Monday, August 02, 2010

Filthy Porn Addicts


Whoa, you like to think that you’re immune to the stuff, oh Yeah it’s closer to the truth to say you can’t get enough,you know you’re gonna have to face it, you’re addicted to... (Robert Palmer, Addicted to Love)
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Just kidding with the title of the post, I know it's a problem for a lot of people - the fact that women are into it is a real sign that civilization is crumbling and the chastisement is near - kidding again (kinda) - I get that thinking from James Mitchner (The Source).
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Anyway - I read about a program on the OSV site to be used in training priests - in NY I think - on how to deal with men who are addicted to online porn.  I have heard it is the most common sin confessed these days.  A psychologist is going to be training priests on how to counsel these filthy addicts guys.  Now I have nothing against psychology and therapy and support groups of course, but I have to ask:  Aren't priests trained in moral and mystical theology?  A little psychology is good - but we Catholics have THE power of the sacraments.
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Though sexual addiction is real on various levels, the person still has free will and certainly can overcome such sins through sacramental grace.  I recognize therapy and support groups are helpful, perhaps even to most - but there will naturally be some people unwilling to participate in therapy or support groups.  And don't forget St. Paul says something about the fact our battle is with evil spirits as well.  Some guys just aren't joiners.  My concern is that many might get the impression it is the only way to get over it.  One must remember that not all alcoholics benefit from AA programs, and not all people with SSA believe Courage is the only solution either. 
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Sometimes I think Church personnel tend to handle issues of faith and morals more like a big corporation implementing various strategies to keep everything operating smoothly and efficiently - in a dysfunctional kind of way. It's like they are substituting psychology and marketing strategies for real pastoral and spiritual care.  In the past the bishops depended upon popular psycho-therapies to heal sex offenders within the clergy - it didn't work so well, did it.  Unless you buy into the  "I'm okay/you're okay" clap-happy school of thought of course.  Again, I'm not diminishing the importance of psychology and therapy, although it must be admitted we have been sort of an overly-psychologized culture.
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Of course I don't know enough about the program to really critique it - just to question it - and right off the bat a couple of the recommendations in direction seem problematic to me:
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Confessional Advice (sidebar)
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The Archdiocese of New York recently provided formal training for priests in how to help those who have ongoing problems with pornography. Here are suggestions of what might be helpful to say to a penitent:
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  • Do you want to be free from this sin? Are you willing to pay the price?
  • Healing and freedom from this sin is possible, but know that you can’t do it alone.
  • It requires God’s grace, professional help, and support from other men who understand your struggle.
  • Here is a card that will direct you to helpful resources. If you’re serious about overcoming pornography use, I urge you to explore them. (The cards refer penitents to: www.flrl.org/TrueFreedom.htm
  • Know that God, the Father of Mercy and Love, will provide the grace to overcome this sin. - OSV
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Lust is lust.
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That last line "Know that God, the Father of Mercy and Love, will provide the grace to overcome this sin" saves the whole thing from being a promotional advertisement for the self-help/therapy organization.  Healing from an apparently addictive sin is possible of course, but everyone may not need a self-help group - and it does not always "require professional help" - professional psychiatric help can be helpful, and it usually is to an extent - but not everyone can afford it, much less "require" it.  The confessor is instructed to "urge" a penitent to explore True Freedom.org.  A penitent can take that as a mandate.  
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I may be wrong, but it seems to me sometimes, some priests can pass the buck on spiritual direction, handing off penitents to therapists, support groups, and so on.  Not unlike the time I mentioned to a priest that I quit drinking (for Lent), the first question out of his mouth was, "How long have you been sober?"  Joined with, "Are you going to the AA meetings here on Thursdays?"  I was so surprised, I didn't know what to say.  The answer to the first question might have been, "I wasn't drunk."  If memory serves me, the only thing I said in response was, "No.  Why would I go to AA?"*
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Over the years it seemed to me some priests can become so accustomed to handing people off to therapists I think they may forget what Our Lord told the disciples who were unable to deliver a penitent; "This type can only be cast out by prayer and fasting."
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I'm no authority of course.
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*Editor's note:  Memory did not serve me well in this anecdote.  The situation wherein the priest asked me how long I was sober took place in confession, and I only thought of the answer, "I wasn't drunk" after the fact.  The other situation happened with my parish priest after Mass as stated, and I answered,  "No.  Why would I go to AA?"  Sorry for the oversight.  (My angel brought the matter to my attention this morning, 8/7/10.  Thanks my angel.) 

