The Compulsion of Lustful Vice

IMG_9911Jesus said, “Everyone who sins is a slave to sin,” and no one knows that more than I, who once was enslaved to lust through pornography. I was a slave because I could not control my desires; they controlled me.

The habit of lust wore deep ruts in my soul, ones that the wheels of my interior car could not escape from on their own. It took God’s grace for those ruts to be filled in, slowly, over the course of years. Then it took more years for the habit of purity to take root and grow into a towering oak tree, one that could not easily be cut down.

I want to explain to women especially how powerful this compulsion to lust is in men, especially in those of us who were addicted to pornography for years, even from the early teens. I knew it was wrong; I wanted to stop doing it, but I couldn’t. Even once I became a Christian, the desire to look lustfully at women and be impure with myself was stronger than my nascent virtue.

But that virtue, that starts as a little sapling, has God’s grace to give it resilience and spring in its stem. Every time lust smashed it down, it righted itself again and kept growing. Leaves were ripped off; it grew more to replace them. This was through God’s grace of repentance, confession, and forgiveness, through the Eucharist, and through those human helps that Christ offers to us: friendship, prudence about being alone with computer access, and so on.

It can be devastating for a woman to discover that her husband looked lustfully at other women via pornography and was impure with himself. It feels like an awful betrayal, and while it is a betrayal, I would caution against excessive over-reaction to it. The power of the compulsion caused by the evil habits is incredibly strong; it is thus not that your husband is personally attacking you, but this vice which compels him to lust. The common enemy is not your husband, but the vice. And you, along with God, are his greatest ally in overcoming this sin.

There are tons of faithful Catholic men, the majority most likely, who struggle with this sin. They are good husbands, fathers, brothers, uncles, friends, but they are still fighting this difficult fight. If your husband doesn’t struggle with this sin, rejoice, for he is the exception, not the rule. But if your husband does struggle with it, take heart, because he can and will conquer this evil and grow strong in the virtue of purity. God can overcome anything, and He gives grace to every man to resist this temptation.

For men, always remember that God will forgive you. Go to confession, as many humiliating times as it takes. Go to Mass often, for the Church teaches that the Eucharist strengthens us against mortal sin. Learn about the theology of the body; study and meditate on God’s beautiful plan for you and your spouse, consider the man you want to be for your daughters and your sons.

For women, be patient with your husband. Do not despair. Do not over-react. He will know how hurt you are by it; how betrayed you feel. He needs to ask for your forgiveness, and you need to forgive him. This may need to be done every week, or every month, or every so often. Pray for him; encourage him in it; work together to find ways to minimize the temptations he may face.

God set me free from this sin, and he can set you free as well. It took years for me, and blessedly they were before I met Katie, but that is not the case for many couples. Christ is faithful and will set you free to love. God bless!

42 thoughts on “The Compulsion of Lustful Vice”

  1. Thanks for this wonderful testimony! Personally, daily Rosary was my ticket to freedom from porn. The Virgin Mary is a powerful advocate for purity!

  2. I notice a peace on my heart as I read these words, so thank you Devin for (again) sharing your gift with us, and thanks for NOT trying to offer a “simple” solution.

    It has been some years since I’ve been drawn into this particular sin, and the difference has been practicing the very disciplines that your wrote about.
    The more I learn about and live into the freedom the Christ offers, the less I’m even tempted by the ridiculous waste of life that is porn and sexual sin.

    Be blessed today my brother.

  3. God bless you. With respect, telling women not to “overreact” leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. Yes, we must forgive. But men that have fallen into this sin must bear that responsibility humbly. Your rightful posture should be one of humility. Yes, ask for patience. But do not demand it of your wives. She did not commit that sin. Just the word overreact bothers me. How do you know she is overreacting. Just as she does not know the strength of the pull of pornography you do not know how utterly violated and shamed and betrayed she feels. Her faith tells her to be merciful. but You are not the right oweson to tell her that or demand it.Thank you for reading. Thank you for your courage to write about this difficult subject.

    1. B,

      Thank you for your comment. Yes please take this whole post as a humble suggestion from a regular guy. Some women might need to react strongly to their husbands, given their relationship, his temperament and personality, etc. No one size fits all here.

