The topic of pornography and its dangers have gone mainstream, with articles in The Washington Post and Time Magazine focusing on the negative effects pornography has on the lives of those who view it, and the state of Utah declaring pornography a public health crisis. Despite its widespread consumption, the conversation on pornography is starting to include the price that men and women are paying in their daily lives and relationships.
While this conversation is certainly a sign of hope that society will once again recognize pornography as disordered, Bishop Robert Barron recently gave some insight on where this conversation still needs to go. Bishop Barron writes:
But what really struck me in the Time article is that neither the author nor anyone that he interviewed or referenced ever spoke of pornography use as something morally objectionable. It has apparently come to the culture’s attention only because it has resulted in erectile dysfunction! The Catholic Church—and indeed all of decent society until about forty years ago—sees pornography as, first and foremost, an ethical violation, a deep distortion of human sexuality, an unconscionable objectification of persons who should never be treated as anything less than subjects. That this ethical distortion results in myriad problems, both physical and psychological, goes without saying, but the Catholic conviction is that those secondary consequences will not be adequately addressed unless the underlying issue be dealt with.
Whereas Freud, in the manner of most modern thinkers, principally valorized freedom, the Church valorizes love, which is to say, willing the good of the other. Just as moderns tend to reduce everything to freedom, the Church reduces everything to love, by which I mean, it puts all things in relation to love. Sex is, on the Biblical reading, good indeed, but its goodness is a function of its subordination to the demand of love. When it loses that mooring—as it necessarily does when freedom is reverenced as the supreme value—it turns into something other than what it is meant to be. The laws governing sexual behavior, which the Freudian can read only as “taboos” and invitations to repression, are in fact the manner in which the relation between sex and love is maintained. And upon the maintenance of that relation depends our psychological and even physical health as well. That to me is the deepest lesson of the Time article.
Read the rest of Bishop Barron’s article at Word on Fire.