Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Sexual healing

When I wrote yesterday about how I discovered the depth of men's interest in chastity, I was not prepared for the direction that commenters took in their responses to the post.

Many readers, men and women, confessed their struggles against attraction to pornography, including outright addiction, or shared how pornography had damaged the lives of people close to them.

The issue of pornography addiction is one that I have overlooked in my research on chastity issues. Perhaps that is because my own struggles to attain chastity did not explicitly involve overcoming an attraction to pornography (though I did have to extract myself from the heavily pornified rock-and-roll culture).

I may also have avoided the issue because it brings up memories that I don't want to think about. I recall discovering pornography at a relative's home when I was a child, and it could have affected me more than I care to admit to myself.

As a child, one thinks of adult relatives as being responsible to protect one from exposure to such material. I lost respect for my relative when I saw how the relative kept the material where I could easily find it. More than that, I felt betrayed and in some sense (although the relative never acted improperly around me), I felt vulnerable, unprotected from the outside world.

Since this issue is so important, and since my work today is with college students who are increasingly exposed to pornography (particularly online), the time has come for me to learn about pornography addiction and how to combat it. I would appreciate recommendations of books that directly address this topic, especially from the point of view of treatment.

In the meantime, I would like to recommend the following to those who seek healing:

  • "Pornography and the Attack on the Living Temple of God: A Pastoral Letter by Bishop Paul S. Loverde." Catholics and non-Catholics alike will find much helpful material in this excellent letter. Bishop Loverde writes in its introduction: "As part of my responsibility to lead all the people in the Diocese of Arlington to the vision of God, I find it necessary now to address the tremendous moral, social, and spiritual dangers of pornography. In so doing, I ask Catholics and non-Catholics alike to pause and join my reflections in this pastoral letter which will: 1) examine the nature of the current threat; 2) address the arguments put forward by those who attempt to rationalize pornography and provide "cover" for pornographers; 3) offer concrete counsel - to all Christians, young people, couples, and priests - on how to guard against pornography and to free oneself from its slavery and seek God's forgiveness; and finally, 4) reflect on the gift of sight and its fulfillment in divine contemplation."

  • Pureintimacy.org. I recommend this very helpful site in my book. If you're Catholic, don't be put off by its Focus on the Family connection. The writes of the site drew heavily from Pope John Paul II's theology of the body, and they even quote from works by the Pope such as Love and Responsibility.

    Especially recommended is the "Intimacy & Addiction" section. Here is a choice quote from therapist Steven Feltrow in an article on recovery, "Bold Next Steps," which I think is also great advice for anyone wishing to grow in chastity: "Viewing pornography is like digging trenches in the mind and filling it with junk. God can restore and remove the junk and we can stop filling the trenches with more junk. But I believe there is another element. We need to fill the trenches with positive and godly stuff. A heart committed to Christ and a mind soaking in the things of Christ provides powerful, life-changing energy. My first recommendation is to fill your mind with the things of God."