13 comments:

  1. Yeah, "porn addiction" then gets equated with things like alcohol addiction.

    You can a drink a beer/margarita/wine etc. or a few without having sinned. You *cannot* look at a pornographic image - not even just one - without having sinned.

    This should be good news, actually, to those who are "addicted" to internet porn. For it is not like avoiding the pub down the street; a far more subtle battle for those battling AA. You are not avoiding something that in itself, is a mere material object. You are avoiding a great, objective, aggressive evil - one that in fact involved the sinning of those involved in producing it.

    How many priests today speak of the Enemy in confession? There's no temptation without the Tempter. And every true penitent who comes into confession is a sheep who has been mauled by the wolf (with varying degrees of guilt).

    That bulletpoint list makes me want to throw up, with its professional distance. I have a friend who has complained more than a few times about how Church personnel goes about handling everything like a corporation, almost verbatim as you've written.

    We are supposed to have RESOLVE when we go into the confessional; resolve never to sin again. The priest ought to consider this. For if he speaks to the penitent as though he's simply going to be looking at porn again, then where the hell does that leave the penitent?

    For one, we take the Sacraments for granted. This is shown no better than our emphasis on pyscho-therapy and group support. It is as though the operation of the Sacrament were an afterthought.

    One needs to become very, very, very small when one goes into the confessional. True contrition and true resolve.

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  2. Raphael Hythloday3:40 AM

    You raise some good points. Except . . .

    A pyschologist who specialises in treating same sex attractions recently invited herself to our seminary to talk to us about dealing with pornography addicts. A lot of her clients are Catholics, and being a faithful Catholic herself, she wants to integrate her treatment with the healing the Church offers.

    Too often, she says, clients come back to her from the confessional, more confused than when they left her. Why? Because many priests have no clue about the latest psychological research, and undo her good work by spouting damaging platitudes which minimise the possibility of a cure — be it of SSAs, or more generally, sexual addiction.

    If the NY seminary is introducing psychological experts into their formation programme to stop those sort of errors, maybe it's not such a bad thing . . .

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  3. Any form of addiction will have to require some form of rehab. To accomplish such rehab, the support of love ones must always be their for the person who will go through the process of rehab. Porn addiction is rampant these day around the world. Concerned citizens must take action to have a control of such issue.

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  4. It's pretty incredible; no, I guess its not, coming from Our Sunday Visitor, that no mention of prayer and the sacraments was made in those tips on how to avoid porn.

    Speaking from experience.

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  5. "Psychoanalysis is confession without absolution." GK Chesterton

    I'd add, it's also confession without the grace from the sacrament. What sin can we overcome without grace? This emphasis on counseling and support groups is possibly a tactic of the devil...people get locked into self observation and failure (it's a subtle assumption told to 'addicts' that they can't stop themselves, they can't, perhaps, on their own, but with grace/God all things are possible) in a vicious cycle, lose hope, etc....instead of turning their gaze to Christ crucified, where hope and mercy and grace flow....esp to sinners and penitents. Why is the confessional sealed? Why are people confessing things to people who can't absolve them or do a thing to fix them, meanwhile Christ absolves, repairs and restores, even lost innocence....Alice Thomas Ellis wrote about this in the 80's, going to confession, telling the priest her sins, he said she was depressed and needed counseling, she said, no, I sinned, have guilt, didn't live up to the ideal and I want absolution...cut and dry. She hated the psycho-babble that had infiltrated the Church....obviously, it continues.

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  6. Besides prayer and fasting as suggested by Ray, what about recommending saints, ie. Blessed Matt Talbot for alcoholics, etc...funny, he didn't join a group, but lived the life of a penitent with daily Mass, frequent confession rosary, reading of devotional books, quiet life, hard work....we are Catholics, what do we believe in? Man or God?

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  7. When I was a teenager I read an examination of conscience that said that having impure thoughts was a mortal sin. I didn't believe it, but decided I'd try giving up that sin (and the movies that inspired them) and see what happens. It was like coming back from another planet.

