by Gjergji Evangjeli
On March 19, Bishop Paul S. Loverde of Arlington, VA released a new edition of his pastoral letter entitled Bought with a Price. On the same day, the bishop also published an article in First Things titled “Let the Battle for Purity Begin: Love vs. Pornography.” Both pieces of literature coincide with the Solemnity of St. Joseph, who is the patron saint of fathers. The pastoral letter’s title comes from 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, where St. Paul adjures the members of the Church of Corinth to guard their bodies against unchastity, since, properly speaking, they are only the stewards of their own bodies, which were bought with a great price.
Loverde reflects on the fact that when he was ordained a priest in 1965, divorces were less than half of the rates observable today, abortion was illegal, and far fewer Americans were incarcerated. He points to the growing trend of addiction to pornography as one of the causes for all of these societal changes. In doing so, Bishop Loverde echoes the words of Ted Bundy, the serial killer who underwent conversion shortly before his execution, who pointed to pornography as one of the greatest evils of the current age and one of the largest things in common among a large percentage of the inmates in American prisons.
He argues that the main issue with pornographic material is that it does not simply breed a bad behavioral habit, but that has many physiological effects, scientific studies having established a chemical brain connection between pornographic addiction and other addictions such as alcoholism. He argues that the production of these chemicals effectively alters the wiring of the brain in individuals who partake in pornographic materials, resulting in the weakening of the area of the brain which is responsible for ethical decision-making.
Loverde also points to the possible connection between the widespread consumption of pornographic material and the increasing trend of the “hook-up culture” which can be observed in colleges throughout the country. He argues that the relative ease with which pornography can be accessed in today’s technology-infused age makes guarding one’s self against it that much more difficult and, as a result, the negative effects resultant from its consumption that much closer to any individual. He says that Pope Francis’ recent image of the Church as a field hospital is an especially apt metaphor when it comes to helping the faithful overcome this addiction. He also adds that though some proponents of pornographic distribution would cite their endeavors to be protected by the First Amendment, that freedom of expression should not be seen as an absolute right.
The bishop’s target audience is primarily males, whom he argues are most affected and afflicted by pornographic addition. Though he calls females to be strict in disallowing any viewership of pornography, he argues that males who are addicted to such material are harmed with respect to “[the] family tree, courtship, and marriage preparation.” He points out that the release of both the letter and the article on the Solemnity of St. Joseph is deliberate, in that St. Joseph is a shining beacon of the courage and persistence that any male seeking to become a man and a husband should strive to. In addition, Loverde advises that those who wish to stop watching pornography should seek the help and support of their friends, thereby pitting the love between human persons against the objectification and neglect for human dignity that engenders pornographic material.
Bishop Loverde concludes his pastoral letter by saying that he hopes that Catholics and Christians in general will join together to confront the growing trend of addiction to pornographic material and work to redress its negative effects.