Achieving Chastity in a Pornographic World
By Rev. Thomas G. Morrow, S.T.D.
Introduction: The Problem
With the advent of the internet, and its huge number of pornographic web sites, the pastoral problem of sexual struggles and addiction has skyrocketed. The advance of cable TV has not helped matters. Many have developed addictions of varying intensity to pornography and other sexual activities such as masturbation, fornication, adultery and homosexual acts.
People get into these things for various reasons: boredom, isolation, pleasure-seeking, or hurt. In many cases the sexual activity acts as a temporary alleviation from the pain one is experiencing, but sometimes it is just a seeking of pleasure. Sexual addictions are much like drug or other substance addiction, insofar as they provide a temporary high as a relief from sadness or boredom, but exact a price for the addict. In physical addictions the price is, most visibly, physical, in sexual, the price is often psychological (and sometimes physical as well).
Sexual addiction comes in many forms, and in varying degrees. It ranges from the religious young man (or woman) trying to overcome masturbation, to a high-ranking religious leader being exposed as an exhibitionist, to the CEO of a large manufacturing company being caught leading a child pornography ring.1 Whatever the degree, sexual addiction or even problems of sexual insobriety are a big challenge to the person of faith.
I have found, in helping scores of people over the past fifteen years try to overcome bad sexual habits, that the majority are not hard-core “sex addicts” as the CEO or the religious leader mentioned above. Most are simply people who have gotten into immoral sex and find it difficult to break free from the habit. Some have underlying psychological problems, such as a father wound, or unresolved anger, or a gender identity deficit. Others have been the victims of sexual abuse. For all those cases, it seems that counseling with a good, Christian therapist would be called for, and in some cases participation in a Sexaholics Anonymous group as well (which we will discuss later). Also, for the more compulsive sex addict, therapy might be necessary as well. This book is not aimed at taking the place of such therapy.
It is primarily aimed at the vast majority of men and women who struggle with a sex habit such as the use of pornography, or daily masturbation or frequent fornication or other acting out. The issue addressed herein is how to use prayer and various methods from Moral Theology to overcome such habits. It’s about the sex habit, not the more complex issues that may underlie the habit. Indeed, I believe some therapists, and ministers as well could benefit from some of the ideas in this book, as part of their particular approach, tailored to the individual they are counseling.
Ultimately, the question at hand is, how can we help people overcome such excesses? What steps can those involved take to free themselves from the “sex drug”? The answer lies not just in exercising a rigid self-control, but in trying to harmonize moral behavior with human nature, in trying to change one’s behavior in a way that is adapted to the psyche, and what fulfills it. By accommodating both the truth about human sexuality and the nature of the human soul, and an overall healthy lifestyle, a person can find inner peace in living the Gospel, a peace that is lasting and joy-filled.
Chapter 1: Training The Sexual Appetite
Some time ago I was giving spiritual direction to a young man who struggled with unchaste thoughts and desires. He was praying a good deal each day, and attending daily Mass. He had a reasonably balanced life, with some sports activities each week, and was happy in his job. Nonetheless, in this one area, he felt quite inadequate.
So, I explained to him the need to convert, rather than suppress his appetite, as recommended by Aristotle, St. Thomas Aquinas and Pope John Paul II (certainly a credible trio!). He was to present to his mind, repeatedly, the values he would gain by living chastely, things like "treating others as persons, not objects," "living by reason, not by his urges," and "upholding the sacredness of sex." I had him make a list of these reasons, and encouraged him to read the list several times a day. He began to do this, and within a year, he told me he was over the struggle. He was able to live chastely without having to battle his sexual appetite. It had finally been trained, and was not trying to move him in the direction of impure thoughts or acts. He had found chastity.
I have proposed similar routines to others, many of whom struggled with pornography, especially on the internet. A number of these people have indicated, after only a few months, that it was helping them a great deal.
It seems that all of this points to the fact that with a good deal of grace, and using the proper approach to the psyche, those struggling with addictions to pornography and unchaste thoughts and actions can be set free from their slavery to lust. How important is this emancipation? Very. Any addiction draws us away from our ultimate vocation, that of love, since only one who is free can give himself totally to another in love. Pope John Paul II spoke eloquently of the need for us to live out this love vocation:
Man cannot live without love. He remains a being that is incomprehensible for himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it.2
It is only in love that we are fulfilled as persons, love for God and for our neighbors.
The Goal: Chastity
To begin with, it’s important to have the goal in mind. That goal must be real chastity. What exactly is the virtue of chastity? According to Thomas Aquinas and Aristotle, chastity is the habitual moderation of the sexual appetite in accord with right reason. In other words, it’s bringing the sexual appetite consistently under reason.
Notice it is not just the regulation of behavior, which would be self-control, but of the very desires that lead to sexual behavior. Note too, the norm is “right” reason, i.e., reason in conformity with God's Eternal Law, not merely worldly reason, which sees any sex which avoids unwanted pregnancy or disease as “reasonable.”
Certainly, as a fruit of the Holy Spirit, chastity is not something a person can arrive at without considerable prayer and effort. The fruits of a tree appear last, and so it is with the Holy Spirit's fruits: they require a good deal of cultivation under the influence of God's grace.
Are there any methods one can employ to effectively use the grace received from spiritual exercises to develop chastity? Yes there are. A person begins by observing with Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas,3 that the sexual appetite seems to have a life of its own, and it listens not only to reason, but to the senses and the imagination as well. If I want to raise my hand, I direct it to move, and it moves. But, if my sexual appetite is attracted to something illicit, I must do more than tell it, “Forget it.” It can be very persistent.
St. Paul wrote,
For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do... For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! (Rom. 7:19, 23, 24)4
This is the battle we have with the appetites, especially the sexual appetite.
Thus, one must find a way to “convince” his sexual appetite to obey reason and not the senses or the imagination. Alas, many who are addicted to sex are addicted to visual stimuli, especially pornography (senses), and sexual fantasies (imagination). We will consider how to deal with these elements below, but first, a general approach to convert the sexual appetite.
Since there are competing voices for the control of the sexual appetite, it doesn't work for reason to deal with the appetite “despotically,” i.e., simply saying “no” to the appetite's appeal, and when it asks why not, saying “because I said no.” If it does, it will repress the appetite into the unconscious where it will wait for a chance to explode.5 In a moment of weakness the appetite will indeed explode with an outburst of sexual activity. We see this in the person who contains himself/herself for several weeks but then goes on a spree, and repeats this cycle over and over.
The intellect must deal “politically” with the appetite, setting forth the values which will be gained by living chastity, to make up for the value of the sexual pleasure which is sacrificed. One must, in a sense, convince his (“or her” understood) appetite that it will not make him happy to give in to it.
As Pope John Paul II put it,
...the promptings of carnal desire do not disappear merely because they are contained by willpower, although superficially they appear to do so; for them to disappear completely a man must know 'why' he is containing them... We can speak of objectivization only when the will is confronted by a value which fully explains the necessity for containing impulses aroused by carnal desire and sensuality. Only as this value gradually takes possession of the mind and the will does the will become calm and free itself from a characteristic sense of loss.6
The person, then, must hammer away with reason, to convert his heart to the truth. In the long run, we are more attracted to the truth than to pleasure. In fact, Jesus identified himself with the truth (“I am the way, the truth and the life” Jn. 14:6). Pleasure is a fleeting thing; truth lasts forever. It’s not enough to know what is right and wrong. To survive in this world, chastity has got to be in one’s blood. A person must be completely convinced, mind and heart.
Chapter 2: Chastity’s Values
What are some of these values (goods) of which a person can remind himself so as to alleviate any interior resentment and find peace in the chaste decision? I would propose at least six:
1. Sex is holy, not a plaything. It should never be trivialized.
2. Created in the image of God, I can live by reason, not just by urges (as the animals do).
3. Persons are to be loved, not merely used as objects of enjoyment.
4. I must not treat persons as objects, even in the mind, lest I become a user of persons in practice.
5. Unchaste activity destroys my most precious friendship, that with God, the source of all happiness.
6. Unchaste activity brings pleasure but not happiness.
(A card with these points can be found under the title, The Truth About Chastity)
Let’s briefly discuss each of these.
The Sacredness and Beauty of Sexual Intimacy
One value retained by opting for chastity is that of upholding the sacredness of sex. It is so sacred that it belongs only in marriage. Virtually every decent person has a sense of the fact that sex is not some trivial act, but is quite different in importance from any other act. Few thoughtful people subscribe to the idea that promiscuity is virtuous. By living chastely a person avoids trivializing sex as something merely recreational, so that if and when he does participate in it within marriage, he will experience its sublime dignity and transcendence.
An often overlooked passage in Vatican II (Gaudium et spes) speaks of how the marital act both “expresses and perfects” conjugal love:
This love is uniquely expressed and perfected through the act proper to marriage. Hence, the actions within marriage by which the couple are united intimately and chastely are noble and worthy. Expressed in a manner which is truly human, these actions signify and foster the mutual self-donation by which spouses enrich each other with a joyful and a ready mind (GS 49b).
The Council speaks first of all of the marriage act expressing conjugal love, that is, it is a symbol of marital love, it signifies it. The act means, “I love you in a conjugal way.” This act also perfects and fosters this love, the mutual spousal self-donation; it enriches the couple. It enriches the spouses, not only through the joy of the act, but because it is a celebration of their conjugal love, as the reception of Holy Communion celebrates our (conjugal) love with God. Each time bodily communion is effected, this love is declared and strengthened. In a sense, the marital act celebrates the existence of conjugal love, proclaims it, and by perfecting it, in a sense forms the future of this love. It is not only a statement about the love that exists, it establishes the direction in which it will continue.
Pope John Paul II and his herald, Christopher West,7 have done us a great service in proclaiming the great beauty of sex as it was intended by the Creator, and the importance of what we do with our bodies. Without going into great detail, how can their work shed light on the sacredness and beauty of sex?