      But when a husband breaks this news to his wife, those awful feelings she has can come out in dramatic ways. I know a couple where the wife began physically attacking her husband over this, pounding on him, locking him out of the house, etc. That is over-reacting. It also can be over-reacting to continue bringing the subject up with your husband, asking him to go through his whole thought process and actions in detail, again and again. The priest doesn’t ask you to do this at confession, wanting every detail to scrutinize, wanting to understand the exact nature and manifestation of this sin, and I don’t think wives should either.

      Mostly, I think wives should realize that, while this is an evil habit, their husbands can be and usually still are men of faith, of love, and that all is not lost because of it.

      God bless,

    2. I think the strong shame associated with this sin and the rest of the self-abuse is one reason why a man has to be guided gently when seeking freedom from this terrible sin. It is similar to the well-informed spiritual director who ius cautious in his approach to assistance with such sins in order to avoid strengthening the shame. I think the shame can bring a type of despair that can drive the compulsion further.

      For a wife who is intimately close to a husband the weight of this sin could be greatly felt by her and that makes it all the more challenging to be a partner in her husband’s journey. I believe this journeying together is a most important role for any spouse to also help gently guide the other to a closer relationship with God. (As a side-note, if a wife has difficulty offering support, the husband needs to pray for understanding her point of view as well).

  4. Thanks for posting this. I had a bad porn habit from 1980 until mid-2011. I married in 1995 and entered the Church in 2001. Those helped, but frequent complete confession and praying several times daily – especially when I didn’t want to – were essential.

  5. Devin, Thanks for the post. It’s tempting to forget that people are at all levels of healing and struggle with this sin at any given time. I’d like to put it all behind me and just forget about it but some brother in Christ is just beginning to tackle it, I’m sure. At the same time, the pain can come up in a spouse at any moment too. Even when it’s been years since the act. It’s difficult for a wife to not “over react” because they feel that it’s a direct assault on them when usually the offender doesn’t see it that way at all. Rather he sees it as a sin that is totally unrelated to his spouse but is personal and compartmentalized. Obviously, spiritually it’s not unrelated at all.
    It’s a struggle that is long lasting and scarring and certainly not worth the momentary evil pleasure.

  6. Devin, you write

    “Go to confession, as many humiliating times as it takes. Go to Mass often, for the Church teaches that the Eucharist strengthens us against mortal sin. . . .”

    Though now as “seasoned citizen” I am a daily communicant and a devout Catholic this sin had me by the throat from age 13 to 33. You recommend Confession as a remedy, but at least in my experience this did not solve the problem or even attenuate it. In fact, it was precisely because my many confessions were not working that I left the Church. What a mistake!

    For me at least a great victory came because of a book by Watchman Nee, “The Normal Christian Life.” Nee was a pastor in the Christian Missionary Alliance. . He says that the real problem is not sins in the plural, but the sin principle within us- “the old man.” Christ solves the problem decisively by nailing the old man to the cross. Dead men don’t sin. So we can reckon ourselves as dead to sin, but alive to Christ. He is not talking about forensic justification, here, but a real victory. These few lines, though, are a very great injustice to his thought. Get the book, for it is invaluable.

    One mistake that I consistently made in trying to overcome this sin was to get into a head to head battle with impure thoughts. It took me years to realize that the effective way to deal with impure thoughts is not confrontation but flight. I believe this is St. Therese’s recommendation, too. Replace the impure thoughts with other thoughts. How to do this, since all that my mind and imagination are producing is more impure thoughts? Pick up a magazine or a book and fill your mind with other thoughts, virtually about anything. It is pretty much as simple as that.

    Now especially in the age of the internet I am finding that unreasonably indulging curiosity, surfing the net from one story into another, leads before too long into sinful curiosity and that quickly leads to the verge of disaster. So excessive or sinful curiosity becomes confessional matter.

    Since this is a Catholic site, I would expect to hear of specifically Catholic remedies and I don’t mean to minimize them. Now I am finding that through the “Sub Tuum Praesidium” prayer Our Lady very kindly wards off the very beginnings of temptation. Confession helps. The Eucharist helps.

    But these- at least in my experience- are not really given for the uprooting of truly deep-seated vice. In fact, truth be told, while the Watchman Nee book gave me victory for a time, in the end I asked some Pentecostals who had a deliverance ministry to pray an exorcism over me. It was dramatic and unmistakable. The demons that had overwhelmed me with temptations to lust and despair left, but not without a fight. With that I was finally free, for all the other disciplines of prayer and the sacraments were in place.

