“You got a groundswell!” Our Archbishop, Timothy Cardinal Dolan, announced last November in the annual meeting of bishops for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops after many of his brother bishops raised common concerns about the increasing prevalence of pornography. In the end, 226/231 bishops agreed that a formal statement on pornography must be made.
Caring for the Sick
Pornography is a deep and destructive social ill. It affects everyone. Even the man or women who faithfully avoid looking at porn live in a society where their neighbor is likely to be addicted or influenced to some degree. False messages prevail saying the pornography doesn’t inflict harm, but rather improves relationships. Super Bowl commercials and billboards in our cities provoke our attentions with “soft-porn” – men and women barely clothed and inviting our gaze that would violate their dignity (and harm ours). And let us not forget those who have allowed or been deceived into revealing themselves to others in ways that would violate their dignity. Truly, our society is becoming increasingly sick, and our neighbors affected demand our care.
The Church must be on the forefront of the battle against this scourge and must do more to minister to those suffering from it. ~Kim Quatela
The National Catholic Register this week published an article on taking on the illness of pornography, written by Kathleen Naab. Kim Quatela, Chastity Education Coordinator for the Archdiocese, contributed. Kathleen writes:
- Still, what’s out there so far is not enough, affirmed Kimberly Quatela, chastity-education coordinator for the Archdiocese of New York. Quatela spearheaded a project a few years ago to provide a simple list of some of the resources available to those struggling with pornography, in conjunction with a mandatory training day for all the priests of the archdiocese.
“Unfortunately, compared with the vast amount of pornographic material ubiquitous in our society, the number and quality of resources, groups, therapists and prayer resources developed by the Catholic Church to support our faithful people seem to be lacking,” Quatela said. “The Church must be on the forefront of the battle against this scourge and must do more to minister to those suffering from it.”
It’s a big battle to fight. Studies show the pornography problem is ballooning. According to statistics provided by Covenant Eyes, the accountability software being promoted by Bishop Conley, as many as 64%-68% of young adult men and about 18% of women use porn at least once every week. Another 17% of men and another 30% of women use porn once or twice a month.
The Key is Education
Church communities are not inoculate from this social ill, nor are her members immersed in the social scripts of society. The first step in fighting this battle is resolutely declaring pornography a problem that must be dealt with. Classic military theory dictates, “the best defense is a good offense.” Pastors and laity alike cannot care for the sick unless they first acknowledge the illness and decide to make this diagnosis public, despite the risks of being ignored, misunderstood, or rejected. The sick deserve truth in charity. Kathleen Naab writes in her article:
- The laypeople and their pastors who are actively combatting the pornography plague widely recognize the need for education. Foley, the Covenant Eyes executive, observed, “We need to get ahead of it, and part of that is we need to promote accountability and [computer and mobile device] filtering [to block pornography] in the family at a very young age, not when someone has a problem.”
“The key is education,” Kleponis insisted. “A lot of people say, ‘Do you see any hope here for the future?’ And I say, ‘Yeah, I see a lot of hope, but it’s going to take about 50 years.’ I compare it to cigarettes: Fifty years ago, doctors knew that cigarettes would kill you. They knew it would cause cancer and all kinds of problems, but no one could say anything about it. It was politically incorrect — it was everybody’s right to smoke, and we were going to smoke. We were smoking in restaurants and offices and airplanes. Lucy and Ricky were smoking on TV.”
“It took 50 years of intensive education, and, unfortunately, millions of people died before we as a society finally got the message,” he said. “So we still have cigarettes. There’s still people smoking out there. But if you talk to young people today about smoking, they’ll tell you it’s disgusting, and they don’t want to do it. We need to do the same type of education. And that’s what we hope to do.”
Clergy, teachers, and parents will find educational resources at nyfamilylife.org/chastity, including “Parent Guides to Human Sexuality,” available for purchase. Our anti-pornography page, due to be complete later this month, will have additional resources for education on the harm caused by pornography and how to overcome it.
We speak up against pornography not to condemn our neighbor, but to set them free to see each other and the world in its entirety as a gift – a gift so great that the Son of God has died for. Let us join the fight against pornography as an act of mercy – a corporal work of mercy: caring for the sick.
“I pray that today cracks open our hearts and starts a new path.” Bill Donaghy, from the Theology of the Body Institute, kicked off the 2014 World Marriage Day celebration in Manhattan last Sunday, February 9th. World Marriage Day began in 1981 after couples in Baton Rouge, LA petitioned their mayor, governor, and bishop to associate Valentine’s Day with honoring married couples. The following year, 43 state governors signed and proclaimed the day and designated the second Sunday of February for its observance, and in 1993, Pope John Paul II imparted his Apostolic Blessing on World Marriage Day. This day, which has gained honor and recognition from both secular and religious authorities, stands to honor husbands and wives as the foundation of the family, the basic unit of society.