Pope John Paul II pointed out that “The body... and it alone, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine. It was created to transfer into the visible reality of the world the mystery hidden since time immemorial in God, and thus be a sign of it.”8 What is this mystery? The Pope spoke of it later on when he commented on the communion of husband and wife and the fruit thereof, human life: “In this entire world there is not a more perfect, more complete image of God, Unity and Community. There is no other human reality which corresponds more, humanly speaking, to that divine mystery.”9 One could say that a man and woman imitate God most profoundly at the natural level, when they express their love in a way that it may overflow into new life in the marriage act, for this is what God did at creation.
“Man became the image and likeness of God not only through his humanity,” said the Pope, “but also through the communion of persons which man and woman form right from the beginning.” Together, in communion, they become “an image of an inscrutable divine communion of persons.”10 In addition, the union of husband and wife in marriage is, as St. Paul proclaimed (Eph 5:32), a sacrament, a sacred sign of Christ and his Church. In other words, this union and its symbolic act, is sacramental, just as our Communion with God is sacramental. In fact, Pope John Paul II declared that “the Eucharist... is the sacrament of the Bridegroom and of the Bride.” He said that Christ, “... in instituting the Eucharist... wished to express the relationship between man and woman, between what is ‘feminine’ and what is ‘masculine.’”11 It is based on this that Christopher West aptly places Christ’s Eucharistic words in the mouth of spouses, “This is my body, given for you.”12
What happens when people use this sacred language symbolic of divine love and creativity for mere pleasure, and compulsive pleasure at that? They drag their very nobility through the mud. They draw mankind down from the threshold of divinity to the realm of animality. They take what is holy and treat it as something trivial and diminish themselves in the process.13
A further value which follows closely on the previous one is that by opting for chastity, one will be living up to his or her own human dignity as a person created in the image and likeness of God. As such, we are empowered to live by reason, rather than merely be controlled by urges and impulses (as are animals). Pope John Paul II spoke of the “freedom of the gift” that their nakedness without shame implied. Referring to Vatican II, the Pope recalled the pivotal passage from Gaudium et spes (n. 24),
Indeed, the Lord Jesus, when He prayed to the Father, "that all may be one. . . as we are one" (John 17:21-22) opened up vistas closed to human reason, for He implied a certain likeness between the union of the divine Persons, and the unity of God's sons in truth and charity. This likeness reveals that man, who is the only creature on earth which God willed for itself, cannot fully find himself except through a sincere gift of himself.
The Pope declared that in order for one to give himself to another, he must have mastery of himself, “self-control.” So, to find himself, man must be able to control himself, not in some arbitrary way, but according to reason. To have true self-control, in the image of God, is to live by reason. Reason, as we saw above, reveals to us that sex is something sacred and beautiful, and its trivialization is tragic.
Loving, not Using, Persons
When a person has sex with another outside of marriage, there is a natural tendency to see the other as an object of enjoyment, rather than an object of love. Pope John Paul II, in his analysis of Genesis, pointed out the meaning of the shame which came about after Original Sin. The fact that they were naked without shame before the fall, indicates they had the full vision of each other as God sees them.
Seeing each other, as if through the very mystery of creation, man and woman see each other even more fully and distinctly than through the sense of sight itself, that is, through the eyes of the body. They see and know each other, in fact, with all the peace of the interior gaze, which creates precisely the fullness of the intimacy of persons.14
This vision was not exploitive, but loving.
With the Fall came a more superficial vision, in which exterior values dominated over interior; the response was to the body rather than the person. This is the reason for the post-Fall shame. “Shame is a tendency,” wrote the Holy Father, “uniquely characteristic of the human person, to conceal sexual values sufficiently to prevent them from obscuring the value of person as such.”15
With redemption, we are called to:
...rediscover, nay more, realize the nuptial meaning of the body and to express in this way the interior freedom of the gift, that is, of that spiritual state and that spiritual power which are derived from mastery of the lust of the flesh...
Christ's words bear witness that the original power (therefore also the grace) of the mystery of creation becomes for each of them power (that is, grace) of the mystery of redemption.16
The “new man” can come forth as the ethos (the ethical pattern) of the redemption of the body “dominates the lust of the flesh and the whole man of lust. Redemption contains the imperative of self-control, the necessity of immediate continence and habitual temperance.”17
The redeemed, new man, is one who loves others rather than uses them. This temperance with regard to sex is, of course chastity. The connection between chastity and love comes out of the personalistic norm: The person is a good towards which the only proper and adequate attitude is love.18 Thus, said John Paul,
The virtue of chastity, whose function it is to free love from utilitarian attitudes, must control not only sensuality and carnal concupiscence, as such, but–perhaps more important–those centers deep within the human being in which the utilitarian attitude is hatched and grows... To be chaste means to have a “transparent” attitude to a person of the other sex–chastity means just that–the inner “transparency” without which love is not itself, for it cannot be itself until the desire to “enjoy” is subordinated to a readiness to show loving kindness in every situation.19
One need not be an ethicist to realize that it is wrong to exploit people, sexually or otherwise. Even visual exploitation is wrong, since exploiting someone in the mind will result in exploiting them in practice.
Destroying Our Most Precious Friendship
Certainly unchaste activity destroys our relationship with God (until we are able to restore it by sincere repentance and the sacrament of Reconciliation). Jesus himself spoke of the evil of fornication:
...from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy... All these evil things come from within, and they defile a man.20 (emphasis added)
St. Paul had something similar to say:
Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor sodomites nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.21 (emphasis added)
Being excluded from the Kingdom is the result of persisting in sin which destroys our relationship with God. (Of course, repentance and reconciliation are always possible in this life, for those who sincerely seek them.)
Why is this so? Most notably in light of the arguments given above with regard to the very sacredness and beauty of sex, wherein man most closely approaches the action of God at the natural level. Sex signifies a matrimonial covenant and an openness to new life. Neither is ordinarily present in fornication.
The immorality of adultery is clearly stated in the ten commandments. In addition to the reasons given for fornication’s immorality, adultery has the added evil of violating the fidelity of marriage.
It is not only non-marital sexual intercourse which is sinful. All deliberate non-marital sexual arousal is sinful. Thomas Aquinas wrote:
...since fornication is a mortal sin, and much more so the other kinds of lust, it follows that in such like sins not only consent to the act but also consent to the pleasure is a mortal sin. Consequently when... kisses and caresses are done for this delight, it follows that they are mortal sins...22
There are some who have been addicted to foreplay even if they have avoided fornication. Why is this wrong? Because it too trivializes sex by using sexual arousal as mere recreation, rather than as a noble introduction to marital union.
Pornography is another abuse of sex. It is an implicit statement that sex is recreational and women (or men) are objects of pleasure. Although people don’t go into pornography with these lies in mind, but often do so just for the pleasure involved, they come out branded with these attitudes, which are so destructive. It is no wonder that the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that “[pornography] is a grave offense.” CCC 2354).
Masturbation is another serious sin. Why? Because it not only degrades sex by using it for mere pleasure, but it also turns a person in on himself in the very act which is meant to signify and perfect communion with a spouse. C. S. Lewis put it well:
For me the real evil of masturbation would be that it takes an appetite which, in lawful use, leads the individual out of himself to complete (and correct) his own personality in that of another (and finally in children and even grandchildren) and turns it back, sends it back into the prison of himself, there to keep a harem of imaginary brides. And this harem, once admitted, works against his ever getting out and really uniting with a real woman. For the harem is always accessible, always subservient, calls for no sacrifices or adjustments, and can be endowed with erotic and psychological attractions which no real woman can rival.23
The Church has spoken clearly of the immorality of masturbation (CCC, 2352):
Both the Magisterium of the Church, in the course of a constant tradition, and the moral sense of the faithful have been in no doubt and have firmly maintained that masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action."[footnote] "The deliberate use of the sexual faculty, for whatever reason, outside of marriage is essentially contrary to its purpose." For here sexual pleasure is sought outside of "the sexual relationship which is demanded by the moral order and in which the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love is achieved.
However, as we shall see later, the Church in this same section cautions us to evaluate carefully subjective guilt in regard to masturbation.
Homosexual activity is another violation of the sexual order which is serious matter. St. Paul said in 1 Corinthians (6:9+),
Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor sodomites [The Greek here is arsenokoites, combining the two words arsén, meaning male and koité, meaning bed. Thus, a more literal translation would be "men bedding men."], nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.
The Church has confirmed this in the Catechism (CCC 2357):
Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,[footnote] tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered."[footnote] They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.
While the Church is clear in proclaiming homosexual acts as seriously sinful, she also wishes us to show respect and compassion to those who suffer with this condition:
They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition. (CCC 2358)
The Theology of The Body should make it clear that homosexual acts contain none of the noble elements which makes conjugal union man’s most God-like natural act.
All of these sins involving the misuse of sex are serious matter. The Church taught in 1975, “the moral order of sexuality involves such high values of human life that every direct violation of this order is objectively serious.”24
This, it seems covers all those violations of chastity which lend themselves to addiction. Each has the potential, if they are done with sufficient reflection and full consent of the will, to destroy one’s relationship with God. This is a huge price to pay for a few moments of pleasure.
Pleasure, Not Happiness
Finally, unchaste activity may provide pleasure, but this is not what brings us happiness as persons. Only love will make us happy, love of God and of neighbor. Unchaste activity qualifies for neither. One need only compare the lives of the saints to the lives of debauchers. The latter often had smiles on their faces, the former glowed.