    Ironic, isn’t it, that I finally became a good Catholic with the help of our separated brethren?

    Extrapolating from my own experience my guess is that sins against chastity have everything to do with the exodus of many of our young people from the Church. Could it be that the Decree on Ecumenism holds the key to the New Evangelization? It’s worth considering, for “whatever is wrought by the grace of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of our separated brethren can contribute to our own edification” (Decree on Ecumenism 4).

    1. We need to take Watchman Nee’s words with a grain of salt. . . I would be very careful with his works. . .

  7. It is important for people to understand that what is being talked about here is closer to a life-long compulsion, than just a temporary “experience your body” phase. St. Paul knows all to well about it. Some Priest experience it. I went to confession for years and would admit my wandering eye disease but only allude to “other sins of the flesh”. One time a priest would not absolve me till I named my sin. This was not easy. To say looked at porn and masturbated is not an easy thing to do. But we are required to name our sin for when we do, we put it into the light. And in light, darkness cannot prevail.
    Finally, please remember that women are Trinitarian. She is made in the image of the Father. Her soul is the temple of the Holy Spirit. We can and should see the face of Jesus in every women we meet. Always remember the eye is the window to the soul. The starting point for my brothers would be to follow the words of a wise priest. He said, “Always maintain custody of your eyes, never go below the shoulders.”

  8. This is a good post, but it overlooks the growing numbers of women who are addicted to pornography. Women have an especially difficult time overcoming these sins because too many people see it as a “men’s problem” and there isn’t much support out there for women who are trying to overcome pornography (and usually an accompanying masturbation) addiction. These women think they are alone and feel even more troubled because they do not fit into the profile of the typical porn addict. Maybe they feel like they cannot be helped or there is something wrong with them (other than the obvious sin), which can cause more sin and even depression. We need to remember all people who are addicted to sin and reach out to them. These problem reaches all people. Children, teens, young adults, middle-aged adults, and the elderly. Males and females. Poor people, the middle class, and rich people.

    Not only is this problem very addictive, but it often begins out of loneliness/depression/etc. And in order for these addictions to be treated, the underlying problems must be treated first or there is danger that the person will revert back into their sins. Either they will not be able to stop for more than a short period of time, or they will fall back into it after a long time has passed without falling into this sin.

    1. I don’t think Rose meant to leave women out. Rather, as a man, it is impossible to know what a woman in the situation you describe is going through. The triggers, temptations, and the way our bodies respond are all different. Perhaps we need to pray for a brave woman who has battled this to come forward and share her experience for the benefit of other women.

  9. I also take exception to your antiseptic comments about wifely “overreaction.”

    What would be an overreaction if your wife went out every night with different guys, getting turned on by them and going to bed with them? Yes, I know, I know, it isn’t “real” sex we’re talking about … but on some level it is. You are allowing yourself to get physical reactions (erections, orgasms) from women who are not your wife.

    Research shows that a little exposure to porn changes a man’s notion of what he’s “entitled” to in sexual activity, in his partner’s body. There’s no way we can compete with airbrushed (often abused) sex-workers participating in sexual fantasies. My own husband told me the anonymity and lack of requirements (e.g., emotional intimacy) made this an appealing outlet for him. Research also shows that there’s an increasing need for more edgy, explicit, sometimes violent images to get the same “high.”

    I know. I was there. He never quit. Counseling didn’t help. I tried to understand though my reaction was deep and visceral; I loved him deeply, and was/am an attractive woman. He simply lied again and again, leaving me to “discover” the truth over and over again. He finally left me for a mentally unstable woman who implied she would tolerate his addiction. After they were married, she couldn’t. So that marriage ended, too. The harm to all of us, kids included, has been immeasurable.

    Now I am alone, and probably will always be, though I did my best. But you know, being alone and struggle as a single mother with no help is better than going through what I did.

    So please tell me again about “overreaction”?

    1. Ann,

      I am saddened by what you have gone through. To clarify, let me tell a true story. I know a young woman whose husband looked at pornography, but also had multiple affairs with several women, and lied about it for years. She found out about it all, bit by bit. The full truth was uncovered eventually. She decided she could not trust him any longer and divorced. Do I think she overreacted? No.

