Masturbation & Porn Bigger Priority Than Planet & Poverty for US Bishops

In another sign of just how far the agendas of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and Pope Francis have diverged, it’s worth noting that at their recently concluded fall plenary, the bishops signaled strongly about what’s on their radar when the only formal pastoral statement they issued was about what they consider a pressing pastoral crisis—pornography.

The bishops couldn’t be bothered to add either the environment or the plight of distressed peoples—whether they be refugees and immigrants or the poor—to their list of key priorities, despite the fact that they are a clear priority for Francis, and, therefore, the church. (Although they did work in some language about concern for the poor and immigrants.) And there was virtually no mention of growing economic inequality or the corrosive effects of unfettered capitalism. But pornography got a 22-page official pastoral statement.

According to the bishops, pornography rated a special statement “because pornography affects so many people’s lives and requires a collaborative, concentrated effort by all of us to counter its harms.” They declare porn not only a “public health crisis” and a mortal sin, but a gateway to immorality, saying “all pornography is immoral and harmful and using pornography may lead to other sins, and possibly, even crimes.”

Chief among the sins that pornography can lead to, according to the bishops, is masturbation, in a warning that appears to come from a 1950s anti-masturbation PSA:

While popular culture largely sees it as acceptable, masturbation is always gravely contrary to chastity and the dignity of one’s body. Like other sins against chastity, it seeks sexual pleasure outside of the mutual self-giving and fruitful intimacy of spouses in marriage, in this case, even outside of any relationship at all. In addition, engaging in masturbation has powerful neurological effects that can make it into a highly addictive behavior.

And in case that isn’t enough to scare you off porn, other potential consequences include “adultery, domestic violence, the abuse of children in child pornography, and sex trafficking,” as well as abortion and contraception, since pornography “promotes and even celebrates promiscuity and a view of sexuality devoid of love or openness to new life.”

It’s a little rich for an institution that’s still struggling to come to terms with sexual predators in its midst to warn about child pornography, which is obviously a heinous crime completely apart from the adult viewing of consensually made pornography.

Pope Francis has warned parents to keep a close eye on children using computers, cautioning, “There is dirty content, pornography, semi-pornography.” But he’s hardly made combatting the scourge of porn a major focus of his papacy. And for the record, the last time the U.S. bishops issued a pastoral statement on the environment was 1991, followed by a less formal statement in 2001.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *