Reader Chris left a very solid comment on my latest post in that series, Pornography: Unredeemable Evil. Chris writes ...
McGuiness's idea is also deeply flawed in being ignorant or naive of how porn works, including its addictive nature on the biochemical and neurological level. To suggest that people feed something which can addict themselves and then later hope they can climb out of it is crazy!
Chris is exactly right.
So in the spirit of full disclosure (though I'm torn between whether this will be helpful or just be an Oprah moment), I was that addict - which is to say, I am that addict in recovery. I think a lot of men can say this - at least the addict part.
What is Satanic about pornography and masturbation is not merely the objectification of women and the degradation of sex and the fact that the desire spirals downwards into an urge to view more and more despicable pornographic depictions as one's "tolerance" to porn is built up, it's the fact that pornography insidiously robs your life of the Eros, of the libido, of the psychic energy you need to attend to reality.
Like a drug, it enslaves you.
Rather than deal with what's really there in your less-than-perfect life - a rocky marriage, difficulties at work, demands from your children - rather than taking up your cross and putting your time and effort and love into what you have; instead of being Incarnational and giving your seed or your spirit to the soil that God has provided for you, you waste it on an Unreal world that is ultimately sterile and self-destructive.
That's what porn and masturbation - and even contraceptive or perverse sex - does.
And yet, with exactly the things Matt McGuiness counsels against and Christopher West never seriously mentions - with frequent Confession, lots of prayer, mortification, penance, and a ton of grace - I was cured (at least from my active phase). I was no longer active in my addiction, after a lifetime of it. I went from daily indulgence in this sin to total avoidance for six plus years, plus another two years after that of occasional stumbles.
I never even thought it was a problem. I never even thought it was a sin. Only after my conversion in 1997 and my reception into the Church in 2000 did I begin to realize that it was something that I needed to overcome, that it had me, that I was its slave, and that I was enthralled to a very dark thing that was killing me.
So, gentlemen (and I speak to the thousands of men who read this blog and who know exactly what I'm talking about, for they struggle with it too), the answer to pornography and masturbation is not to give yourself over to the sin, as McGuiness suggests. As Chris points out above, that's like telling an alcoholic to give himself over to more drinking. The answer is the hard work of cooperating with God's grace and seeking the sacraments. The answer is getting so sick and tired of your life, as the Prodigal Son did when he had finally had enough of Pig Slop and Prostitutes, that you desperately desire to repent and to let God do with you what He will.
And even though there were days when I would go to confession in the morning, and then need to go back again that same night, and though there were very dark times when I thought I would never be delivered from this captivity to sin, eventually I was.
God gave me dominion over it.
You brought us through fire and water, but you led us to abundance. (Ps. 66:12)
And since then, everything has opened up for me in life, at home, at work, and in the spirit. The problems are still there, and in anxious and stressful moments I still desire the crutch, the release, the drug (and I'm always finding other drugs to substitute for this one, if I gave in and took them) - but instead, in those moments, I call on God and attend to what's before me. I pick up my cross (the best I can) and follow Him. And suddenly everything is better - passing through the fire of hell and the water of baptism, we find abundance.
Fellow sinners, do not listen to the appalling lie that is worming its way into the "conservative" quarters of the Catholic Church. As I wrote in a combox elsewhere
This is becoming a trend in the Church. More and more there is a movement not only to rationalize serious sin, but to assert that serious sin leads to Christ, and that those who attempt to avoid such sin are prideful narrow-minded supercilious prigs. McGuiness and West are part of that trend, and it is a very dangerous trend.
God can free us from sin. He died for us and gives us His body and blood for exactly that reason.
Don't despair. Every single time you sin, repent and repent boldly. Don't listen to Luther and McGuiness and sin boldly; repent boldly. Turn boldly to God and He will be bold enough to give you all the help you need.
If I can overcome this sin, ANYBODY CAN.
And don't tell me a man who knocks on the door of a brothel is seeking God; if so, he is he's looking for God in all the wrong places. I was not seeking God when I indulged in porn; I was seeking a cheap and immediate high that combined physical excitement with fantasies of power and control. Yes, we're ultimately seeking God in everything we do, albeit unconsciously - but disordered desire is not the same as ordered desire; sin is not sanctity; indulging in sin may or may not lead to remorse. And even if it does, the whole point of remorse is to stop indulging in sin!
Don't listen to the lie. Listen to the truth.
For the Truth will set you free.
Even from sin. Even from a sin as powerful and ubiquitous as this.