      In other words, over-reaction is dependent upon the sins committed, the degree of betrayal, the sincerity of repentance, and so on. It may be best and safest for wife and children to separate from the husband and father.

      What I meant specifically by my post was a man who has looked at pornographic images, say from Playboy magazine. Static images of naked women. Well, that is still lust, still adultery, and the wife will have a strong reaction against it, BUT, all is not lost. She should not despair. It is not the end of the world, and if she acts like it is, it will not necessarily help her husband overcome this sin, and may even do the reverse. For many men striving for virtue and asking for God’s grace, looking lustfully at static images of women is the limit of what they have done or will ever do. So I counsel women not to give in to despair about such actions, as many men can be healed of this and stop doing it.

      In other cases, including yours, the situation is graver. The deception is deeper, and continues. Appropriate measures must be taken to protect you and your children. I agree.

      God bless,

  10. Thank you. Obviously, if you have gone through something like this, it feels like being stabbed repeatedly. At first, you keep wondering if there’s something you could have done differently. But the peace afterwards soon overtakes you and you feel grateful for the release.

  11. It needs to be vilified and not promoted by our media. Women are equally at fault. Look at how many participate in porn. It must be shamed, discriminated against and shut out of our society. Instead it is being made the norm. Men have little to no chance in this new feminist world order.

    1. The media (esp. the internet) will only continue to get worse and worse. As for men “having little to no chance,” that is borderline despair, which we must flee from. The question before us is – will we answer the gospel call to holiness or not. If so, the heights of sanctity await you and I, for we truly live in a cesspool far worse than Sodom. For us to preserve our integrity in this sewer will require the fortitude and perseverance of the saints. This indeed is a time for the saints to rise. It is our time. We were born for these days. I have no doubt whatsoever that we are living in one of the greatest saint-making periods in human history. “But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” We see faith in flight everywhere, not least because Catholics are starting to give up. Let’s double-down on our faith. Triple-down.

      1. He has a point. There are at least two involved in the sin. If we weren’t effected by original sin, we wouldn’t have to worry about covering ourselves up. Exposing yourself is also sinful and you are participating in the sin you help bring about in others.

  12. I am familiar with this struggle. I’m also familiar with all the books and resources available to overcome it. I’ve also read Nee. For me, no new awareness or knowledge of what being “dead to sin” means was a silver bullet out of the problem. No daily rosary conquered it. (In fact I won’t consider it “conquered” until I’m dead). For me, it began to lose its grip over me when I really had it. I mean – inside my heart. I felt I had reached “rock bottom” many times, but it was never truly “IT” in my heart. I always “knew” I’d be back, somewhere deep in me, and that when I was, confession would again be there for me (yes – presumption).

    This sin was introduced to me when I was a boy, and built itself into a lifelong compulsion (to varying degrees). Toss in a diagnosis of GAD (General Anxiety Disorder) with minor depression and it’s a tricky mix. Even so, God has his graces.

    For me it began to end when I began to accept going to any extent whatsoever to end it. I suffer from severe insomnia, but I’m talking about hauling my wretched body into a freezing cold shower at 3am followed by walking around my neighborhood praying the rosary. If the next night is met with equally wicked temptations, back into a cold shower I will go. And my resolution is such that I will do this repeatedly, every day if necessary. I want it out of my life and I will do anything whatsoever. What I have found this past year (of daily Mass, daily rosary, confession every couple of weeks) is that our enemy is getting the message that I’m not going to accept this any longer. I’m deadly serious about this deadly sin. I’m being left alone more and more. The gorgeous women dressed in their bathing suits out running every morning when I drive to work make me look the other direction. While praying my rosary! It’s difficult but well worth the inner peace.

    St. Francis threw his beat up body naked into a thorn bush when tempted by lust. St. Thomas went to extremes to preserve his chastity. There are countless stories of the saints. Read “Dignities and Duties of the Priest” by St. Alphonsus de Liguori, it has an outstanding chapter on all this. Bottom line: FLIGHT and prayer. Run, as fast and far as you can, and pray, pray, pray. This book became a game changer for me. I am sure that a psychiatrist would call me nuts in these days when pampering our beloved little bodies is considered holy, and any kind of penance is considered sick.

    I’ll go with what has worked for me. It also happens to be what worked for the saints.