    There is no doubt in my mind that I would be one of those "filthy addicts" today had I never read that book. I do lots of sensitive dancing around this subject when I talk to people about it, and even I feel it stick in my craw to say it, but it is the one thing that never gets said: hell is the penalty for this sin.

    All the psychobabble seems to imply that everyone assumes you are going to keep commiting this sin until you are more "integrated" or something. You've gotta go cold turkey. Couple years ago I was flipping channels and accidentally saw some poorly scrambled porn and got sucked in immediately. It's the only mortal sin I had every knowingly commited in my life. Dangerous stuff. Stay far, far away.

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  8. Austringer8:39 AM

    "In the past the bishops depended upon popular psycho-therapies to heal sex offenders within the clergy - it didn't work so well, did it."

    This was just what came to mind as I began to read your post -- haven't we gone down this road before? Psychological theories come and go; in fashion and then out -- it's a very variable "science".

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  9. Speaking from experience, the grace of the Sacraments and a renewed prayer life were the factors that provided my escape from that pit of filth. And it's those gifts from God that restrain me from falling back in whenever I stray close to the edge.

    If a priest were ever to tell me that such-and-such is not a sin, when I know that it is - which happened to me once, btw - I would immediately go to confession somewhere else as soon as possible, and never go back to that priest again. I don't need to be shown a false "escape hatch" while going to confession - the True route is absolution and a darn-good penance to boot.

    Shortchanging God's grace is so dangerous, and does souls no good whatsoever.

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  10. I have found regular praying of the Rosary to be the only stronghold for me, regarding ANY continuous overcoming of character defects, be they alcohol or morality based. A lot of the stuff I nervously tried to avoid suddenly lost it's grip on me. Not in a dramatic noisy way, just in the same way one matures from baby toys to more junior type ones. I expect to be spiritually adolescent by Christmas!!

    I would encourage anyone to have a rolling banter (conversation) going on with Our Lady, inside their heads during the day. I seek her advice on most matters.

    That last paragraph describes me on a good day ofcourse. I still have my moments, but they are becoming fewer. When they do happen mindyou, all hell breaks loose and I see with clarity the insanity of my behaviour. That is simply what has happened to me, since praying the Rosary. I also have had counselling, which is very useful, but my soul's base has to be the Queen of Heaven. She keeps my tempting snakes under her feet, crushed. Power to the powerless!

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  11. Shadowlands - you are right - with the prayers of the rosary anything can be overcome - it is the truth.

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  12. Shadowlands is right. I'm up to three or four Rosaries a week. Pray for me to be praying the Rosary daily.

    I used to be one of those the pooh-poohed the Rosary. But the more I do it, the better my prayer life (and other aspects of my life become.

    Of course there is still a very long way to go.

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  13. There is a neurochemical facet to this porn-thing. It's a scientific fact; your brain, fed by porn, changes.
    I'm no behaviorist; I'm no spiritualist.
    Grace builds upon nature (St. TofA).
    There is a "media via"...middle way between a completely spiritual attitude and a materialist attitude.
    You have to avoid the "near occasions of sin"...stay away from porn, period.
    If someone who is addicted (and there is solid proof that this can be a true addiction) does not act responsibly and puts them self in an occasion of sin, habit will take over.
    The Sacraments are the healing means of overcoming this problem of sin; regular confession and frequent Communion. Spiritual direction (not mere counseling) is needed, accountability, as well.
    But we have to be compassionate for the mere reason that human weakness and physical compulsion, as well as stress and other circumstances can make this whole thing a veritable monster.
    But that does not mean we accept the sin; oh, no!
    Porn addiction, and I do believe it CAN become one, must be rooted out by "prayer and fasting", as you say, Terry, as well as a good, solid understanding of what could be called "Thomistic anthropology";
    in other words, we're made in a certain way. If we don't respect and abide by it, we will become "out of control."
    Psychotherapy is limited; helpful for some but it does not forgive sin nor absolve guilt.
    Priests need to use good, time-tested Thomistic anthropology (habit, virtue, vice, consent, etc.) and in many cases, a prayer of deliverance after absolution (which does not need to be dramatic nor long) if anyone is under the influence of evil spirits.
    The Rosary is the best remedy for all evils.
    But you gotta wanna be free of this!

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