion of the meaning of happiness. We doubt that happiness is possible until all our intangible needs are met.
Regarding human sexuality, the trap of promiscuity leads us to seek to treat ourselves and others as objects to be used for pleasure. Promiscuity promises happiness through physical pleasure, but the self-centeredness inherent in such actions always harms. In particular, the temptation is to reduce, possess and control the other. In his fallen state, man experience the rage and disorder of the appetites, which often and frequently wage war against that which is true and good. This is a particular way of the sensual appetite and the pursuit of pleasures of the body.
It is important to point out that Pornography comes from the pit of hell. Pornography is the hallmark of promiscuity in modern culture. The production and use of pornography is a grave sin. The United States conference of Catholic Bishops has taught that “producing, marketing or indulging in pornography constitute action which involve grave matter and are serious violations of the law of love of God and neighbor”. The Pontifical Council for Social communications noted in “Pornography and Violence in the Communications Media: A pastoral response” in 1989 that, “in the worst cases, pornography can act as an inviting or reinforcing agent, a kind of accomplice, in the bahaviour of dangerous sex offenders – child molesters, rapists and killers”.