Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Pornography a mortal sin now?

The Gaiety painting by Patrick Angus 

New Yorkers and tourists to Manhattan before 2005
 would remember this theater.

But Father!  But Father!  What about it's use as foreplay in marriage?

I always thought porn was a sin - a very grave sin - a mortal sin.

Good news, the US Bishop have issued a Pastoral  Letter on Pornography and the breaking news headline appears to be: US Bishops say pornography use is a mortal sin.  Hence my response, I always thought it was.  Despite the fact TOB formulators have sometimes suggested that it's okay as fore-play in marriage.  Which is creepy and ugly because pornography is not victim-less - the people who do porn - the 'actors' are dehumanized and exploited, and it also drives a burgeoning sex-slave business, not to mention sexual abuse of children.  There is a lot of crime associated with the porn business.  If anything is evil - it is the pornography industry.

The Bishops finally issue a statement on the evil business.
WASHINGTON (CNS) -- The U.S. bishops approved a statement on pornography on the second day of their Nov. 16-19 fall general meeting in Baltimore.
"Producing or using pornography is a mortal sin that needs to be confessed in order for the person to receive God's forgiveness," says the draft version of "Create in Me a Clean Heart: A Pastoral Response to Pornography." "Those who produce and distribute pornography harm the common good by encouraging and even causing others to sin," it says.
The proposed statement, prepared by the bishops' Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life and Youth, adds, "There are many victims of pornography. ... All child pornography is automatically trafficking and a crime, because it involves the sexual exploitation of a minor for commercial gain and it is against the child's will due to the inability to give consent."
It noted, "Many people struggle with pornography use, including faithful Catholics, people of faith, people of no faith, married and single people, fathers and mothers, the young and the old, clergy and those in consecrated life." - CNS


As noted, people who 'struggle' with this vice span all the labels and categories of sinners and sexualities, but on some level it seems to me they/we are just as sinful and perverted as the worst sinner who preferred physical contact instead of virtual reality - of any sort.  One could possibly even say we are all "Sodomites" if you will.  We are all part of this "adulterous generation" - we've all drunk of the cup of the Whore of Babylon to various degrees.

Link to the pastoral letter:

Create in me a Clean Heart - A Pastoral Response.  USCCB

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"Where does this poisonous harm fail to reach? And who fails to drink little or much from the golden chalice of the Babylonian woman of the Apocalypse? ...There is hardly anyone of high rank or low, saint or sinner, who does not drink of her wine, subjecting his heart somewhat. For as pointed out in Revelation 17:2-4, all the kings of the earth were inebriated with the wine of her prostitution. She reaches out to all states, even the supreme and illustrious state of the priesthood, bysetting her abominable cup in the holy place, as Daniel asserts [Dn. 9:27], and she hardly leaves a strong man who has not drunk a small or large quantity of wine from her chalice..." - John of the Cross, Ascent III, 22:4

Song for this post here


  1. Would portions of the Sopranos or Mad Men be considered porn? I thought Sopranos was pretty bad but then Fr. Z wrote on his blog that he watched it. Not sure what to think about that. Sorry if this is too off topic.

    1. That's a great question! I dunno the answer though.

    2. Well if Fr. Z says its okay....

      Z Pack likes to try and act as butch as possible so the Sopranos is part of his schtick.

  2. Who are they to judge? 😊

  3. From the Catechism, n. 2354: Pornography 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.

    I always thought that was pretty clear.

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  4. I think there is ambiguity in the catechism about whether viewing porn ( is itself a "grave offence" and therefore an objectively mortal sin. (Obviously it's sinful--no debating that.) I always read it as saying the production of pornography and the commerce/distribution of it is a grave offence. The bishops' letter clarifies this:

    "The moral status of pornography is clear from this passage [CCC 2354 that Joel Quotes above]: producing or using pornography is gravely wrong. It is a grave matter by its object. It is a mortal sin if it is committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent. Unintentional ignorance and factors that compromise the voluntary and free character of the act can diminish a person’s moral culpability. This sin
    needs the Lord’s forgiveness and should be confessed within the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. The damage it causes to oneself, one’s relationships, society, and the Body of
    Christ needs healing."

