Here’s an issue you don’t hear about very much, from the National Catholic Register:
Fifteen-year-old Alex (not his real name) has been thinking of a possible vocation to the priesthood for several years already. Aware that he’s still a youth, he’s comfortable with the ongoing discernment process: He’s busy trying to deepen his prayer life, and delighted, as well, with some initial dating experiences.
When he thinks of considering the priesthood, though, one of his main motives for hesitating is his freshly conquered addiction to pornography and the ongoing temptations he faces.
Alex’s introduction to pornography came as a pre-teen when he first heard the word in the context of a news report. Unsatisfied with his mom’s answer to his question, “What’s that?” he looked up the term on the Internet to find out for himself. It was as easy as that.
Now, almost four years later and after periods of frequent confession and some professional counseling, he’s finally feeling some self-mastery and peace.
Is his history a sign any possible vocation to the priesthood has been forfeited? Not necessarily, according to Father Sean Kilcawley of the Diocese of Lincoln, Neb.
“I don’t think we can exclude guys from entering the seminary because they once had a pornography problem,” Father Kilcawley said. “Part of seminary formation is a time for growing in virtue, and one virtue they need to grow in is the virtue of chastity.”
Father Kilcawley is assisting Bishop James Conley in leading the local Church’s response to the growing problem of pornography. Their main efforts are focused on prevention.
“When I came back to the diocese after four years in Rome, there was one cultural change that stood out: Every teenager has a smartphone,” Father Kilcawley explained. “Many junior high school students have smartphones. Those who don’t have smartphones have iPods, or iPads, or video game systems — all of which are Internet-ready — which means that each of these children has access to pornography. This led to the decision to focus our efforts on prevention rather than treatment of pornography addiction.”
But even as the Church beefs up its efforts to ward off pornography addictions before they start, Father Kilcawley recognizes that for many young men discerning the priesthood today, it’s already too late to prevent exposure to the sexually explicit content.
“Statistically, 90% of high school boys have looked at pornography,” he explained. “And so that means that many of our seminarians have looked at pornography at some point in high school or college. Some of them probably entered the seminary with a pornography problem. And seminaries are right now trying to come up with the solution.”