Living Authentic Love in a Challenging World
The 2014 World Marriage Day Celebration in Manhattan, sponsored by the Family Life/Respect Life Office, took a giant leap from previous years by adding a half-day of formation and community fellowship to a special Sunday Liturgy honoring the longest-married couples in the archdiocese and inviting all the married couples present – from those married less than one year to the longest married couples married between 65 and 75 years – to renew their wedding vows. In the end, 50+ couples registered and attended the event at St. Malachy’s Church (The Actor’s Chapel) near Times Square, welcoming Theology of the Body Institute speaker BIll Donaphy and Fr. Louis Leonelli, CFR, from the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal.
If we live the gift, and give ourselves, it will evolve into life. ~Bill Donaghy
The theme of the 2014 celebration, “Living Authentic Love in a Challenging World” offered couples a glimpse of Bl. John Paul II’s “Theology of the Body,” a teaching that gives a clear, unwavering answer to modern culture’s mistrust of human love. The Theology of the Body is the heritage of John Paul II’s rich insight since his years as a young Polish priest working with single people and newly married couples, evolving into his philosophical masterpiece, “Love and Responsibility,” and later delivered in its rich Gospel-filled context in a series of Wednesday addresses given over five years that earned the name, the Theology of the Body.
Start Living It, Even While Learning It
The central message of the Theology of the Body is the calling for every man and women to become a gift for another. Bill Donaghy explained, “If we live the gift, and give ourselves, it will evolve into life.” Man’s ability to give himself in love to another arises from his recognition that he is already loved (cf. 1 Jn. 4:19). Bill explained that that Theology of the Body unveils the plan of God’s love for humankind as, “the great mystery of God is the invisible becomes visible through the physical.” Realizing and receiving the gift of Jesus Christ, who became a man to give himself in death for man’s salvation, every person is invited down a path of love with Jesus Christ to make oneself a gift to their spouse, friend, and neighbor. Bill explained that the good news of the Theology of the Body is that love in all its forms, including sexual love, is a great gift and source of wonder when treated with dignity. His advice that day to the married couples was, “start living it, even while learning it.”
Fr. Louis Leonelli brought the formation part of World Marriage Day to a close by encouraging the couples to live out a life of love before the world. “Be that Gospel message to your family, [and] to your neighbors.” Fr. Louis stressed the importance of the home as the school of love, saying “Children need to be taught every day in the home,” and explained the need for families to witness their love before others, saying “Other people [and] children learn when seeing you in public.” World Marriage Day ended with a Sunday Liturgy, celebrated by Bishop Gerald Walsh, Vicar General for the Archdiocese, followed by an afternoon reception, where married couples relaxed and enjoyed the company of others walking the path of marriage.
When recently traveling on a US Airways flight, I came across an advertisement in the airline magazine for a snazzy dating service for the business culture called, “It’s Just Lunch” (IJT). This company makes an honest assessment of difficulties in the cyber-dating culture that has rapidly developed since social networking took off in the early 2000’s. Today, a growing number of psychologists and therapists are using new terminology to describe the impact of this culture on mental health: “profile production.” Personal identity has lately become more of a commodity for teens, who often wrestle under immense social pressures and many of whom lack strong parental role models. As a result, they create various “profiles” on social networking sites portraying false images of themselves. IJL’s ad begins by addressing the tough reality of cyber-dating: “You may be having a great online relationship, but when you finally meet, you discover that the person you’ve spent so much time with in cyberspace is nothing like what you imagined.”
“Fine-tune” your next match?
IJL seems to have cracked a nut for today’s dating scene. But a closer look reveals a more subtle nuance of how more people are choosing to date. The ad further explains, “Every IJT match is hand-selected. There’s no online profile for the world to see and it’s all confidential. After the date, It’s Just Lunch matchmakers receive feedback from each client in order to fine-tune their next match.” Meet the new name of the game in the business dating culture: efficiency. This “profit-margin” approach seeks to minimize expenses (time to plan dates and the “social capital” of a courageous spirit to ask) in favor of maximizing profits (finding a person with “good chemistry”). Efficiency – the effect of the industrialization of society – has provided a wealth of consumer products available for common men and women to live a decent life: off-the-shelf food products, furniture, medicine, etc. However, when this phenomenon replaces human processes (dating, child-bearing) persons become viewed as products. The thinking goes, when a date turns out poorly let’s re-optimize the search algorithm to find another person for trial. In their own words, IJL explains:
“You don’t have time to waste playing digital guessing games and meeting the wrong people. When you’re investing your time and energy in something important, you deserve a strong return.”