    I welcome the clarification of the bishops. I'm on the core team for a new diocesan men's chastity/porn support group and we've talked about whether we should teach that viewing any porn requires confession before receiving the Eucharist. Our chaplain has said that on its face, the answer is technically "no" (the example was "what if someone clicks into porn on a Saturday night, then stops himself before any "self-abuse"? Does he need to refrain from receiving Sunday morning?). Of course, "technically 'no'" is not an endorsement and asking "how far is too far" usually puts you on dangerous ground. It's an imperfect analogy, but I've always looked at it like drug use: the production and distribution of non-therapeutic drugs is a grave offence. The use of drugs can be a grave offence depending on the circumstances. I read the bishops' letter as correcting this assumption.

    On a side note, I love how direct and confident this letter is. It's bold.

    PS. Terry, you read TOB formulators who said porn was ok as foreplay between spouses? That's messed up. I certainly haven't read all the TOB-identified stuff out there, but I haven't encountered that. That's truly scandalous.

    1. Actually I thought West or another person connected to the institute may have said something like that - could be wrong - I also think anal sex was included - all that may have been clarified or retracted by now - but I thought that was why so many people were upset with Chris West.

      Anyway - it's all wrong in my Baltimore Catechism world.

      I haven't read the document - but if someone accidently runs across porn and tells himself he probably already committed a mortal sin because he looked - chances are he'll take it further - the self-abuse thing. So there has to be careful guidance there. Piling on mortal sins adds links to the chain.

      Likewise there may be elements of addictive behavior - same brain satisfaction buttons hit and so on - but habitual sin leads to slavery to sin - we can't neglect the concept of freewill - research that calls it addiction seems to me is just another term for the Biblical slavery to sin. I would say any porn use should be a matter for confession and if it was me, I'd refrain from communion until after absolution. The confessor needs to guide in that case by case.

      Porn is an intrinsic evil and destroys the soul. Habitual use hardens the heart - no pun intended whatsoever - it's not funny.

      One thing about how far is too far - kids used to say that about self-abuse - I always thought that was a deliberate occasion of sin - which could even be classified mortal sin.

      I think I've always been stricter on myself however.

    2. I think you may be mistaken about West and him saying porn can ever be ok. I know he got into trouble a while back because he suggested that anal sex, while having nothing to recommend it, is not in and of itself a sin if it's part of foreplay. Alice Von Hildebrand and some others really didn't like that and made it clear that they thought West was some sort of sex pervert for even entertaining the question. He also gave an ill-advised interview to 60 minutes where he seemed to praise Hugh Hefner. Deceptive editing may have been in play there. He likes to use the Chesterton quote that"every man who knocks on the door of a brothel is seeking God" and I think his "praise" was more along those lines. I can't really remember. But I've always thought West was OK. His frank talk is not for everyone, but for those seeking frank answers to frank questions, I think he's good.

    3. I got caught up in the Westian debates as well - they've pretty much dissipated I think. You are right, I probably did get a faulty redux of someone saying he said this or that. In retrospect it all pales and illustrates some of the nonsense that passes for debate online. Not everyone of course - but I never really studied West. I love what JPII said in his catechesis, but the TOB studies aren't my interest.

      Since then, I think West is just fine and those who disagree or misunderstand him can surely work that out without demonizing him or those who support him.

      I used to play around and say I'd like to see an illustrated copy of the Christopher West's version of TOB ... I was kidding of course.

      See how sick and demented I am.


  5. Looks like CNS disappeared the original story. Here's the updated with a modified headline:

  6. LOL...Hell is going to need a new wing!!!


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