Jesus makes a shocking statement when he says that if your eye offends you it would be better to gouge out your eye and enter the kingdom with one eye than to have both and go to hell.
This statement is given a new and startling dimension in Bought With A Price Bishop Paul Loverde’s powerful and necessary pastoral letter on pornography. He writes:
Perhaps worst of all, however, is the damage that pornography does to man’s “template” for the supernatural. Our natural vision in this world is the model for supernatural vision in the next. Once we have distorted or damaged that template, how will we understand the reality? Our Lord has given us the gift of sight with the intention that we ultimately may see Him. The sinful use of this faculty both warps our understanding of it and—worse still—cripples our ability to realize its fulfillment in heaven. What man should use for receiving the true vision of God and the beauty of His creation, he uses instead to consume false images of others in pornography. How can we understand the supernatural sight God desires for us—i.e., the contemplation of God in the beatific vision—once our natural sight has been damaged and distorted?
“Man’s template for the supernatural” Wow. What a fantastic insight. We have been given eyes to see the beauty of this earth so that we might appreciate and recognize the beauty of heaven. I am reminded of St Paul’s words in Philippians:
Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.
This is not simply an exhortation to “think nice thoughts” or “raise our minds to higher things” but, as Bishop Loverde teaches, we are to turn our minds to higher things and turn out eyes to gaze on true beauty so that we might prepare our souls to recognize that beauty of heaven to which we are called and for which we are made.
Therefore, when we look at porn we are already “gouging out our eyes” because we are destroying the capacity we have for the beatific vision. We are blinding ourselves to true beauty and destroying our capacity to see an know the beauty of truth and the truth of beauty.
The converse is also true. As we have our vision of beauty damaged by the ugliness of porn, so only by turning to what is beautiful can we begin to recognize the ugliness of porn and the other artificial beauties around us.
I tell penitents that they will never give up porn until they begin to see it as it really is–something ugly and debased. So it is. We are surrounded in our culture by images that are false, ugly and pretending to be beautiful. Only when we pursue that which is beautiful, good and true can we then see what is ugly and despise it for what it is.
Bishop Loverde’s powerful letter on porn should be read and distributed widely. Full information about obtaining the letter or reading it online go here.