I have multiple friends whose marriages have been ruined because of sexual addiction.
While heartbreaking for them, their spouses, and their children, it is no surprise that lust is wreaking such havoc on marriages and families. The number of men who admit to regularly lusting after women via pornography is staggeringly high, and it is likely that the actual numbers are even higher.
Catholic men are not immune
Ideally, Catholic men would be immune to this vice, but the reality is that they, too, are viewing pornography and masturbating in high numbers. In spite of this fact, men are afraid to talk about it, and it is rarely discussed.
Recently, at a Catholic men’s group I am in, a Catholic priest on the video program we are going through talked about lust and pornography. An uncomfortable stillness descended over the room of Catholic guys. After the talk was done, each table had discussion questions to go over about lust and pornography, yet at my table (and most others), the main topic was avoided and tangential subjects were instead focused on.
The shame runs deep. I get it. I’ve been there, addicted to lust and looking at pornography every single day. We don’t want to talk about it, yet it is an elephant in the room, a “widely known secret” that we studiously don’t want to discuss.
Out of the dark
In John’s Gospel, after speaking with Nicodemus and declaring that God so loved the world, Jesus said:
The light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God (John 3:19-20).
Pornography and lust are evil. Men learn to use women as objects for their own sexual gratification, committing adultery in their hearts. The Church teaches us the opposite: people are meant to be loved, and our sexuality is for us to give ourselves as a gift to our spouses.
We must expose pornography and sexual addiction for what they are and shine the light of truth upon them for every man. Don’t let them hide in plain sight and gain power from the secrecy surrounding them.
The bishops speak
The United States bishops recently released a pastoral letter responding to the plague of pornography and lust in our culture. Called Create in Me a Clean Heart, the letter is a good introduction to the problem, the Church’s liberating teachings about sexuality, and what men and women can do to grow in chastity and break free from the slavery of this sin.
They highlight Pope St. John Paul II’s landmark work on the theology of the body, a masterful piece of writing that has been made more accessible over the past fifteen years by an excellent translation as well as through practical books by popular Catholic authors on the subject (Matt Fradd’s Delivered is a great example).
This letter from our bishops is a good start, but we need much more. We need Catholic men everywhere to confront this vice directly. We need Catholic men to start groups at their parishes that provide a place for them to discuss this embarrassing subject and support and encourage one another in their struggles with it. We need more men to speak about it and more conferences and talks to provide resources to help men grow in chastity.
Vistory is possible
By availing myself of the arsenal of weapons that the Church gives us, I have been able to conquer this vice and grow in the virtue of purity. I make no brag about that; it was God’s grace alone that did it.
But that is the good news: you can overcome this evil in your life with the help of God’s grace. The fullness of the means of salvation are found in the Catholic Church, which means you have access to the strongest antidotes to the venom of lust.
Many men have written me over the years asking for help, so I recently created a short, powerful video course to help Catholic men gain the victory over pornography addiction. I synthesized all the best strategies, tools, and ideas that I learned over the past fifteen years and distilled them into the course.
What I learned from my own struggle, and the battles of many Catholic men, is that no one tactic or way works for every man. Instead, different tools and strategies are most effective for each person, so trying out several ones and finding out which help you most is essential.
Of course, some “weapons,” like confession and Holy Mass, are indispensable for every Catholic man in his battle against lust. But in addition to those sacraments, a myriad of other resources are available to aid men in purity.
I cannot describe the greatness of joy from being freed from the slavery of lustful sins. It has been a great gift not only for myself but also for my wife and family, and it is a gift that I want every Catholic man to receive.
The Son can set you free, and you will be free indeed. Be not afraid to get the resources and help you need to defeat this vice, and remember that God has given us the Holy Spirit, a “spirit of power and of love and of self-discipline” (2 Tim. 1:7).