Changing The Heart
As we saw in the opening story of the young man struggling with chastity, by reminding oneself of these values over and over a person can, in a sense, graft reason onto the appetite, to the point that the appetite in time will appear to participate in reason. The values of chastity must be “objectivized,” internalized, such that the will is “constantly confronted by a value which fully explains the necessity for containing impulses aroused by carnal desire and sensuality. Only as this value takes possession of the mind and will does the will become calm and free itself from a characteristic sense of loss.”25 In other words one must repeatedly recall the truth about sex and his or her own happiness, until the appetite in a sense “gives up,” and surrenders to reason. Only when this happens is the appetite in conformity with the mind, and does one arrive at the peace of chastity. Another way of putting this is, it’s not enough to convert one’s mind; he must convert his heart as well.26
Those who have struggled with sexual addictions know very well that it doesn’t work to try to avoid thinking about these things, hoping the temptations will go away. They won’t. One must think about the positive values of chastity often. It’s not enough to remind oneself of these values only when tempted. A person needs to call them to mind several times a day and really meditate on them.
Why is this effective? Because, as we mentioned earlier, in the long run we are more attracted to truth than pleasure. But we must penetrate the thick skin of pleasure with the truth before truth can take hold of our whole being.
It is only when the heart, the emotions themselves, have been converted by reason that the person will experience true peace with regard to sexual matters. Self-control, whereby one struggles and wins, is not a full virtue, as St. Thomas taught. Chastity enables one to avoid sexual sins without a struggle, and it is attainable.
* * * * *
This "converting the appetite" is really the key to arriving at the peace of chastity, something that many in our world doubt can even happen. Some might say, "It can't be that easy!" bringing to mind the complaint of Naaman who doubted he could be healed just by washing seven times in the Jordan (2 Kings 5:1-14). However, it's really not so easy. Many compose a card with all the reasons why they should be chaste and read it for a few weeks, and then for one reason or another, they let it slide. Perhaps they were expecting quicker results (it can take a year or more) or they lost the card and failed to compose another. Or, perhaps they have been struggling with this so long, they don't really believe they can change. But, people do change, and dramatically so. However, it takes a good deal of motivation, and perseverance in reading the "values" of chastity and letting the truth permeate one's whole being, mind and heart.
If it took two or three years of reading the benefits of chastity three or four times a day (requiring perhaps three minutes a day), would it be worth it?
Of course, the Christian has much more than just a psychological technique to help him overcome sexual insobriety. He has the ability to benefit from grace, the grace that all people need to live virtuous lives. And, there are any number of other aids for the Christian striving to move from vice to virtue. We will consider these in the next chapter.
It should be noted as well, that chastity is not just about sex, but it should be part of a whole Christian lifestyle, which is balanced, realistic about what the world can offer, and is built on the virtue of prudence. These things will be addressed in subsequent chapters.
Chapter 3: Get Help
The first help a believer should seek is grace. St. Augustine said, “The law was given that we might seek grace. Grace was given that we might keep the law.” Prayer opens us to the entire life of grace. Christians can meditate on the life of Christ, as one of the most powerful types of prayer. Catholics can do this by meditation on the mysteries of the rosary,27 but all Christians can meditate on the Scriptures. This is done by reading a passage, and then closing one’s eyes and reflecting on what was read.
One young man told me he struggled with an addiction to homosexual activity for many years, and then masturbation for several years more. When one day he began to pray the Divine Mercy Chaplet (after years of prayer), all of a sudden he was given the grace of chastity. Prayer is essential for chastity, and indeed, for all the fruits of the Holy Spirit.
To be sure, the Divine Mercy Chaplet was the final piece in a mosaic of prayer for the man just mentioned. It usually takes a good deal of time to arrive at chastity. However long it takes, grace is essential for it to happen. As noted earlier, the fruits are generally the last thing to appear on a tree, and it is no different with the fruit of chastity. One must persevere in prayer, and make a constant effort to overcome sexual sins, and the peace of chastity will come.
And prayer here is not just something one does until he is healed. It’s a way of life for the Christian. Many have discovered the hard way that when they stopped praying, having achieved the goal of chastity, lust comes roaring back. Prayer is not a temporary medicine for sin, but the basic spiritual food of every Christian. Even if we were to live in perfect chastity for the rest of our lives, it would mean very little if we did not have a strong relationship with God through prayer. Prayer is the way to true happiness and every follower of Christ should know that. Prayer draws us close to the Lord in love, which is essential to our being saved. It’s far more than a remedy for lust.
And, as St. John Vianney said, “The more you pray, the more you want to pray.” Alas, the opposite is true as well: the less you pray, the less you want to pray. A person who struggles with sexual addiction–or any addiction–should commit to ten or fifteen minutes of prayer daily and then try to increase that commitment every six months or so. The commitment to pray is the first miracle in the life of a Christian, as St. Augustine said. Once that commitment is made and kept for a year, adding to it is relatively easy. The beautiful thing about prayer is that once a person makes it a habit, he begins to see the results of prayer and becomes highly motivated to keep going. One woman commented about her discovery of prayer and all that flowed from it, “I am never going back to my old ways. I’ve found it and I’m never going to let go.”
Mother Teresa of Calcutta said,
Love to pray. Feel often during the day the need for prayer and take the trouble to pray. Prayer enlarges the heart until it is capable of containing God's gift of Himself. Ask and seek, and your heart will grow big enough to receive Him and keep Him as your own.
There are, of course, other sources of grace besides prayer. In a Catholic context, the Mass is the highest source of grace, the "source and summit of the Christian life," as Vatican II put it.28 Catholics have the opportunity to attend Mass not only on Sunday, but on weekdays as well. This is a most powerful source of grace. Most of the Catholics I know who have been set free from lust are attending Mass every day. Certainly the sacraments, especially the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation29 and that of the Eucharist, are also great sources of grace.
In addition to these things, the daily reading of Sacred Scripture, and books on the saints30 and their writings is an invaluable source of inspiration to continue on the journey toward holiness. And it is holiness that one needs to be free of sexual addiction, and even more so for salvation.
Fasting for Chastity?
Thomas Aquinas taught that one of the purposes of fasting was
...in order to bridle the lusts of the flesh, wherefore the Apostle says (2 Cor. 6:5, 6): "In fasting, in chastity," since fasting is the guardian of chastity. For, according to Jerome, "Venus is cold when Ceres and Bacchus are not there," that is to say, lust is cooled by abstinence in meat and drink... The same is declared by Augustine in a sermon, "Fasting cleanses the soul, raises the mind, subjects one's flesh to the spirit... scatters the clouds of concupiscence, quenches the fire of lust, kindles the true light of chastity."31
So, if a person is eating rich foods and drinking exotic beverages on a regular basis, that would make it that much harder to advance in chastity. Thomas Aquinas taught that fasting and self-denial are required by Christianity,32 and the neglect of these will make pursuing chastity difficult.
In addition, of course, excessive drinking makes one far more vulnerable to sexual sins. This is so because becoming inebriated lowers one’s moral powers.
Another source of help would be to work with a mentor or spiritual director. This should be a priest or minister, or devout psychologist or other layperson who knows the spiritual life, and has some understanding of sexual addictions. One might contact such a person weekly by phone and perhaps monthly in person. In some cases, phone contact might be the only practical possibility because of a lack of proximity, and that can work fine. What one must do is to share with the mentor exactly what he has done with regard to this addiction and how he has pursued prayer and other spiritual practices to strengthen himself since their last contact. If progress is to be made, the person must candidly tell the mentor everything that is pertinent.
I once mentored a young man who was struggling with pornography addiction. At one point he began to be very vague and evasive. I knew that this young man would not continue with me, and indeed, he did not. If a person is to make his way out of this slavery, he must be absolutely committed to staying with his mentor (if the mentor is helping), until the addiction is overcome.
As I mentioned in the introduction, some may need therapy to overcome their sexual addiction. I would recommend a well-formed Christian therapist, since many seculars might be hard-pressed to understand why anyone would want to stop non-marital sexual activity. Even some Christian therapists might see nothing wrong with masturbation. And, of course, regardless of the therapist’s religious affiliation, some are better than others. It is ultimately up to the person seeking help to decide after a certain time if the therapist is helping. If not, he should feel free to seek another therapist.
Another source of great help is to attend a support group such as Sexaholics Anonymous.33 This group is quite compatible with Christianity, insofar as their criterion for sobriety is: no sexual activity except with a spouse in a true marriage. Other support groups for sexual addictions seem to leave the goal entirely to the individual. It may not be easy to strive for a truly Christian goal while your peers are working toward a much lesser goal.
For those dealing with same-sex attraction, Courage is the Catholic group which upholds without reservation, the full gospel teaching on chastity.34 There are a number of other orthodox Christian groups under Protestant leadership. Two of these are Regeneration Ministries and Living Waters Ministries.35
Get A Life
Having worked with scores of people struggling with sexual addiction over the years, I have found one pattern which seems to emerge over and over again, namely boredom with life. Most people in this predicament worked at their jobs daily, but had rather mundane lives evenings and on weekends. They had few or no enjoyable activities in their lives on a regular basis. I had to urge them to plan some fun every week.
The reason for this is not obscure. The human psyche needs some stimulation periodically to feel healthy. If we don’t take care of this need, the mind will become desperate for stimulation, and seek it in the wrong places. Mental stimulation becomes a drug that can be found by a visit to the internet or to a video store, a quick fix for the mind. St. Thomas Aquinas wrote, “No one can live without delight and that is why a man deprived of spiritual joy goes over to carnal pleasures.” [Summa Theologica, IIa-IIae, 35.4 ad 2]
People striving to overcome sex addiction must find some enjoyable activity such as a sport or game, or some creative activity which they will look forward to each week. It is especially helpful if what they choose involves at least one other person. Even the reading of a fascinating book, or watching a great movie would suffice. It must be something that will lift the mind out of what the French call ennui, that annoying boredom that comes with a lackluster life.
Exercise can not only be a good stimulant for the mind, but it also dampens the appetite for unchaste behavior. Anyone who has exercised vigorously for an hour or two, knows that their interest in illicit sexual activity is lower after exercising than before.