    My brothers and sisters, we’re all in this battle together. Nobody should consider it conquered for good. And if there is a slip, let self-hate, despair and so forth be the last things to happen. Only let humility reign, and a sense of “yup, that’s the old self, which was crucified, no surprise this old wretch fell.” And remain in peace (Padre Pio says remain in peace even when you sin). “Pride goes before the fall.” Whenever you feel good because “you’ve gotten out of it” – look out. We’re never out of it until we’re all safe together in our Father’s Kingdom. How I long for that day and I want to see all of us there safe together, in his One Flock!


  13. I wasn’t going to leave a comment, but realized that I should, because it’s the right thing to do. Men need to realize what and whom they entertain when they use pornography to abuse themselves and their wives. Over a decade ago, I finally worked up the courage to ask a priest if other people had experiences of seeing devils at night. At that point I had seen them about five times, under five different forms. I didn’t realize that my husband was addicted to pornography. Our relationship had deteriorated to the point where I no longer remembered the man I had fallen in love with. It’s a painful story, and too long to tell here, but my husband was healed completely of his addiction. St. Joseph played a big role, as did his devotion to Mary. He goes to mass everyday with a tender devotion. His old life seems odd and grotesque to him now. He feels so free, he remarks about it with awe and joy. Our relationship has not only been restored, but it is so filled with love, it astounds us both. I pray that other marriages, and individuals be saved from this hellish affliction.

  14. Dear ladies, my husband, Devin Rose,? is not asking you to accept your husband’s sin of pornography. Rather, when he warns against “overreacting”, he means to encourage you to be merciful and to remember that you and your husband are dealing with an addiction; as with any chemical addiction, the road to recovery is long and takes patience, prayer, and support. Your husband is not a monster (with some rare exceptions); he is simply a weak man who is struggling with a very potent addiction.

    1. Thank you Katie–I think as women, we tend to miss this point easily and tend to think about how this sin affects us as the wives of our spouse. My husband does not have this problem (as far as I know), but I know someone who is close to me who is married and her husband has struggled with porn. This man is an upright good Catholic and a great husband and father. I asked her how she could “tolerate” this sin that he struggles with, and she just simply told him that if he struggled with it to not tell her. She didn’t want to know. This was how she had to distance herself from the sin in order to make the marriage work. She could not allow herself to take it personally, even though it hurt her.

      She prays for him very much and she knows that he is deeply sorry for this sin and that he wants to stop. This is enough for her. The rest is between him and God. As hard as it is, as wives, we have to support our husbands who struggle with this as an addiction, not as an affair. This isn’t about our egos.

      For myself, I would find it very hard to not be angry with my husband, it would be hard not to take it personally. But because of my friends example of love for her husband, I think I could do it. I would at least know how and where to start. I would pray for him.

  15. Prayer is the key to overcoming any vice. St. Alphonsus has written: “He who prays is certainly saved. He who prays not is certainly damned.” He went on to say that God gives to every man the grace to pray. He also has written: “But it is impossible for him who perseveres in mental prayer to continue in sin; he will either give up meditation or renounce sin.” Pope Benedict XVI confirmed this teaching on prayer in a talk he gave on August 1, 2012, which is this saint’s feast day. St. Teresa of Avila had written almost exactly the same things two centuries earlier.

  16. “Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. Cast me not away from your presence, and take not thy Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.”

    from Psalm 51

  17. and so you say: I want to explain to women especially how powerful this compulsion to lust is in men.
    You paint w/too broad a brush sir. In the privacy of conversation, brother to brother, penitent to Priest, spouse to spouse, I would overlook this, but here in this public place you speak w/authority and w/consequence, but by what authority do you make this declaration. Your personal experience, fine, then constrain yourself to that scope. Let us suppose that my wife reads your article, you have invited her to view me, her father, her brother, her son, her priest, and son, if only for a moment, through this lens. How terribly familiar of you, do you know me and her so well that you have the right to invite her to look upon me and the other males in her life in such a way. But much more importantly, are you so in tune with the Eternal Word who spoke us into being that you can imprint upon His creation’s identity this compulsion. Who are you to be so cavalier w/His creation. We are the image of the divine, no doubt wounded by sin, but not depraved totally.

