Bishop says porn use starts with loneliness, ‘yearning for love’

Lincoln, Neb., Aug 7, 2013 / 02:06 am (CNA).- Reflecting on the pornography addiction of a man recently sentenced for the abduction of three women, Bishop James Conley said that the pervasive porn problem is rooted in loneliness and isolation.

On Aug. 1, Ariel Castro was sentenced to more than 1,000 years in prison for the abduction, imprisonment and rape of three women for over ten years. He held the women captive in his Ohio home, beating one of them when she was impregnated by him until she miscarried some five times.

“When Castro stood shackled in a Cleveland courtroom, he confessed a common American problem,” the bishop of Lincoln, Neb. wrote in an Aug. 6 column at First Things.

“'I believe I am addicted to porn,' he said, 'to the point where I am impulsive, and I just don’t realize that what I am doing is wrong.'”

“Pornographic addiction is powerful, destructive, and all too typical,” Bishop Conley said.

“Ariel Castro’s addiction is no excuse for his actions, but it points to a deep and sobering reality: Free, anonymous, and ubiquitous access to pornography is quietly transforming American men and American culture.”

Bishop Conley pointed to studies that have found a correlation between the use of pornography and the sexual coercion of women, as well as its being a factor in more than half of divorce cases.

“It is increasingly unreasonable to argue that pornography use is ever harmless or victimless.”

The bishop lamented the easy access to free pornography that is offered by the internet, and by mobile devices in particular.

The problem with pornography, he said, is that it robs its users of the ability – the “freedom” – to have personal relationships which recognize the subjectivity of other human persons.

“In a mind addicted to pornography, personal subjectivity is replaced by a dehumanizing, objectifying, abusive kind of relationality.”

He noted that the recognition of pornography's harm is not limited to religious minds. On July 22, the British prime minister announced that by default, pornography will be filtered on U.K. internet connections by default and rape pornography will be illegal.

These policies, Bishop Conley said, are a “starting place” for deterring sexual violence and abuse, which should be supplemented by “active parenting” and accountability.

He looked further to the root cause of lust and porn addiction: lonelineness. “Lust begins with loneliness … lust begins with a yearning for love,” he wrote.

“If we want to combat the social consequences of pornography, we must begin with a commitment to love.”

Christianity's offering in the fight against pornography is its understanding of grace and of the communal nature of the human person, Bishop Conley said.

He wrote that the Rule of St. Benedict, which formed Western monasticism, shows that “temptation is more easily addressed in a community.”

The encounter with other persons in their subjectivity, which is fostered by living in community, “undermines, supplants and replaces objectification,” according to Bishop Conley.

The lesson of Benedict's Rule, he said, is that interpersonal subjectivity is a “necessary component of the Christian life.”

“Christian community is also the context in which the virtues of modesty, temperance, and chastity can be proposed and modeled with credibility. To propose an alternative to pornography’s temptation, we must model the freedom of the ordered life,” forming authentic families and communities.

While Castro spends the remainder of his life in prison, Bishop Conley said, “lonely young women and men across America will search for pornography – seeking to replace loneliness with the fantasy of human connection.”

“Christians have something far richer to offer: the freedom of fraternity, accountability, and beauty that abides in the Body of Christ.”

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