The person who fails to integrate healthy fun into their life becomes an easy prey for not only sexual addiction, but substance abuse and love addiction as well. It is a dangerous state to be in.
A young woman came to for me counseling once because she was having a terrible time with her boyfriend. He often tried to manipulate her and they had ugly arguments rather frequently. She said she had broken up with him several times before, but after a week or two she would call him and they would get back together. She knew he wasn’t right for her, but she had a hard time letting go. I asked her if she had any fun in her life and she replied no, her work schedule didn’t permit it.
“It’s no wonder you keep going through this cycle,” I told her. “You are so bored with your life that after you have broken up with Marvin for a couple of weeks, you call him for a little excitement. You need to consider finding a new job so that you will have some time to have some real fun every week.”
She got a new job, and began to have some fun. Shortly thereafter, she broke up with Marvin for the last time. Some months later she met a very good man and eventually married him.
Having appealing events to anticipate each week is not a luxury, nor is it pampering oneself, it is a basic need. Pursuing this is not self-indulgence but, analogous to eating or sleeping enough, an acknowledgment of our own human neediness. It is part of the virtue of humility.
Certainly, doing enjoyable things can be overdone, as when a person has to play their sport five times a week to the neglect of their duties. This is going beyond needs to irrational desires.
Sometimes one's boredom is more than just lack of healthy stimulation. It can be due to a complete lack of purpose in life. Certainly, knowing one's faith and reading about how the saints lived it is a great beginning to overcoming this lack in one's life. Knowing one's purpose, both eternal and temporal, and pursuing it constitute a good antidote to general boredom.
Healthy, non-possessive friendships are another antidote to sexual addiction. Getting together with a friend or two weekly or so, to watch a game, or just have a drink and talk about life can be very worthwhile.
Chapter 4: Love Addiction
The woman in the previous story was suffering not only from boredom, but love addiction as well. The two were feeding each other. Love addiction can often lead to unchastity, if not a habit of lust. It can also lead to marrying the wrong person, or persons, over time.
The problem arises when an individual meets someone they like, and they immediately think of this person as a potential spouse. Of course, such thoughts are fairly natural when you meet someone new, but what a person does with them is the key. Some dismiss them for the first nine months or so, until they really get to know the person. Only then do they begin to really allow their emotions to develop more strongly, but not before. This is most wise.
The sad thing is that others, many others, will really believe these premature thoughts and begin to obsess over the person. They blow the relationship all out of proportion and interiorly commit to the other person. The trouble with this is a) This passion in the heart often leads to passionate activity, including sexual activity, even if there is a commitment to chastity; and b) It sets a person up to make a terrible mistake by marrying someone they don’t really know.
One young college woman was so committed to chastity that she developed into an excellent speaker on the subject. She was invited to speak at various schools and convocations on chastity. Then she met a man who she thought was the man of her dreams. Right from the beginning she let her heart run wild over him. He seemed to be a good Catholic and interested in the very sort of family life she wanted. She would tell family and friends, “We are so in love. We just can’t get enough of each other.” They acted as if they had discovered something no one else ever experienced.
As a feeling, that’s okay, but her mistake was to believe it, to try to live it out, to try to consume this man and be consumed by him emotionally. She had little time for her friends, and barely enough time for her studies. They were so filled with passion when they got together, one night her passion, combined with his old ways of dealing with women, overcame her commitment to chastity. As it turned out, that night she got pregnant. Needless to say her life became complicated very quickly. And, her chastity talks were no more.
How should she have proceeded with her new love? Enjoy the strong feelings, but realize they are all out of proportion to reality. No human being can satisfy that overpowering eros which masquerades as a god.36 The purpose of this emotional high is solely to inspire a couple to overcome inertia and make the commitment to marry when the time is right. To cultivate it and give in to it at any other time is a recipe for disaster.
If it doesn’t lead to unchastity it could lead to a huge marriage mistake. In this case the person totally commits their heart to their latest love after two months or less of dating. In some cases the man will propose after this outrageously short time and the woman will say yes. They come to me and explain that everything is in place. They agree on religion, on chastity, on natural birth regulation in marriage, on the number of children they want to have. “Everything is right,” they say, “Why wait?”
I tell them why. “Because you don’t really know each other. That’s a factor here too. It’s no doubt refreshing to find someone with whom you have so much in common, and to actually like this person, but it’s not enough.” How many, many couples have met either through computer dating or other means and after having checked off all the key moral questions, rushed into marriage, only to find out that there were a number of interpersonal items they had overlooked.
I prepared one such couple for marriage. The groom had proposed ever-so-romantically after two months. The woman, a devout Catholic was impressed with his faith, his apparent maturity (anyone can be mature for two months). She said yes, and four months later they were married. It was not even a year later when he wanted out of the marriage. It was a disaster. They realized they hadn’t gotten to know each other (the understatement of the year!). A sad divorce followed.
Both men and women must realize that it takes time to get to know someone before marriage, even if some of the most important criteria are met. Have there been any studies done to see what length of courtship produces good results in marriage? I know of at least one. In the mid-eighties researchers at Kansas State University studied marital satisfaction in relation to time of courtship. The results? “Couples who had dated for more than two years scored consistently high on marital satisfaction, while couples who had dated for shorter periods scored in a wide range from very high to very low.”37
This is why I encourage couples to never give sway to passionate feelings until they have dated nine months to a year. And even then, one must subject these feelings to reasonable limits. Even in marriage, you cannot expect to have all your emotional needs met by your spouse. As Bishop Fulton Sheen used to say, “Every man (woman) promises what only God can give.” Indeed even with God, we will not be somehow dissolved into Him in the Kingdom, but are in eternal exchange of love between distinct persons. Pope John Paul II stated,
This intimacy–with all its subjective intensity–will not absorb man’s personal subjectivity, but rather will make it stand out to an incomparably greater and fuller extent... Those who participate in the future world, that is, in perfect communion with the living God, will enjoy a perfectly mature subjectivity.38
Prior to nine months, lovers should simply enjoy the feelings, but tell themselves, “This is nice, but it doesn’t mean much at this point. We need to take our time.” One woman came to me for spiritual guidance and told me of her latest love, whom she had met just a few months before. She said, “Things seem to be going well. I suppose it’s unlikely, based on past experience that this will end in marriage, but I am keeping an open mind.” In other words, she was not rushing her heart to the altar after just a few months, since she had been very much in love before that time and it hadn’t worked out. In fact, that relationship did work out, but the wedding was over a year away.
Love addiction is a huge problem in our "instant gratification" culture, and is related to sex addiction, to the extent that there is actually a support group with chapters throughout the world, entitled “Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous”. They identify some of the symptoms of being “Sex and Love Addicted” as becoming “sexually involved with and or emotionally attached to people without knowing them,” and returning to “painful, destructive relationships.”39
The point of all this is, that you can’t let your passions go wild after only a short time knowing someone, and expect to control yourself sexually. It’s virtually impossible. But, even if you could exercise a will of steel while allowing your emotions to prematurely take over, you still run the terrible risk of doing something stupid, like getting married to someone without really knowing them.
Chapter 5: Cleansing The Mind
We can sin sexually not only with our bodies, but with our minds as well. Jesus taught, “...I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Mt 5:28). Thus, it is essential that we keep our mind clean of impure thoughts.
Get Rid of Pornography
One fellow who struggled with pornography told me he went to confession often so as to be able to go to Communion. I asked him if the priests told him he must get rid of any pornographic materials he had, and he replied no. I told him he needed to do that to have a firm purpose of amendment. There is simply no way a person can be reconciled to God, while hanging on to pornographic materials. Anyone who has such things must throw them all in the trash, and confessors need to tell penitents as much. If a person has these images stored in his computer, he needs to erase them all as well.
Unfortunately, with such easy access to pornography on the internet, one must do more than just discard all pornography. He must doctor his internet browser so that he will not be able to go to pornographic sites.40 Some have even signed up with an internet service provider which carefully monitors web sites and blocks access to pornographic ones. If a person has a difficulty in this area, these are well worth it. I am told that K9 Web protection is one of the best internet service providers for filtering pornography (http://www1.k9webprotection.com/).
Bishop Fulton Sheen told the story of a young man in college whose roommate hung pornographic pictures on his wall in their small dorm room. He asked Sheen what he could do. Sheen suggested he hang a large picture of Christ crucified on his wall. He did, and it wasn’t long before the roommate’s pornography came down. Taking a cue from this, I have suggested to a number of men that they tape a small picture of the crucified Christ on their computer monitor. When they look at this, they find it much harder to pursue internet pornography.
Purify the Mind
If a person has been using impure images or engaging in immoral sexual behavior for some time, he will most likely have to struggle with impure images even after he has given up his disordered behavior. How does he deal with the imagination in this situation?
When he becomes aware of an impure thought, he should immediately try to crowd out the thought with another colorful thought, such as a ball game, or a beautiful sunset, or whatever appeals to the mind. In addition, he should take the advice of St. John Vianney to make a sign of the cross to drive away the temptation. And, as did St. Catherine of Siena when she was tempted by the devil with lustful images, he should say the name of Jesus repeatedly in the heart. An uninvited impure thought is not sinful, but once a person wills its continuation, sin enters in.
Another thing that can plague people in this area is the habit of impure fantasies, especially when they have a boring life. This seems to be a problem particularly when one is in bed waiting to fall asleep. Certainly developing the habit of meditative prayer during this time is a wonderful alternative to such fantasies.
However, there is also a way of sublimating these fantasies so that one can make the fantasy itself a prayer, or at least a motive for prayer. To do this, one simply meditates on the promise of an eternal marriage with God in the Kingdom. The Scriptures are full of such images. For example, in Isaiah 62:4, 5 we find
No more shall men call you “Forsaken,”
or your land “Desolate,”
But you shall be called ‘My Delight,”
and your land ‘Espoused.’
For the LORD delights in you,
and makes your land his spouse.
