Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Sexual Addiction and Worthily Receiving the Eucharist

Speaking on masturbation, paragraph number 2352 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

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 lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability.

This is the closest we have to a magisterial pronouncement on culpability and sexual addictions. Some have taken this paragraph to mean that they possess a sort of "invincibility" regarding their sexual addictions. That is, no matter how many times they knowingly give their full consent to viewing pornography, they can continue to receive our Lord in the Eucharist without a need to go to confession first. Their reasoning goes something like this:

a) I am addicted to pornography.
b) Therefore, based on CCC 2352, I have a reduced moral culpability.
c) Therefore, I cannot be giving my true full consent when I view pornography.
d) Therefore, pornography (for me) cannot constitute mortal sin [see requirements for mortal sin in CCC 1857-1859] and is such, only venial sin.
e) Therefore, viewing pornography has no bearing on if I can partake of the Eucharist. I can partake of the Eucharist without the necessity of confession first.

This entire line of reasoning is faulty for a few reasons. Firstly, how can you if you are addicted to pornography or not? At some point in the battle against lust, one reaches a point where he is no longer an addict. However, we cannot necessarily say when this occurs. Only God knows for sure. Secondly, addiction is not a either/or phenomena. Rather, it exists on a spectrum. On one end, a man views pornography once or twice a year. On the opposite end, another man views pornography daily and is seeking sexual partners online. At what point in the spectrum does one no longer become an addict? Again, these are questions that God alone can answer. Thirdly, read St. Paul writing to the Corinthians regarding those who receive the Eucharist unworthily: For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes. Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For any one who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself. That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died (1 Corinthians 11:26-30).

The bottom line is that using pornography offends God. When the possibility of further offending God exists by profaning him in the Blessed Sacrament, why take such a risk? Both bodily and spiritual life and death are on the line. Yes, the Eucharist is filled with infinite graces, but only for those who receive worthily. Those who use pornography should never take such a chance (the consequences are too dire). Simply see a priest for confession, confess your misuse of sexuality, and then worthily receive the Lord. Only then will you receive the love and grace of God Himself. Christ Almighty says: He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him (John 6:54-56).

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Secular World Recognizes Porn Addiction?

For whatever reason, a Fox News' website is usually fairly smutty. One regular contributor that sells the usual load of secular lies and offenses to God is "Sexpert" Dr. Yvonne Fulbright. She's the author of Touch Me There! A Hands-On Guide to Your Orgasmic Hot Spots (I'm sure you keep a copy next to your Bible and Catechism, right?). Fulbright recently tackled the idea that pornography addiction is a legitimate addiction. Thankfully, this is one of the few occasions where Dr. Fulbright is correct, as she does indeed promote the idea that a pornography addiction is real. She even lists seven signals that you could be addicted to pornography. For the most part, these are on target, although it seems to promote the idea that one can only tell if they are addicted to pornography if they have a current sexual partner. Naturally, I disagree. What about the single people out there who are saving themselves for marriage? What about those who have taken a vow of celibacy? We'll be tackling this subject more closely at a later date.,2933,357323,00.html:

1. You’ve become anti-social - You are spending more time with pornography than you are with the outside world. If you are single (and even if you are putting yourself out there) your preoccupation with porn may be hindering your ability to establish long-term, monogamous relationships. If you are involved with someone, you may find yourself bowing out of couple and familial obligations to steal moments with your laptop or DVD player. Bottom line: You only have eyes for porn stars and no one else.

2. You’re lying to your partner - Your once honest relationship is now plagued by secrecy and dishonesty as you try to hide your porn habit. About 70 percent of people keep their porn use a secret. And many will go to all sorts of extremes in making sure that they are not found out. Even when busted, many will do or say anything to hide the truth.

3. Your partner is no longer attractive - Unbeknownst to your partner, s/he has competition – and it’s your favorite porn star. Obsessed with fantasy characters, you find it hard to get turned on to the real thing, including yourself. That’s right; you’re not even letting yourself off the hook. Casting yourself against fiction, you’re sizing yourself up as unattractive. Either way, you are likely avoiding or completely uninterested in sex with your lover.

4. Your sex life with your partner is suffering - Both your sexual desire and functioning, including arousal, have taken a nose dive. You and your lover are feeling robbed of romance, passion and emotional closeness. This is because you are not truly present with your partner. Emotionally distant, you are too busy having sex with porn. Ultimately, you are dissatisfied with your actual sex life, and this is affecting your relationship.