Truthfully, you do get a “strong return” when dating well. But this kind of return is not the “good chemistry” of IJL’s business model. It’s more personal and far better. The strong return of dating well is you becoming more yourself. When trying to love another person, you must simultaneously allow yourself to be loved. At the beginning, this is far from easy. In fact, it hurts. C.S. Lewis writes, “To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket – safe, dark, motionless, airless – it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”
Herein lies IJL’s fallacy, their contradiction. A consumer approach to dating makes people better consumers, not better persons. Should this mindset carry throughout a relationship, what is consumed is not just lunch or time together, but eventually each other. A partner’s weakness may be viewed as “defects” and not opportunities for growth and self-denial. These defects get swept under the carpet of the sentimental image we make of our partners, until eventually the good chemistry fades. Then we see just defects and a dead-end for love. The problem with a consumer approach to dating is we lose sight that a person is alive: alive to grow, alive to love, a-live person.
Making time for what matters.
There’s one more lesson we can gain from IJL. They explain, “If you don’t have time to do your taxes, you hire a CPA. If you don’t have time to manage your investments, you hire a financial planner. It’s Just Lunch helps you make time for things that matter.” What things matter for you to make time? IJL appears to imply that spending time meeting new people in social circles, planning your own dates, and risking your time and yourself on getting to know these people is unmerited and can be outsourced. They ask, why not outsource your heart to IJL? This tragic result reflects the real problem for the business culture: time management. The Christian subculture calls it balance or temperance. When your life is too busy to make time for love, your love begins to lose its life. Whether initially meeting people in social circle or on social networks, love cannot be pre-planned and outsourced to a third party. It begins with a creative intuition followed by initiative when one person asks another, “May I take you out to lunch?”
“Couples that pray together, stay together.” This old adage is becoming quite a golden rule for couples in today’s fast-pace society where both companions hold full-time jobs and where iPhones and sudden conference calls become the threatening nuisance for quality time together. One study even shows that the divorce rate (1 out of 2 on average) drops to 1 out of 1,153 when the couple prays together. Still, prayer makes some couples anxious, fearing they may misplease God by their lack of saintly words or their sudden forgetfulness of the many people they promised, “I will pray for you.” How can two people, whether dating, just married, or celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary, remain united in prayer so to remain united in love?
Step 1: Pray as you love
Contrary to popular belief, the first key to prayer is simplicity. When we find ourselves hiding behind big words and sentences, we are also then hiding from God. The husband who will gaze into his wife’s eyes, smile serenely, and whisper, “you look lovely tonight” will be received more joyfully than chanting love sonnets that he’s hardly seen before. Jesus praises the tax collector’s simple prayer, “God, be merciful to me, a sinner,” far beyond the long-winded self-centered prayer of the Pharisee. St. Therese once said, “for me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look toward heaven, it is a cry of recognition and love, embracing both trial and joy.” The second key to prayer is to realize that more important than speaking, is listening. The little-known truth of prayer is that God doesn’t need it. Prayer doesn’t bring any more glory or tell Him things He doesn’t already know. Then why pray? More important than what we say, prayer is essentially about a place of communication, an indwelling of His perpetual voice, an interpenetration of our hearts with His heart. Prayer is about intimacy: just like two lovers must work to build intimacy – learning to listen and seeking to share – our prayer works to establish the conditions of our souls to meet God. Finally, after meeting God in prayer, what you say becomes important. No girlfriend or spouse wants to be talked at, but talked with. When our prayer is only sharing our woes with God, we begin to treat Him like a crutch. He doesn’t want to be your crutch, but your friend. He doesn’t become flesh to be the wooden cross for you to lean on, but to be freely nailed to it for your sake. God is a Person, more personal than any human lover and wants us to approach Him as a friend.
Step 2: Love as you pray
When love begins to purify your shared prayer-life, your prayer will certainly purify your shared love-life. Today, our culture tends toward reducing a lover to the sole fulfillment of our deepest needs. Wait now, wouldn’t I be more correct saying culture “raises” a lover to this pedestal of admiration? When we expect a perfect love from an imperfect lover, often one or two attitudes result. We either idolize the lover and become blind to his or her imperfections or we lower our expectations and accept a false form of love, eventually becoming discontent and ungrateful for each other. The only attitude that will bring years of joy and a constant awareness of reality is an attitude of gratitude. This begins in prayer. When prayer is filled only with our needs or desires (and we look upon God as a crutch), then we begin to project this impoverished approach to a lover, or even our closest friends. Love is the fruit of prayer. When prayer becomes narcissistic, love spoils. Allow new life into your prayer! Open the windows of your soul to a prayer filled with gratitude, praise, and mercy in addition to needs/desires. Don’t know how to begin? Pray the “Our Father” just once, but pause for five seconds after each phrase and recognize the meaning behind the words. When prayer reveals the reality that a lover is in the deepest sense a gift, you will be unable to look upon him or her otherwise and will want to remind them daily, “You are a gift!” When prayer draws you to admire God, you will quickly admire your lover and the qualities of God in your lover. When prayer draws you to ask forgiveness, you will see your faults before your lover and easily ask for their forgiveness.Love is the fruit of prayer. Couples that pray together, stay together. And not only stay together, but are happy staying together, truly happy. Let your prayer be purified by love, so your love may be purified by prayer.