As a young man marries a virgin
your Builder shall marry you;
And as a bridegroom rejoices in his bride
so shall your God rejoice in you.41
Hosea 1 and 2 contain God’s complaint against Israel: “... the land commits great harlotry by forsaking the LORD...” (Hos. 1:2). God leads her back to Him and says after her return, “And I will betroth you to me for ever; I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness; and you shall know the LORD.” (Hos. 2:19, 20).
Ezekiel 16 is another example of God’s spousal love for us: God passes by and sees Jerusalem, naked, by the side of the road. He takes her as his bride, dresses her, provides her with jewelry, and gives her a crown. Alas, she “plays the harlot” in her idolatry, and is richly punished. But in the end, God will forgive his unfaithful spouse and will restore his “covenant” with her “forever.” And, in the Song of Songs, God narrates his passionate love for his people, in a way that almost makes us blush. (For example, “You have ravished my heart, my sister, my bride, you have ravished my heart with a glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace. How sweet is your love, my sister, my bride! how much better is your love than wine, and the fragrance of your oils than any spice! Your lips distill nectar, my bride; honey and milk are under your tongue; the scent of your garments is like the scent of Lebanon” Sng. 4:9-11.) What a delightful thought, the union with God in a kind of marriage; God who is more beautiful, more exciting, more charming, more faithful than any spouse we could ever imagine on earth.
What a glorious consolation to see an attractive person, and to be able to think, “Goodness, if that’s how the copy looks, I can’t wait to be married to the original!” Gender should not present a problem here, since of course, both men and women are created in the image of God. God, in His essence is no more male than female.42 Thus, a man picturing God as a beautiful woman is no less realistic than a woman picturing Him as a glorious man, although it challenges the imagination a bit more. The point is that good mental constructs that stir us to desire God more can be very worthwhile, and help us turn away from sinful fantasies which lead us away from God.
St. Francis de Sales wrote that everything we see in this world should remind us of God. Why not a beautiful woman or man? Granted, we should not use the form of someone we see often, lest we end up focusing on that person, rather than God, under their form. If we choose someone we have seen, and are not likely to see again, we will avoid this potential problem.
Now, to be sure, a fantasy focused on God can be taken to immoral extremes as well. If a person’s thoughts become sexual so that he starts to become aroused, he should fast forward through that to a more sedate sharing of affection. But, a chaste hug with the God who created in His own image the beauties we so desire on earth, is a delightful thing. Ultimately, it is only union with this Beloved, that will fulfill us completely as persons, and an imaginary hug with such a Lover is a powerful sign of that union, and is more real than any earthly fantasy could ever be.
Worldly fantasies are about things that, at best, have happened or will happen for a time in this life. Godly fantasies are about what surely will happen, and continue without end, if we strive for the holiness to which God calls us. What will last forever is far more real than what is passing away.
We could say this sort of thing is just an extension of the prayer of St. Augustine:
Late have I loved you, O Beauty so ancient and so new... I rushed headlong after these things of beauty which you have made... They kept me far from you, those fair things which, were they not in you, would not exist at all... You have sent forth fragrance, and I have drawn in my breath, and I pant for you. I have tasted you, and I hunger and thirst for you. You have touched me and I have burned for your peace.”43
Such a holy fantasy should make us want to move right into prayer, to strive toward that goal of marital union with God. It should inspire us to live a holy life, detached from the world,44 attached only to the God of our dreams.
Many people tell me they struggle with looking at others in the street as sexual objects. In our oversexed culture, almost anyone can fall into that trap, so conditioned are we by the pansexualism of the media. The first thing to bring to mind in such situations is that this person is a child of God, someone with his or her own goals in life. This is someone worthy of love, not of use, to coin an expression of Pope John Paul II.45
Of course, the tendency to “use” is to look at all the different physical aspects of this person. However, if we learn to look at the eyes and then look away, we will elevate our looking to see a person, a complete person to which the eyes are the window.
Further, we can see this person as a wonderful sign of the glory of God. Rather than say, I mustn’t look lest I “use” in my mind, better to say, “Here is another sign of God’s beauty. I cannot wait to be united to Him.” The Catechism of the Church teaches something similar:
Purity of heart is the precondition of the vision of God. Even now it enables us to see according to God, to accept others as "neighbors"; it lets us perceive the human body - ours and our neighbor's - as a temple of the Holy Spirit, a manifestation of divine beauty (para. 2519).
Pope John Paul II wrote, “...beauty is essentially an object of contemplative cognition, and to experience aesthetic values is not to exploit: it gives joy...”46 In other words, admiring the beauty in another, without reducing that person to their mere sexual values is a good thing, especially if it reminds us of God.
Are we exploiting such people, when we “use” them to reflect on God’s beauty? No more than we use a preacher when he speaks of God in an uplifting way. God himself said to St. Margaret of Cortona, a beautiful reformed sinner, “By your beauty I wish to encourage sinners to come to you, to be converted, and thus to give me greater glory.” What better way for one’s gifts (beauty, charm, etc.) to be used, than to remind others of God?
By suppressing our tendency to look at an attractive person, rather than sublimating it, we may be doing something analogous to suppressing the sexual appetite, as discussed earlier. Doing so will not bring about the peace of chastity, but a tension in the psyche, ready to spring forth in an errant way in a moment of weakness.
To be sure, there are some people who are so provocatively dressed that it is hard to see them as a symbol of God. For such, it is best to look at their eyes and then down and pray for their conversion. But, many attractive people we see in the street are just attractive, not sexy, and these we can see in the divine image.
Alas, we all breathe the air of the 20th century, in which exploitation is everywhere. Thus, whenever a person, especially a man, sees a member of the opposite sex (or, for a homosexual, of the same sex), he must have a way of dismissing such reflex thoughts by reason. When I see an attractive woman, I have developed the habit of saying to myself, “She’s a person, a child of God,” immediately to deflate any exploitive tendency from the start. Only then will I consider whether she can be seen as an image of God, or as one who needs prayers to rise above her immodesty.
There is another element which contributes to getting beyond visual exploitation, and that is to enter into conversation with the other person. Of course, this is not always possible, but there are certain situations where introductions and conversation are quite appropriate, even if optional. A number of people have told me that they have been able to sanitize their view of another by simply starting a conversation with them. Certainly it is much easier to see someone as a person, rather than just a body, if one verbally communicates with her/him.
What then, is “custody of the eyes”? It is keeping the eyes from checking out all the sexual values of one who is immodestly dressed when one has to work with them. An example would be a business man discussing a project with a woman who is showing a great deal of skin. What he should do is make every effort to focus on the person as a whole, rather than on her sexual values. He does this by focusing on her eyes, the window to the soul. He does this, not in a rigid, obsessive way, as if to say, “I mustn’t look there or there,” but in a way that is intent on seeing the whole person, including her sexual values, but truly trying to see the big picture. If he sees her as a person, he can practice Christian love toward her, benevolence, rather than exploit her visually. He tries to see her as God sees her. (If he can do so diplomatically and lovingly, he might even encourage her to protect herself from exploitation by covering up more.)
Pope John Paul II wrote in Love and Responsibility:
The essence of chastity consists in quickness to affirm the value of the person in every situation, and in raising to the personal level all reactions to the value of “the body and sex.” This requires a special interior, spiritual effort, for affirmation of the value of the person can only be the product of the spirit, but this effort is above all positive and creative “from within,” not negative and destructive. It is not a matter of summarily “annihilating” the value “body and sex” in the conscious mind by pushing reactions to them down into the subconscious, but of sustained long term integration; the value of “body and sex” must be grounded and implanted in the value of the person.47
In other words he doesn’t try to “artificially banish the values of the ‘body’ or more generally the values of sex, to the subconscious, of pretending that they do not exist, or at any rate have no effect.”48 He rather sees this person, one of God’s creatures, one he should love in a Christian way, who happens to have the values of body and sex.
Chapter 6: Be Not Afraid
One of the things that binds people to their sexual sins is fear. Fear of boredom, of loneliness, of not being able to break free. As our Blessed Lord and Pope John Paul II used to say, “Be not afraid!” Forge ahead. The difference between a saint and sinner is, a saint is a sinner who never stopped trying.
Expect Psychological Withdrawal
Sometimes people are surprised by the sadness they feel when they give up not only sexual sins, but fine dining and drink as well. There should be no surprise. Just as an alcoholic or a drug addict experiences withdrawal when he gives up the subject of his addiction, so will a person addicted to sex, experience withdrawal, and often a psychologically painful one at that.
When a person gives up alcohol or drugs he is often warned that for several weeks, or even months, he will undergo a period of great desire for the substance, and feel miserable. Knowing that, many are able to cope, with the realization that this misery will soon end. Likewise, the one who gives up immoral sexual activity, and perhaps fine dining and drinking as well, should anticipate at least six weeks of angst over his loss, but should take comfort in the fact that he will feel far better once he emerges from this dark tunnel. The recovered (or "recovering," as some prefer) sex addict is able to forget himself and love God and others freely. He is free from what St. Augustine called the “cruel slavery to lust.”
When I gave up sugar, I was warned of this withdrawal, and indeed experienced it. But, after six weeks, my health was so improved that I have never had the slightest desire to go back to it. Overcoming sexual addiction is not unlike this.
One of the problems which often arises with those addicted to sex is that of evaluating their culpability for sins. The Church teaches that for something to be a mortal sin, three things are required. 1) Serious matter 2) sufficient reflection, and 3) full consent of the will.
As we saw earlier, the Congregation for The Doctrine of The Faith taught, “the moral order of sexuality involves such high values of human life that every direct violation of this order is objectively serious.”49 Thus, it should be clear from our previous discussion that fornication, masturbation, adultery, homosexual activity, and the use of pornography are serious matter.