5. Your concept of “real intimacy” has become warped - When you re-emerge from the fantasy world, you’re finding that your expectations about sex, sexual partners and intimacy have become unrealistic. You’re only interested in those who look and act like porn stars (which severely limit your dating pool if single). Sadly, you start to think there must be something “wrong” your lover for not putting out like a porn star. Furthermore, you’re objectifying others, wondering what he or she would look like unclothed or how they would act during sex.

6. The habit is causing you distress - Torn between desire and shame, your use of porn is causing you physiological and emotional distress. You may feel like a “sex pervert,” or suffer from isolation, shame, anger, unrest, depression and irritability. You may be distressed over the fact that using porn conflicts with your value system. Overall, your porn kink is starting to cause family, work, legal and/or spiritual problems.

7. You are engaging in risky behaviors - You might be OK with ideas that usually make you think twice, for instance, having unprotected sex, but now you are engaging in behavior that is out of control. Soliciting a prostitute, looking at child pornography or anything involving animals or violence warrants a need for help.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Erototoxin: Brain Chemistry and Pornography

An addiction to pornography and masturbation could be better explained as an addiction to the chemicals that they release in the body by means of pornography and masturbation rather than the pornography and masturbation itself. In other words, you become addicted to your own body chemistry.

Today's blog post will take a look at some of these chemicals:

  • Epinephrine – Also known as adrenaline. Epinephrine is a hormone that prepares the body for action, while suppressing its other non-emergency needs. It is involved in memory, and is one reason why pornographic images can be “imprinted” in the mind.
  • Testosterone – the human body’s self-created steroid. Increase of testosterone leads to an increased sexual desire. Because of testosterone, viewing pornography and masturbating may increase your sexual desire rather than suppress it. Testosterone is also linked to aggression.
  • Endorphins – The human body’s self-created morphine. Endorphins can directly cause feelings of euphoria or ecstasy.
  • Oxytocin – A bonding chemical involved in sexual arousal. It is associated with feelings of love and bonding with another human being. Ironically, when one views pornography and masturbates, one bonds to an image rather than another human person.
  • Dopamine – A neurotransmitter that plays an important role in behavior, reward, and feelings of pleasure.
  • Serotonin – A neurotransmitter that is directly related to your emotional state. Higher levels of serotonin have been associated with feelings of relaxation and euphoria.
  • Phenylethylamine – A substance that is chemically related to amphetamines. It has been called the “love chemical” because mimics the brain chemistry of someone in love. It can also produce euphoric moods.
Dr. Judith Reisman (, who studies the effects of pornography on the human brain, nicknamed this cocktail of chemicals listed above “erototoxin.” It is easy to see why pornography and masturbation can be so very addictive.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Pornography as a Primary Coping Mechanism

An important question to ask yourself is: "To what degree is pornography my primary coping mechanism?" That is, when you are experiencing negative emotions/situations, how often do you turn to pornography as a means of escape? This includes, but is not limited to the following: depression, anger, frustration, regret, boredom, disappointment, being stressed out, fear, jealousy, anxiety, guilt, being in pain, embarrassment, loneliness, exhaustion, sadness, resentment, being annoyed, etc.

In order to make progress in the battle against lust, one must learn new ways of coping. Outlined here are three easy-to-use steps to get rid of of pornography as your primary coping mechanism and replace it with something positive.

Step 1: Learn to properly identify (name) your current emotions.
Despite what popular culture believes, men have emotions. To be able to name them these emotions is to be able to regulate them. Recall that Adam's naming of the animals symbolized his dominion over them. So out of the ground the LORD God formed every beast of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name (Genesis 2:19).

Step 2: If you are experiencing negative emotions or situations, do not lead yourself into temptation.
Recognize that in the past, you've turned to dangerous situations in order to cope. If you want purity, you must not put yourself in harm's way. For example, Johnny recently had a heated argument with a loved one that ended unresolved. He regrets some of the things he said. His workload is growing faster than he can handle. Johnny is bored. He thinks that checking his email and surfing the net will be a great way to relax. Naturally, Johnny is putting himself in the devil's crosshairs. Any number of activities would be more beneficial.

