Friday, December 1, 2006

Friday: A Shepherd Calls His Flock to Repentance on the Threshold of Advent

Back in October, at the prompting of evangelical pastor, Mark Driscoll, I posted Yet More Signs of Hope, God's fierce love and endless mercy, Jesus Christ. Acting as a true pastor of souls, Bishop Paul S. Loverde, of Arlington, Virginia, has issued a pastoral letter on the evil that is pornography, the availability and use of which is far too widespread, entitled Bought With a Price: Pornography and the Attack on the Living Temple of God.

His Excellency begins his letter to his flock by writing, "In my forty years as a priest, I have seen the evil of pornography spread like a plague throughout our culture. What was once the shameful and occasional vice of the few has become the mainstream entertainment for the many- through the Internet, cable, satellite and broadcast television, cell phones and even portable gaming and entertainment devices designed for children and teenagers". Bishop Loverde calls pornography a "plague" that "stalks the souls of men, women and children". Furthermore, this plague currently afflicting our society, "ravages the bonds of marriage and victimizes the most innocent among us". Indeed, pornography damages our humanity, it prevents people from seeing each other as beautiful, unique expressions of God's loving creativity.

Assuming most readers will not read the Bishop's entire letter, here is the take away, what we, as professed disciples of Jesus Christ, need to hear and heed: "I remind all the faithful, therefore, that the use of pornography - i.e. its manufacture, distribution, sale or viewing - is gravely sinful. Those who engage in such activity with full knowledge and complete consent commit a mortal sin. Such actions deprive them of sanctifying grace, destroys the life of Christ in their souls, and prevents them from receiving Holy Communion until they have received absolution through the Sacrament of Penance".

Now, lest you be guilty of any of the sins mentioned by Bishop Loverde, do not despair. Repent! Trust in God's mercy and deep, deep desire, expressed in the sacrificial death of His Son, Jesus Christ, to reconcile you to Himself. Admit your sinfulness, first to yourself, then to Christ, in whose person the priest acts in the Sacrament of Penance. We stand on the threshold of Advent, a season of renewal, during which the Sacrament of Penance is made more available. It is the Church's New Year. If, even after confessing and resolving, in your act of contrition, "to sin no more and avoid whatever leads me to sin", you feel a gravitational pull toward pornography, admit your addiction, again, to yourself, find a spiritual director, who you trust, with whom you can be honest, and to whom you can be accountable. Then, seek support in a group of people who suffer from the same disorder. St. Paul tells us that "God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it." (1 Cor 10,13)

If you find yourself still rationalizing recreational use of porn, read this document and be disabused of your excuses. At baptism we are called to walk always as children of the light, let us heed this call and purify our hearts, our marriages, our families, our communities, our nation, and, indeed, the whole world. In a pastoral letter written in the first century, St. Peter warns Christians in a similar vein: "Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for (someone) to devour" (1 Pet 5,8). Worse than being devoured by the devil, is being a lion in the service of the devil devouring those exploited in the making of pornography!

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