With regard to masturbation a cautionary note is added:
To form an equitable judgment about the subjects' moral responsibility and to guide pastoral action, one must take into account the affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety, or other psychological or social factors that can lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability (CCC 2352).
Sometimes young people commit masturbation without knowing it is seriously sinful. In other cases, a person who has a habit of masturbation may well not give full consent when he masturbates.
What would be an example of a serious sin committed without sufficient reflection? If a person were to masturbate or use pornography without knowing it was wrong, or seriously wrong, this would be a lack of sufficient reflection. It would be a venial sin (although serious matter). If someone were to commit a serious sin by a reflex action, without even considering whether or not it was seriously sinful, this too, would appear to be sinning without sufficient reflection, and thus a venial sin. If a person were half asleep or even partly sedated when committing the sin of masturbation, this would seem to involve a lack of sufficient reflection (and full consent) as well. Germain Grisez gives several other conditions for lack of sufficient reflection: “extreme fatigue, great pressure, distraction.”50
What would be a case in which one sinned seriously without full consent? One might be a person doing something sinful with a gun to his head. Another might be the following: a person truly is working at his faith, meditating on Scripture or the life of Christ for fifteen minutes a day, attending daily Mass, confessing bi-weekly, doing spiritual reading. Let’s say he had a habit of masturbation for the past fifteen years, and has cut it down from once a day to once a week. He is praying for the Lord to take this sin away, but once a week, more or less, he feels a physical feeling come over him in various situations, and though he prays for deliverance right up to the last moment, he falls. Presuming true sincerity on his part, it would seem that this person does not give full consent.
Certainly such a person should attempt to get up and go somewhere, even in the middle of the night, to break the mood. And, it may be that he could benefit from counseling. It seems certain, however, that if he continues in his spiritual exercises, he will continue to reduce the frequency of this sin, and eventually eliminate it.
Another case might be the man who wakes up in the middle of the night and has already, in his sleep begun to masturbate. Once he is awake he should get up and do something, but if he prays for deliverance but continues what started in his sleep, it seems this would not involve full consent or sufficient reflection. Serious matter yes, but mortal sin, no.
The use of pornography generally involves much more of the will than masturbation. This is especially true of the person who goes out and rents a pornographic film, or goes to a movie theater to see pornography. Intentionally going to a pornographic web site would most likely qualify for full consent.
However, if a person is surfing the net and, let’s say, by clicking the wrong thing finds he is at a pornographic web site, this would not yet involve consent. He should, of course click on some other web address right away. But, what if he lingers for, let’s say ten seconds before moving on? This would appear to be sinful, but not sufficient reflection or full consent. If he goes back to the site later, these two conditions would appear to be present.
I always encourage those who fall into masturbation, or any other sexual sin for that matter, to make one evaluation right after the event, as to whether he/she had sufficient reflection and gave full consent. Once they decide, they should not go back and re-evaluate it. The decision is made once, and the act should not be reconsidered later. If one did not have sufficient reflection or give full consent, it is not a mortal sin (even though still serious matter) and the person is free to go to Communion.
If there is true uncertainty as to whether a sin was mortal, the person should assume it was. He should say a perfect act of contrition (i.e., out of love), and plan to get to confession as soon as is reasonably possible. However, if a person is struggling to overcome an old habit of pornography use or masturbation, it is often rightly suggested that he go to confession every two weeks or so.
I don’t think it is healthy to tell someone that any time he commits masturbation he should get to confession before receiving communion “just in case.” This negates the teaching on what is required for a mortal sin. If the person truly did not give full consent, it’s not a mortal sin. He should simply live by that. Otherwise, he may begin to obsess over this sin and doubt he will ever win the battle. Progress in this area is often slow. It takes time to overcome a long-time habit of masturbation or pornography use.51
One case that may come up is that of the person described above, who is doing a number of things right, truly working at overcoming an old habit, and even making progress. But, because he has not completely overcome the sin of masturbation, he feels terrible. He begins to obsess about it, and think he is lost. Someone like this needs to be reassured by a priest or mentor, not condemned. One who attends daily Mass, prays a good deal, and receives the Eucharist several times a week should be reminded of the words of the letter of St. Peter, “...love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pet 4:8).
He should be encouraged to keep trying and not become discouraged, since it is likely that these are not mortal sins, and he is on the verge of true holiness if he keeps up these spiritual practices and continues to grow in virtue. He should be reminded to think often about the benefits of chastity, as mentioned above, but not to think often about his sins.
As Bishop Sheen used to say, the devil is the great consoler before we sin: “It’s not so bad... God will forgive you...”; but the great accuser after: “You’ve sinned again. You’ll never be free of this; you’ll never be saved.” The Lord, on the other hand, is the great accuser before we sin: “Don’t do this. You won’t find happiness in this.” But, He is the great consoler after: “Don’t despair. I will take you back. Repent and find peace.” Sexual sins are generally sins of weakness, and they are not nearly so evil as sins of malice. Yes, they are serious matter, but even some of the saints struggled to put sins of lust behind them, including Augustine. (Augustine used to pray, before his conversion, "Lord, give me chastity, but not yet.") If a person is truly trying, he should be assured that God is pleased with his effort, even if he hasn’t totally triumphed.
Fear of Loneliness
One situation that comes up fairly often is that of two people dating unchastely who have no intention of marrying, but one or both are afraid of being alone. They want to continue the relationship and are afraid to break it off lest they lose this person, who they believe, is better than nothing. A person in this situation needs to get some support in doing what is right, namely terminating the relationship. To do that, they must surround themselves with whatever friends they have, especially religious ones, and develop an active life.
They must realize that breaking away from this person is going to hurt, but it's like the alcoholic giving up drinking. At first it is painful, but in time it is very liberating. Clinging to a sexual relationship without a future keeps one from spending the time needed to seek a marriage partner and of course, keeps one from God and his blessings. Like any addiction, it doesn't remove the pain of loneliness, it just postpones it. And, of course, it prolongs the separation from God which is like a slowly growing cancer of the soul.
Visits to the Blessed Sacrament can be of great help in this situation. Often when a person spends a half hour or more in adoration, he will come out feeling a bit more peaceful about a personal loss. It doesn’t remove all pain, but it can soothe it, and in time it can make a huge difference.
Chapter 7: Extramarital Sins
Fornication and Foreplay
Fornication generally involves more of the will than masturbation. A couple who frequently fall into fornication should avoid situations in which this happens. Many say they want to avoid this sin, but continue to return to the situation which has led to it before, namely kissing on the couch. Returning to such a situation, with the hope of somehow doing better this time is a serious sin against prudence and love of God, even if the couple does avoid fornication.
But it should be realized that not just fornication is serious matter. As we saw above, foreplay is as well.
Some have suggested that kissing should be postponed to marriage to avoid sexual sins. Perhaps most of the kissing being done nowadays should, but there is a presumption here that people are not capable of sharing tender, affectionate kisses. Affection is an excellent language of love and should be shared chastely in courtship. In fact, sharing chaste affection is an important element in preparing for a healthy marriage. When affection is seen as simply an introduction to sexual activity, there will be problems in marriage, because while a woman often needs affection, she does not always need or want sex.
For the committed Christian, and indeed anyone committed to chastity, kissing in courtship should be limited to saying goodnight and should be done standing. A man courting a young woman might kiss her tenderly, slowly, once... twice, and then hug her warmly. After this he says some complimentary words of love, says goodnight, and gives her a final gentle kiss.52
Again, here, there is likely to be a period of psychological withdrawal if a couple moves away from fornication and/or foreplay to this scenario, but it is a freeing thing. And, it is an excellent way to prepare for a good, non-exploitive, Christian marriage. Many couples have found this way of sharing affection in courtship a delight and an incentive to relate to each other in a more personal way.
Couples who fornicate during their courtship are preparing for a bad marriage relationship. First, the woman bonds with the man when she has sex with him, but the man does not bond with the woman. If one is committed and the other is not, who has the upper hand? The uncommitted one, the man! In such a situation, the man may well fall into treating the woman badly and she will often accept this bad behavior, feeling that she does not want to start over now that she has had relations with him. This bad behavior almost always carries over into the marriage, and the woman ends up being treated like a servant. (This was at the root of the feminist revolution which began about 10 years after the sexual revolution.) When there is no sex during courtship, there is equality in the relationship and most often this continues into the marriage as well.53
Furthermore, having pre-marital sex increases the chances of divorce. According to a 1992 study published by the University of Chicago, men who have had premarital sex are 63% more likely to get divorced than if they had not. Women are 76% more likely to divorce if they have had premarital sex.54
Some secular writers have begun to lament the harm done to women by the sexual revolution. Danielle Chrittendon writes in What Our Mothers Didn’t Tell Us: Why Happiness Eludes the Modern Woman “. . . the woman who comes of age today quickly discovers that she enjoys a . . . guarantee of ‘sexual equality’: the right to make love to a man and never see him again; the right to be insulted and demeaned if she refuses a man’s advances; the right to catch a sexually transmitted disease, that might, as a bonus, leave her infertile; the right to an abortion when things go wrong, or, as it may be, the right to bear a child out of wedlock. Indeed, in all the promises made to us about our ability to achieve freedom and independence as women, the promise of sexual emancipation may have been the most illusory.”55
Sexual intimacy during courtship, alas, is an excellent preparation for divorce.
From what I have seen, breaking free from sexual sins is much harder for those suffering from same-sex attraction, since the desire is almost always psychological completion, not just physical or personal. Nonetheless, I have worked with scores of homosexuals who have overcome their addiction to illicit sex. Some have done so only after years of struggle, others have had a religious experience which moved them rather quickly to sexual sobriety.
One of the common sense steps for a person with same-sex attraction is to avoid homosexual bars and restaurants. Some try to leave the homosexual lifestyle while hanging on to friends committed to it, or while frequenting “gay hangouts.” It won’t work. Some say they just want a friendship from these places, but that is naive. Hardly anyone in these places is just looking for a friendship. In any event, friendships with other homosexuals is not the best thing for those suffering with this condition. Rather, friendships with straight men is widely viewed as the best camaraderie for a homosexual man. However, friendships with those sharing the same struggle and the same religious conviction can provide much-needed support as well.