Step 3: Find and utilize new coping mechanisms.
Once you've identified a negative emotion, you must discover new ways to relax and feel better. These coping mechanisms work best if they are: (a) engaging, (b) avoid temptation - see Step 2, and (c) are productive. Thus, television and the internet are not good coping mechanisms. They typically fail to fulfill one or more of the above criteria. Also, different men will need to utilize different coping mechanisms. For example, some men will find that reading is not engaging enough (and leaves the mind open to lustful images). For other men, reading may be extraordinarily helpful. Other great coping mechanisms could include: weight-lifting, playing a musical instrument such as guitar, cleaning your vehicle, praying the Rosary, taking a walk, speaking to a friend over the telephone or in person, drawing or some other art project, starting a ministry, etc. The possibilities are endless, so discover what works best for you.

Choose some new coping mechanism (method of relaxation/feeling better) right now. Say to yourself, "The next time I'm feeling a negative emotion, I will recognize it, name it, and do something positive." Now follow through! You'll feel much better, be more constructive, and avoid sin.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Effect of Classical Conditioning on Pornography Addiction

If you've ever had an introductory psychology class in high school or college, chances are you've heard of Ivan Pavlov and classical conditioning. At the turn of this century, Russian physician and psychologist Ivan Pavlov had been conducting an experiment involving meat and dogs, presenting dogs with meat and measuring how much the dogs would salivate. However, before the meat was presented to the dogs, a dinner bell was rung. Pavlov noticed something odd: eventually the dogs began salivating as soon as they heard the bell, even when there was no meat present: the bell had taken on the properties of the meat!

Today, we classically condition ourselves (often without realizing it). For example, a woman eats dinner in her living room most of the time. She soon finds that she gets hungry every time she sits in her living room, even though she's recently eaten (and shouldn't be hungry). For another example, a man makes it a habit to read soon before he falls asleep. He eventually discovers that he often becomes lethargic when reading anything, such as documents at his workplace.

Naturally this has a profound impact in regards to pornography. If a man views pornography at his computer a few times, eventually he will condition his body to expect pornography whenever he sits in front of a computer. Because of this classical conditioning, many men have intense cravings to look at pornography whenever they check their email, type their reports, or do anything involving a computer.

How can conditioning be undone? Are those conditioned cursed to remain conditioned? No. Classical conditioning can be undone by repeatedly presenting one stimulus without the other. In the case of pornography, this means using your computer without viewing pornography (could be for days, months, or years depending on the level of addiction). This may be extremely difficult given cravings and temptations, but this is the time to call upon God. Jesus looked at them and said to them, "With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible" (Matthew 19:26).

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Product Review: Treating Pornography Addiction by Dr. Kevin Skinner

In 2001, Dr. Kevin Skinner, a marriage and family therapist, was asked by a religious leader to work with some men who had been struggling with addiction to pornography. Eventually, Dr. Skinner found himself working with pornography addicts often, so he decided to write a book on the subject called Treating Pornography Addiction: The Essential Tools for Recovery. The book itself is meant for both men who struggle with pornography, as well as therapists who wish to work with men who struggle with pornography. In Treating Pornography Addiction: The Essential Tools for Recovery, one will find: 45 exercises for the addicted, an assessment for how addicted one is to pornography, factors for those most likely to become addicted to pornography, the importance of journaling, reaction sequences, a discussion of behaviors that lead to relapse, and a discussion of behaviors that lead to progress. Though it is not exhaustive, Dr. Kevin Skinner's Treating Pornography Addiction: The Essential Tools for Recovery is one of the best starting places for Catholic men who wish to learn more about their problem and what to do about it.

Content Rating: 4/5
Compatibility with Catholic Teaching: 4.5/5

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Do You Know Where Your Computer Is?

Where do you keep your computer? Where is it located in your living quarters? Is the screen positioned towards or away from the doorway? Is the computer in a secluded or high-traffic area? These are crucial questions to ask yourself in becoming porn-free.

Which of the following two men is more likely to give in and view pornography? The man with his computer is placed in the spare bedroom with the screen faced away from the doorway, or the man with his computer in the living room where his family watches television?

In the interests of keeping yourself accountable, it is wise to keep your computer in the room with the highest amount of traffic. If possible, position the screen so that anyone in the room could potentially see what is being viewed. Because laptop computers are portable, those with laptops could take their computer to wherever others may be (such as the kitchen, living room, porch, etc.).

If you live with others who are rarely at home, you may consider imposing a rule on yourself that states that you will not use the internet unless you are not alone. If you live alone, you may consider forsaking your computer altogether for using public computers (such as computer labs, internet cafes, or libraries). In doing so, you will keep yourself responsible and take practical steps to purity.