    I understand you are young and have fed at the therapeutic pap which leads you to make your wound the wound of all of us; furthermore, your generation has no boundaries and is besotted w/the flesh; I mourn this and am terribly sorry for what you must have had to deal with while growing up. I am sure you were presented with images long before you were spiritually prepared to deal with them, and I am so sorry for the devastating impact of these wounds; I am thrilled that Our Lord and Our Lady have helped you on a path to purity, and I am so pleased that the oak is strong and healthy, may it ever be, but I would plead w/you to consider that the zeitgeist of this age is a foolish one.

    Consider discretion; for instance, I appreciate that this article was very difficult to write, but I would have you consider that perhaps it was difficult because it shouldn’t have been written. Perhaps propriety demands that you do not expose yourself and your spouse to such a familiar gaze by strangers. I would have you patiently wait for Providence to show you how to take this harrowing and courageous journey and use it for the good, but in this public forum? I think not. Consider another example; what if a man’s spouse had led a former life as a prostitute, would it be appropriate for him to detail her journey from the former life to her new life w/images and descriptions of her sin; of course it wouldn’t, even if she agreed to it, her public shaming is unacceptable and it shouldn’t be done. And that my friend is what you have done to yourself here: you have publicly shamed yourself. But I wonder if you even see this example and your own story as shameful; I imagine you don’t, and there I think is the crux of the problem. Because we live in a therapeutic world shame is considered verboten, but it shouldn’t be, for shame is no different than pain, it is there to warn you and give you guidance on what is right and wrong. You, my friend, are not in any way shameful, but your sin certainly was and is; there is absolutely nothing wrong w/a healthy sense of shame for wrongs done, even though you have been wondrously and mercifully forgiven by Our Lord our sins are still regretful. There is no shame in the quiet of a group of likeminded gentlemen discussing your history and helping in the noble fight to encourage these brothers to purity and wholeness, but I simply cannot find it appropriate here.

    P. Myshkin

    1. P. Myshkin,

      I agree that this is a sensitive subject, and extreme care must be taken to speak prudently and carefully. I have endeavored to do that, down to specific wording used in the post itself.

      Should these conversations take place in private? Absolutely, and they sometimes do. But there is also a need for them to be discussed in a public forum; otherwise the shame and secrecy that hides these sins gets to persist. It becomes the elephant in the room that no one talks about, that people are afraid to talk about.

      I think these topics can be talked about in a prudent way, even in a public forum. A huge number, likely the majority, of American Catholic men are struggling with these temptations, yet many have no group of Catholic men to talk to. Their wives have no guidance on how to understand these issues. This forum and others can be ways for them to begin to understand and realize that help can be found and that hope is possible.

      Did I divulge that I once fell to these temptations to impurity. Yes I did. Did I go into lewd detail or descriptions of these sins? No I did not.

      It seems from your comment that you don’t think these matters should be discussed at all. That is your opinion, and you are welcome to it. I disagree and think they can be discussed.

    2. P Myshkin I must strongly disagree with your reaction.

      This subjects needs as much press as it can get. Pornography addiction is aided because of the silence that surrounds it. Becasue of this silence, the problem is made more diffulcult because it thrives on lonliness and isolation.

      As with almost all addictions, the path out involves the grace of God as ministered through the our brothers in Chirst. Fellowship and openess are required in order to defeat this sin.

      Thank you Devin for your testemony. I know what you shared was not done out of a sense of calling attention to yourself, but from a deep desire to help your fellow bretheren. Please, do not stop!

    3. P. Myshkin,

      One addendum: I do agree with your critique that I painted with too broad a brush here. I had in mind a specific set of circumstances, which does not fit all couples or all men’s actions.

      As to my authority, this is a blog post that expresses my opinion. People should take it or leave it as they see fit. I do have my bishop’s permission to blog on Catholic subjects, though of course he does not scrutinize each one and give an imprimatur.

      God bless!

  18. Wow! Thank you. This is an awesome witness to the power of Christ to pull us out of the hells we find ourselves in through our own actions, the actions of others or both. God bless you and keep you. May you continue to witness to God’s grace.

  19. P. Myshkin,

    At least in the USA my generation -born during and immediately after WWII- has simply been overwhelmed with pornography, and every subsequent generation has as well. Not everyone has been personally brought down by it, true, but as the family continues to destabilize more and more people are being psychologically wounded and made susceptible to being destroyed by it. In fact, there is good reason to think that the greater part of present day teenagers are being swept away by lust in all its various forms.