This does not mean a formerly active homosexual can’t associate with someone who is still in the lifestyle. He may be able to evangelize some of them. But, his closest friends, the ones from whom he seeks support to strive for the Kingdom, should be those persons of faith who are living chastely, and especially straight men.
Just about every person I know who has moved from homosexual activity to chastity has sought and found help, through the groups mentioned earlier: Courage,56 a Catholic ministry, or Living Waters,57 a Christian ministry for homosexuals, or Sexaholics Anonymous, or some other solidly Christian (or Jewish) group. Many have pursued individual spiritual direction as well.
Although it is possible to overcome addiction to homosexual activity without changing one’s orientation, many of those who have pursued change and succeeded have found it easier to live chastely. Even those who were not successful in eliminating same-sex attraction have often said they nonetheless grew a great deal in this therapy. Robert Spitzer, a former “champion of gay activism,” published an article in 2003 on a study he conducted which, according to him, “provides evidence that reparative therapy is sometimes successful.”58 Those interested in learning more about reparative therapy or receiving a referral can contact the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality.59
There is a self-help book for those who wish change their orientation, which has helped a number of people. It is entitled The Battle for Normality.60 There are also groups for parents and friends and those suffering from same-sex attraction. One for Catholics is EnCourage, a ministry of Courage.61 Another is for parents and friends of Ex-gays and gays, PFOX.62
For a list of books and tapes on overcoming homosexuality, see the Courage web site63 which is an excellent resource. A Christian group which offers for sale a large number of these books by mail order is Regeneration Ministries.64
Chapter 8: Summary and Conclusions
In summary, then, a person suffering from sexual addiction should pursue the following steps:
1. Work to convince his mind first, and then his appetite, his heart, that illicit sex will not make him happy.
2. Seek God’s help through prayer and a strong sacramental life and frequent Mass or worship. Read the lives of saints for inspiration.
3. Find help in a mentor and/or support groups.
4. Get therapy if necessary.
5. Live a balanced life.
6. Never let emotional love run wild. Work hard to bring it under reason.
7. Get rid of all pornography.
8. Learn how to clean up his imagination.
9. Substitute good fantasies for bad.
10. When he/she sees an attractive person, see them as an image of God, his/her future Spouse.
11. Fast weekly.
12. Anticipate some withdrawal upon giving up unchastity, but realize that withdrawal only lasts a few weeks at most.
13. Try not to obsess over sins, and evaluate a sin only once, rationally.
14. Carefully avoid occasions of physical intimacy which lend themselves to unchastity.
15. Realize that prolonging a sexual relationship for fear of loneliness keeps one from finding a marriage partner, and keeps one from God and his blessings, which far outweigh any temporary loneliness.
16. For same-sex attraction, don’t pretend that chastity and frequenting “gay bars,” etc. can go together.
17. If same-sex attraction is the problem, consider reparative therapy, and read good books on how to overcome homosexual addiction.
Sexual addiction is a terrible cross, but the Church is here to help those who bear it. With God all things are possible.
If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit which dwells in you. So then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh–for if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God (Rom. 8:11-14).
Prayer for Chastity
Father in heaven, You have created us for love, and given our bodies nuptial meaning. You have enabled us to share in Your creative love in the sublime act proper to the sacrament of matrimony. Help us to see the beauty and dignity of this noble and profound act, and to never trivialize so precious a gift.
I firmly believe You are with me in this journey, that You will lead me home to sexual sobriety, if I am open to Your truth, Your grace, and Your ministers of love. Help me to be honest with myself, and with You, that I may know the peace of love rather than the chaos of unchastity.
Jesus, You showed us the truth about personhood in Your own life on earth. Help me to model my life on Yours, that within my own unique personality, I may come to imitate Your purity, Your love and Your peace.
Spirit of love, help me to welcome You into my life, that I might live by Your gifts of wisdom, understanding, counsel and courage. May they bring forth the fruits of self control, modesty and chastity in my life.
Mary, queen of peace and model of purity, bring my prayer to God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, that I might live always in His light, and rejoice forever in His love. Amen.
Two Stories of Overcoming Lust and Finding Peace & Chastity
Escape from Sexual Addiction
(This is a true story. Some of the incidental details have been altered to protect the privacy of the author.)
Growing up, I was very timid and shy. I had a hard time making friends and keeping them. I preferred to be by myself, and have always thought of myself as a loner. I saw others as very cruel, so it was easy to withdraw into my own world.
I discovered my sexuality, by accident, as a young teen. I guess I started masturbating when I was about 14 or 15 years old. It was exciting, and as I was not hurting anyone, I told myself, it was okay. Somehow I knew better. I didn’t know what the thing I was doing was called, but I knew I had to keep it a secret, because others would not understand. After each act, I would feel intense guilt, but the pleasure of the act made it something I was always dreaming about and desiring. I made sure to go to Confession as often as I could, and the Priests let me know clearly that this was not acceptable behavior in the sight of God or society.
I discovered pornography also by accident. At that time, there was no internet, no DVD’s, no adult theaters that I knew of, or even imagined existed. I found some pictures from a porn magazine that had been left on a playground. The images were very exciting, and thinking back now, I know I was hooked on porn then. I wouldn’t see any more porn until I left home and discovered how available it was. By that time, I was masturbating twice to three times a day.
I didn’t look to form relationships with anyone, I didn’t need anyone. The only thing I would look forward to is the next issue of the porn magazine because by that time I was tired of the previous one. I had abandoned the Church for a time, but I knew I was missing something—the sacraments. I wanted to get away from this activity, but it had a hold of me so strongly, it felt like I would always be a prisoner. I started to go to weekly Confession and Sunday Mass.
DVD’s and the internet became available, and in my mind I would fantasize these women doing anything and everything for my pleasure without a worry that their needs of desires were met. They were, after all, very beautiful and were willing to expose themselves to me because of my value. Of course, after I was satisfied, reality would set in, and I would know in my heart that I had absolutely no value to anyone, and would sink deeper into myself.
The Priests at Confession always told me of God’s love for me despite my failings, and continued to advise me to give up this activity and to pray to God and Our Lady for strength. I asked them if it were possible for me to get away from this for good, and I was amazed because I have never met a Priest who didn’t think that I could put this behind me through the Grace of God. My prayer life had consisted of saying a few prayers in the morning and evening. I had grown up saying the Rosary with the family weekly, but had given that up when I left home. At the recommendation of a parish Priest, I started saying the Rosary again and I tried to do it every day. It was difficult in the beginning, but I worked my way up to five decades a day.
The priest also had me read a card entitled The Truth About Chastity several times a day. He also told me to read the lives of the saints and to try to get to daily Mass. I am still working on daily Mass, I go as often as I can, and am praying for a way to get there every day. The reading of the lives of the saints seemed to be the hardest thing to do. I saw the saints as winners—what would they have in common with a loser like me? Holiness was easy for them, I told myself. However, as I kept reading, I discovered that some of them struggled too.
I knew I had to do something. I had been stuck in this activity for most of my life. I could see myself dying still imprisoned in these sins. I started looking for books on the saints that were not dry, I looked for Catholic magazines to read and started reading the Bible, both Old Testament and New Testament every day. I continued with the Rosary and getting to confession every week and Mass as often as I could.
When my priest first suggested that I read the card everyday about 4 to 6 times, I was skeptical that this would do any good. I would read the card when I rose in the morning and when I hit the sack at night. Soon I could recite the contents of the card from memory, but it didn't seem to help much. I was trying to stop by myself as I always had done, and I might go for a while without sinning, but eventually, I would lose it and fall into sin hard.
My priest had explained that I couldn't muscle my way out of this, that the reading of the card would train the mind to know that I didn't need this sin. By reason I could convert my heart and give up the sin.
I worked on it and worked on it, and would seem to be going to Confession every week with the same sin to confess. I was, looking back on it, actually making progress, the frequency of the sin was lessening, and I was looking at pornography less and less, which was the key to overcoming this because the pornography was feeding the desire.
My priest was seeing progress, and told me so in the confessional, which was very helpful and encouraging. But I was still skeptical about achieving any real results.
I noticed I was making progress when I started reading the Diary of Sister Faustina along with my other readings, saying the Rosary everyday, going to Mass as often as I could and weekly Confession. After starting to read the Diary, I was absolutely amazed that there was even a possibility that God could or would love me enough to forget about my past life, even though I know that He died on the Cross for all of us.
I now try to say the Chaplet of Divine Mercy as often as I can. I am still working my way up to everyday, and I am exploring some of the shows on EWTN as an alternative to the movies and TV shows I would normally watch.
The big break came a couple of years ago. It was a terrible year for me. Life up to then had been fairly easy. But that year I got in a car accident, my father had a heart attack and ended up in a nursing home, my sister had a serious back injury. My uncle who is suffering from dementia, got violent with the family and had to be placed in a nursing home; a tree fell on my house doing serious damage; and it looked like I might lose my job. I think that God was shaking me up and demanding me to WAKE UP.
I continued to read the card several times a day, and started to read a chapter of the Bible from the Old and New Testaments as well as a bit from the Catechism of the Catholic Church everyday. I also got back to reading about the saints. The diary of Sister Faustina really opened my eyes to how perfect God wants us to be. Even little sins offend him greatly, but even that said, He wants to drench us in His Mercy.
As I write this, I haven't had a fall in five months, thanks be to God. While I do have occasional temptations, they are nowhere near as severe as they were when I was in the sin. I know that I will always have to be vigilant in this area, like a recovering alcoholic, but I never imagined that someday, through the Grace of God I would be free of this sin. I still shy away from people in a social setting, and am afraid that I will be exposed someday, but I am grateful to God and the many Priests who were so kind and helpful through the years.
