By Lindsay Steele
The Catholic Messenger
Pornography is a factor in 57 percent of divorces and a habit that can easily lead to an addiction, according to Catholic sexual addictions counselor Peter Kleponis. With the prevalence of computers and mobile devices, pornographic material is easier to access than ever.
Describing pornographic materials as destructive to marriages, as well as to individuals, he encouraged diocesan priests to be aware of pornography’s prevalence and to take steps to help parishioners avoid the temptation during a presentation Nov. 3-4 at Clergy Days in Iowa City.
In his presentation “Fighting Pornography in Our Culture,” the Pennsylvania-based licensed therapist and founder of Integrity Restored Recovery Program explained that viewing pornographic material releases feel-good chemicals and endorphins, much like drugs, and over time one can build a tolerance that requires increased activity.
Additionally, he said increased access by way of technology now means that about 80 percent of children will have viewed such materials by the time they are 17 years old.
He said the immediate ramifications for males viewing this material include the development of unrealistic ideas of how women should behave, and how they should be treated. Additionally, married women whose spouses view pornography often feel inadequate, that they need to be like the women in videos and images in order to be desirable. It can cause a lack of trust between couples, he said.
Kleponis said that pornography is a temptation for women, as well, though they are by nature more relationally than visually stimulated. They are more likely to read about explicit encounters as opposed to watching them. Still, these stories can lead to unrealistic expectations of relationships as well as women’s understanding of how they are expected to act in relationships.
Kleponis suggested that priests can help by educating youths on the dangers of pornography and educating parents on how to help them avoid this behavior. Additionally, he suggested the topic be presented in pre-Cana programs.
He was clear that priests don’t need to be counselors, but could help individuals by referring them to professional resources and support.
Msgr. John Hyland, diocesan vicar general, said the diocesan Priestly Life and Ministry Committee decided to address the topic of pornography at Clergy Days, based on its prevalence in culture and its destructive nature. “His presentation was very revealing of the extent of the problem with pornography affecting people of all walks of life and how addictive it is, as addictive as alcohol or drugs, and how it destroys relationships.”
Father Jason Crossen, pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes Parish in Bettendorf, said the topic was timely and the statistics startling. “A lot of people probably don’t understand why it’s such a problem; prior to the Internet, it was pretty much confined to printed material, which means you’d have to really seek it out. With the Internet, it’s instantaneous. It is so much more accessible, and that becomes a problem … more people have exposure to it.”
He added that, in helping persons who express their struggles, priests can take to heart Pope Francis’ idea that the Catholic Church should minister to the ills of the world – pornography addictions included. Noting that priests needn’t shame the person nor condone the behavior, he said, “We are all wounded and have problems, and porn is one of the things that can hurt people … How can we heal them so they can live life to the fullest without being addicted to something?”