    You urge discretion and I understand perfectly your line of thinking. In many ways it is my own, for I can hardly bear to think of anyone ever learning that this vice overwhelmed me for the better part of twenty years. I am ashamed through and through and bitterly regretful. I could not find the way out.

    On the other hand, think of this, there are many, very possibly tens of millions of people in this country alone who are going through a private hell of shame and isolation, who do not know where to turn for advice on how to escape from this vice, who are being alienated not only from themselves, their families and all society, but also from God. Because they are ashamed, they are silent. Because they are silent they are not able to learn from one another the various human and divine escape routes from this sin.

    Today I was thinking that a lot of this ( post and comments) could be expanded into a book, but then who would buy “How to Escape from Pornography and Lust”? We are too ashamed even to look for help. Here one could say there is definitely such a thing as being too ashamed, of being in the grip of self-destructive shame. Of course, we should be ashamed of this sin, but not to the point of self-annihilation, not to the point where we will neither seek help nor offer it.

    Not only are the victims of pornography silent, but Church also is silent, because pornography is not a nice subject. Yes, the Church is very discrete. In my youth there used to be pamphlet racks in the back of church with pamphlets that addressed this and similar subjects, but no more. It is as if no one is having a problem. The hours of Confession are also very circumscribed, so that one can hardly even admit his sin to Jesus Christ. The escape routes are not well marked nor pointed out from the pulpit. It would be indiscreet to discuss such a shameful subject. It would not be nice. We are all saints now and penitents are not encouraged.

    Yes, rather than bringing this sin into the daylight and discussing such a shameful subject, is it better that our young people be swept away by it, that they be driven into self-hatred, drug use and suicide, into premarital sex and abortion, into the homosexual lifestyle? -for one thing leads to another along very well worn pathways.

    In short, I think Devin is very courageous, is definitely on the right track and my guess is that many people have already been helped both by his post and the comments following on it. Let’s not minimize this. As the result of suggestions made here, there may well be people in Heaven eventually who would not have made it otherwise. It is that big.

    IMHO there could be/should be a blog devoted in its entirely to this very subject, just as Fr Z’s is devoted to the restoration of the liturgy. It would be helpful to many, many people. It and similar efforts would surely be one of the main vectors of the New Evangelization. It’s ironic isn’t it, that everyone and his brother is “coming out” as a homosexual. Because they are notably lacking in shame, they are discovering one another and becoming an almost overwhelming societal force. One thing I am sure of, is that if repentant pornography addicts and the would/be chaste ever “came out” and got organized we would be a far more powerful force for good than they are for evil. We may well be on the verge of a spiritual revolution, and it may well be that a post such as this, or a blog like this post will precipitate it.

    Thank you, Devin!

  20. I agree with both of you. Shameful to expose yourself and your wife to this public forum but helpful to many of us in many ways.

    1. To call Mr. Rose’s public posting shameful is like Peter trying to talk Jesus out of going to Jerusalem where he knew the crucifixion awaited.

      You remember what Christ said to Peter?

      This problem WILL NOT be conquered without the public testimony and witness of brave men like Mr. Rose. They are one of the most critical instruments of grace that God will use to help us defeat the enemy. His witness and the witness of his wife are an act of love for those who are struggling with this sin.

      If you do not think that this problem should be discussed in public, you either don’t understand this addiction or you are in denial.