Now I fall very seldom into immoral behavior, perhaps once every four or five months. Thanks be to God. With his grace perhaps some day I will stop falling into such sins completely.
I know I have to keep going forward. I have to be diligent and try to continue to grow in holiness—I have a long way to go. With God’s help and the prayers of Our Lady and the saints, I hope to be counted among the obscure saints someday.
Another Story - Free from Lust
For good part of my adult life, I have had a distorted view of the wonderful God given gift of sex. When I grew up there was no sex education in school and I didn’t get it at home, so my distorted view was mostly formed by discussions with my teenaged friends. This view carried on into my adult life.
In my early thirties, I had a deeply religious conversion and became a Christian. This changed my entire outlook on many things, including sex. But the problem was that I had many deeply rooted issues regarding sex that had become a part of me from my pre-Christian life. They just didn’t go away automatically when I became a Christian
As a Christian, my greatest struggle was with the sin of lust. Jesus said that,” every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). I tried to resist and fight off my temptation, but I was most often unsuccessful.
When I converted to Catholicism and was able to participate in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, I confessed my sin of lust each time I went to confession, and was resolved to not lust again, but became quite disappointed with my self when I soon after gave into it. It was a vicious cycle until one day I went to confession with a priest in a neighboring parish. I told him of my lustful sin and tendencies and he gave me a card entitled, “The Truth About Chastity.” He instructed me to read the card daily. I did as he told me and after a year or so, I began to see a change.
The same priest also encouraged me to frequent the Sacrament of Reconciliation more often and to attend daily Mass. I took him up on his recommendation.
Heretofore, when I went to confession I confessed my bad behavior, and was forgiven. This priest helped me to address the underlying desire that drove my behavior. By reciting the few lines on the card he gave me daily, I was able to develop the virtue of Chastity. It didn’t happen overnight, but I found that after over two years of faithfully reading and meditating on the card each day, I no longer wanted to entertain unchaste and impure thoughts. My desire had changed. The virtue of chastity had become more important to me than the fleeting pleasure of my lustful thoughts.
I am still tempted with impure and unchaste thoughts, but I vehemently resist them to keep them from becoming sin. My desire is to please my Heavenly Father and to become more like Jesus.
Recommended Additional Reading: Delivered - True Stories of Men and Women Who Turned from Porn to Purity, by Matt Fradd (Author), Joe McClain (Author), Audrey Assad (Author), & 6 more; Catholic Answers Press, 2014. Excellent inspiring stories of those who conquered great addictions to pornography and illicit sexual behavior.
1. See Patrick Carnes, Out of The Shadows: Understanding Sexual Addiction, Center City, MN:Hazelden, p. 71.
2. Pope John Paul II, Redemptor hominis, USCC, 1979, n. 10.
3. Summa Theologica, I, q 81 a 3; trans., Fathers of the English Dominican Province, New York: Benziger Bros., 1947, p. 1785.
4. All Biblical quotes herein are taken from the Revised Standard Version, unless otherwise noted.
5. Karol Wojtyla, (Pope John Paul II), Love and Responsibility, pp. 170, 198.
6. Love and Responsibility, p. 198.
7. The following three paragraphs make use of the reasoning found in Christopher West’s Theology of The Body for Beginners, (Westchester, PA: Ascension Press, 2004), pp. 9-30.
8. Pope John Paul II, Theology of The Body talks (henceforth TB), Feb. 20, 1980.
9. TB, Dec. 30, 1981.
10. TB, Nov. 14, 1979.
11. Pope John Paul II, Mulieris dignitatem, n. 26. See Christopher West, Theology of The Body for Beginners, p. 9.
12. Christopher West, Theology of The Body for Beginners, for example, p. 10.
13. I believe that this sort of “high sexology” of the Pope and Christopher West is an excellent antidote to the “low sexology” spawned by the sexual revolution. The work of Mr. West, despite it’s occasional diversions into hyperbole, is key for the rehabilitation of sex as truly sacramental, in that it makes more readily available and understandable the thought of the Pope. For those who need more convincing, I recommend West’s recordings on the Theology of the Body, available at http://www.luminousmedia.org, http://www.giftfoundation.org/products_naked.cfm for free MP3 download.
14. TB January 2, 1980.
Lov e and Responsibility, p. 187.
16. TB October 29, 1980.
17. TB December 3, 1980.
18. Love and Responsibility, p. 41. Stated negatively, the personalist norm is: the person is the kind of good which does not admit of use and cannot be treated as an object of use and as such the means to an end.
19. Love and Responsibility, p. 170
20. Mk 7:21-23; see also Mt 15:19, 20
21. 1 Cor 6:9, New American Bible, New York: Catholic Book Publishing Co., 1991; See also Gal 5:19-21
22. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II-II, q154 a4; trans. by Fathers of the English Dominican Province, New York: Benziger Bros., 1947.
23. Leanne Payne, The Broken Image, Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1981, p. 91. The complete text is found in: Letter to a Mr. Masson (March 6, 1956) Wade Collection, Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL.
24. Declaration on Sexual Ethics, henceforth, DSE, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 1975, para 10.
25. Love and Responsibility, p. 198.
26. Much of the above text, beginning with the subtitle, “The Goal: Chastity,” is taken almost word for word from the author’s book, Christian Courtship in An Oversexed World, Huntington, IN: Our Sunday Visitor, 2003, pp. 87-92.
27. For meditations on the mysteries which you may download free, go to http://www.cfalive.com/online-store/booklets/.
28. Lumen gentium, n. 11.
29. See a card on how to confess at https://www.cfalive.com/collections/miscellaneous/products/a-brief-guide-to-confession.
30. For a list of recommended books, see .
31. St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica, II-IIae, Q 147, a 1; trans. by English Dominican Province.
32. Luke 5:35, Mt. 16:24; Also, Thomas Aquinas wrote, “...fasting in general is a matter of precept of the natural law...” (Summa Theologica, II-IIae, Q 147 a3, English Dominicans trans., p. 1787.)
33. Contact them at www.sa.org.
34. To contact Courage, call the main office at (203) 803-1564 or go their website at www.couragerc.net.
36. “An intoxicated and undisciplined eros, then, is not an ascent in “ecstasy” towards the Divine, but a fall, a degradation of man. Evidently, eros needs to be disciplined and purified if it is to provide not just fleeting pleasure, but a certain foretaste of the pinnacle of our existence, of that beatitude for which our whole being yearns.” From Pope Benedict XVI, Deus caritas est, n. 4. See also n. 5.
37. Kelly Grover, et al., “Mate Selection Processes and Marital Satisfaction,” Family Relations, vol. 34, 1985, pp. 383-386. As found in Neil Clark Warren, Finding The Love of Your Life, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1992, p. 9.
38. Pope John Paul II TB, December 9 & 16, 1981.
39. see www.slaafws.org
40. For Internet Explorer, a person would click on “Settings,” then “Internet Options,” and then click the tab, “Content.” Under Content Advisor, click on “Enable.” Under the “Ratings” tab click on nudity, or sex or violence, etc. and run the marker down to zero. Then (very important), click on the “General” tab and check the box which says, “Users can see sites that have no rating.” The user will be asked to type in a password (which would be required to change the settings). I recommend something like “Jesus”. Hopefully no one would type in “Jesus” to get at pornography. If he does, then he should have a friend enter the password, or just close his eyes and enter a random series of letters. Then, click “OK” to save the settings.
41. New American Bible.
42. “We ought therefore to recall that God transcends the human distinction between the sexes. He is neither man nor woman: he is God” (CCC n. 239). We call Him Father, as well we should, because He has a male role in relation to us.
43. St. Augustine of Hippo, The Confessions of St. Augustine, Book 10, Ch. 27. This quote is a slight variation from that found in the trans. by John K. Ryan, New York: Image Books, 1960, pp. 254, 255.
44. Detached in this context means not dependent on worldly things.
45. The Holy Father put forth the “personalist norm” as “The person is a good toward which the only proper and adequate attitude is love.” Stated negatively: “The person is the kind of good which does not admit of use, and cannot be treated as an object of use, and as such the means to an end.” (Karol Wojtyla, Love and Responsibility, p. 41.)
46. Karol Wojtyla, Love and Responsibility, p. 105.
47. Love and Responsibility, p. 171
49. Declaration on Sexual Ethics, henceforth, DSE, Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, 1975, para 10.
50. Germain Grisez, The Way of The Lord Jesus, Volume I: Christian Moral Principles, Chicago: Franciscan Herald Press, 1983, p. 366.
51. For an excellent study of masturbation, google John Harvey article, "The Pastoral Problem of Masturbation."
52. For a more in-depth explanation of all this, see my book, Christian Courtship in An Oversexed World, OSV, 2003, Chapter Two, upon which this paragraph is based.
53. For a more detailed discussion of the failure of the sexual revolution, see Chapter Four of my book, Christian Courtship in An Oversexed World, OSV, 2003.
54. Edward O. Laumann, et al. The Social Organization of Sexuality: Sexual Practices in the United States (Chicago: U. of Chicago Press, 1994), p. 503. This is “regarded as the most authoritative and best designed recent survey on sex.” As cited in Bridget Maher’s The Family Portrait, Washington, DC: The Family Research Council, 2002, p. 63.
55. Danielle Crittenden, What Our Mothers Didn’t Tell Us, New York: Simon and Schuster, 1999, p. 31.
58. See “Spitzer Study Just Published: Evidence Found for Effectiveness of Reorientation Therapy,” by Roy Waller and Linda A. Nicolosi, in The Archives of Sexual Behavior, Vol. 32, No. 5, October 2003, pp. 403-417.
60. Gerard J. M. van den Aardweg, The Battle for Normality: A Guide for (self-) Therapy for Homosexuality, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1997.