The Dark Side of the Internet

11-13-2022Letter from the PastorFr. Don Kline, V.F.

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I could have never imagined that one day I would be a pastor of a parish that had a school with nearly 640 students, much less a school where almost every student has access 24 hours a day 7 days a week to the internet via a smart phone or tablet . If you would have told me the sort of material that children have access to with just the click of a mouse or push of a button, I would have thought you were crazy. The sad reality is that our young people have access to much more addictive and horrible material than we ever even just a few years ago thought possible .

So what is the big deal? Bishop Paul S. Loverde, bishop of the Diocese of Arlington wrote a wonderful reflection on this subject that can be found HERE. It is well worth your time and I highly recommend reading it. In this letter he states:

“In my nearly fifty 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, smart phones and even portable gaming and entertainment devices designed for children and teenagers. Never before have so many Americans been so tempted to view pornography. Never before have the accountability structures—to say nothing of the defenses which every society must build to defend the precious gift of her children—been so weak” (Bought with a Price: Every Man’s Duty to Protect Himself and His Family From a Pornographic Culture).

In 1996, before wireless broadband, before iPads, before selfies and sexting, before pornography took over twelve percent of the Internet, with more than 25 million sites today raking in over $5 billion a year, before it was considered common practice, as it is today, for porn consumption to begin with a first encounter around age 11 [if not younger], a U.S. Justice Department memo warned, “Never before in the history of telecommunications media in the United States has so much indecent (and obscene) material been so easily accessible by so many minors in so many American homes with so few restrictions” (Matt Fradd works for Covenant Eyes and is author of the book Delivered: True Stories of Men and Women Who Turned from Porn to Purity).

I was recently speaking with a friend of mine who is also a priest from Indiana about this addiction. We were discussing how many people, both men and women, suffer from an addiction to pornography. To be clear, the distribution and viewing of pornography has reached epidemic levels, and often causes those who suffer with the addiction to feel almost helpless and certainly fills them with anxiety and can lead to clinical depression.

Dr. Peter Kleponis, a psychologist, says that there is about a 70-year slippery slope of acceptance that started with 1940s wartime “pin ups.” It didn’t end there. In the 1950’s, “men’s magazines” were marketed under the guise of “men’s lifestyle.” In the 1960s, those magazines became more lurid in the context of the sexual revolution along with widely available and accepted birth control that reduced human sexuality to an instrument of pleasure.

In the 1970s, we accepted the lurid nature of late night cable TV, followed by the 1980’s VCR and the Internet in 90’s. By the 2,000s, our “appetites” were mobile--being served through cell phones and Wi-Fi. And in the 2010’s, we accepted the dark side of social media--chat rooms, webcams, and explicit texting.

What’s next? If you find yourself struggling with pornography, make sure you celebrate the Sacrament of Confession as soon as possible. Don’t wait until you have things “under control”. That is too late. Confession is one of the strongest weapons we have for fighting the lure of the enemy. Secondly, invite St. Joseph to be a part of your life. Pray for chastity. I like this prayer:

O loving father Saint Joseph who watched over and protected the Infant Jesus as He grew in grace and wisdom, watch over me, my family and my friends as we struggle to lead a life of love and friendship. Pray that I may be an example of a true disciple of your beloved Son and that all my thoughts, words and actions may be an inspiration to those whom I love. May I long to look to you as an example of true human intimacy and to treat others with respect and courtesy, thinking always of the good of others rather than the pleasure of self. Defend me against the temptations of impurity and allow me to serve as an example of modesty and chastity. Guide me on my journey that I may discover the vocation for which God has created me and in this vocation discover the joy that you experienced in your most Holy Family. Amen.

Lastly, find someone to pray with and for you. The person doesn’t have to know the specifics, just have someone that can hold you accountable by asking you how you are doing on a regular basis. The enemy doesn’t have the last word. May Our Lady be your solace and protection and Our Eucharistic Lord be your peace and strength.