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Special Report: Pornography's Death Grip

Interview With Bishop Robert Finn

KANSAS CITY, Missouri, MARCH 21, 2007 (Zenit) - In the face of widespread pornography use and addiction, the Church has to try to recapture hearts and fortify souls, says Bishop Robert Finn.

Last month, Bishop Finn wrote a pastoral letter on the theme of pornography, calling it an epidemic attacking human dignity. In this interview with us, he discusses both the effects of pornography and ways to combat it within the family.

Q: What makes this issue so pressing? And why now?

Bishop Finn: The issue of respect for human dignity, or the loss of it, is quite pressing. It prompted Pope John Paul II to launch his theology of the body catecheses. This is the primary value I would hope to foster, and about which we need to find ways to teach. Perhaps at the root of the decline in our own time is the separation of sexuality and love promoted by the widespread use of contraception. I would suggest that this was probably the evil "portal," a major cultural step onto the slippery slope.

Pornography is a most pernicious symptom of this decline in the awareness of human dignity. Because of its ready availability, it has become so widespread -- touching young people barely beyond the age of reason -- that it is pandemic. Because of its addictive nature, I doubt that we as a global society have the will or the means to significantly inhibit the presence or availability of pornography. Yet, we should not give up on this effort to limit pornography. We have to persevere in this. As the Church, what we can and must do is try to recapture hearts, and fortify souls by deep conversion, the growth of the interior life, and the practice of the virtues.

Q: What must be done to reverse the trend of making pornography more socially acceptable? That is, what was considered pornographic years ago is now shown on billboards, rental movie cases, etc. This trend has made it virtually impossible to avoid at least some exposure to some pornography. Are we at a crossroads?

Bishop Finn: I fear we have already crossed over. We are -- as you suggest -- numb to many of the destructive images, and this requires more and more images and more revealing images. The hunger for this gratification seems insatiable. The question is: Can the conversion that we sometimes experience, with the help of supernatural grace, in the heart of individuals, take place culturally?

Blessed Teresa of Calcutta insisted that the care of the poor, sick and dying had to take place one person, one soul at a time. Our Lord tells us we are the mustard seed that is capable of growing large; we are the leaven that must make its effect in the whole people of God. We are called to participate in and contribute to the transformation of the culture through the grace of Jesus Christ. The only way I know that this will be accomplished is by means of many personal conversions and the mystery of God's mercy.

The first transformations will often begin in the sacrament of reconciliation and Eucharist, but the renewal of the secular culture is the challenge proper to the secular lay vocation. Media specialists, legal experts, and business men and women -- all acting with determined faith and well-formed consciences -- have the potential to begin transforming the culture bit by bit.

Pornography is a multibillion-dollar industry so business has to decide to make its money elsewhere. Too many of the wealthiest people in the world -- business moguls -- have strong ties to Planned Parenthood and support pro-abortion politicians and policies. The death grip is hard to break by way of a natural or merely human effort. Supernatural means are necessary.

Q: Your pastoral letter cites some startling statistics about pornography's effects. Have the Christian faithful lost the sense that pornography is a sin?

Bishop Finn: Our culture dismisses or ignores responsibility for sexual sins and many other sins. The Popes of the last several generations have lamented the loss of the sense of sin. I believe there is still great shame in many people when they have used pornography. Children seem not to want their parents to know what they are doing when they view pornography: In a way this is good.

Some will joke about this, belittling it as "Catholic guilt." It is rather the vestige of good conscience. We have to strengthen and affirm this. Just as important, we have to positively build the virtues of purity, chastity, modesty and temperance. We have to try to move hearts to see what is beautiful in our sexuality and human personhood. If we do this, we will be inclined to use more energy to protect it.

Faithful spouses want to protect their husbands or wives. Parents love and value their children and will take heroic ...

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