  21. The next to last sentence that St. Therese of Lisieux, who has been made a Doctor of the Church and proclaimed by a pope as a spiritual genius equal to St. Thomas Aquinas, wrote in her autobiography is the following: “Even though I had on my conscience all the sins that can be committed, I would go, my heart broken with sorrow, and throw myself into Jesus’ arms.” A saint or spiritual master has written–I apologize that I cannot remember who it is–that all things work together for the good of one who loves God–even one’s sins. Such quotations should encourage anyone having trouble with habitual impurity.
    I think that sometimes God allows one to sink into a cesspool of impurity in order to humble the person–after all, pride is a more deadly poison. Then the only real remedy is the striving for holiness. If one had not fallen so deep, perhaps one would be mired in a worse situation, namely, lukewarmness.
    In an earlier comment I have given the words of St. Alphonsus on the necessity of prayer. Of course, the saint is talking about real mental prayer; even if one prays vocally, for example, the rosary, one must have the mind and heart centered on God. Since everyone is either going to or away from God, here is the advice of St. Alphonsus on how to grow closer to Christ–and, in this case, away from an habitual sin of impurity.
    1. prayer–30 minutes per day minimum.
    2. avoidance of all occasions of sin–even remote ones in the case of purity.
    3. spiritual reading daily; this is a key for the contemporary person; Dom Boylan in his classic spiritual work This Tremendous Lover puts it on the same level as mental prayer. Here are some recommendations.
    a. This Tremendous Lover by Dom Eugene Boylan; still in print; written for the laity; one of the greatest spiritual works ever penned.
    b. Christ the Life of the Soul by Blessed Dom Columba Marmion; still in print; a 20th century spiritual classic.
    c. any of the works of St. Alphonsus: (i) The Passion and the Death of Jesus Christ; not sure if still in print but available as a used book; best tome on this subject ever written
    on this subject; if someone read from this every day, I do not fathom how one could stay in impurity. (ii) Glories of Mary; best ever written on this subject; available in print. (iii) Preparation for Death; focuses on 4 last things; not sure if in print but available as a used book; (iv) Victories of the Martyrs; especially inspiring stories of so many lay martyrs–men, women, single, married, even young children; not sure if in print but available as a used book. (v) other wonderful works, namely, Way of Salvation and of Perfection; The Holy Mass; The Incarnation, Birth, and Infancy of Jesus Christ; The Holy Eucharist; Great Means of Salvation and Perfection–wonderful treatise on prayer; not sure if in print but available as used books.
    4. Daily Mass and Holy Communion if possible.
    5. Weekly Sacrament of Penance.
    6. Devotion to Mary.
    This is the regimen laid out by St. Alphonsus.

  22. 1-The label Porn addiction is inaccurate. It should be called engaging in vouyeristic masturbation.
    2- When I heard in a sermon, the re-iteration of the church’s teaching on taking communion in a state of mortal sin, it woke me up and changed my life and elevated my respect and awe for the Eucharist.
    3- Pay attention to your body’s changing responses, break down the act into its phases including the guilt phase and you can begin to shut it down
    4- Just where are this endless stream of females willing to pose coming from. Could any of them be my daughter’s friends. Yuck!
    5- You are being exploited.
    6- The more you engage in vouyeristic masturbation in your youth, the more your understanding of marriage becomes unrealistic,5 twisted and distorted. That’s what happened to me.
    Hughe Hefner, and those he spawned serve Satan with a smile.

    1. First of all, Devin, for reasons that will become obvious I entered an incorrect email address.


      To this list you could also add

      7. You are being feminized physically and psychologically.
      a) Physically. This is particularly true between the ages of 13 and 25. My aging nurse practitioner told me of a patient who had particularly low testosterone levels and who also was masturbating frequently. When he stopped the masturbating his testosterone levels went way up. On hearing this I understood in a flash something that had pained me for many years. Why was I not as built out as my brothers and many other guys at school? Why was I not as tall as my dad and one of my brothers? This was particularly evident in the Army when I was regarded with contempt because of my weakness. And to what did I owe this but pornography and one totally free act that shortly became a habit that overwhelmed me and had me in its grip all those years between 13 and 25. Essentially sin destroyed me via pleasure.
      b) Psychologically. You cannot look at beautiful women in a state of undress endlessly without wondering what it would be like to be them. Of course, when people give themselves up to sin there are any number of ways this can manifest itself depending on their particular psychological make up etc., but personally I am convinced that pornography is one way into the homosexual lifestyle via temptations to cross-dressing, of which I have had plenty and recently. And having a feminized body played into this strongly. If I were not a Catholic, and if Our Lady had not delivered me from these temptations, and if there were no sacrament of Confession nor Eucharist to strengthen me I could easily have become a total disgrace to myself, to my wife and my children. Now free of those temptations that were incessant for about a month I look back at that self as a complete madman, but at the time it was incredibly alluring. Satan had a great deal to say to me then, many lies about myself and my sexuality, from which the Lord delivered me, thanks be to God! So when I read about teenagers who want “gender-reassignment” and “drag queen contests” at Catholic universities, I have a pretty good idea where this is coming from. It is coming from our pornography saturated culture.

      1. Been there,

        A older Catholic friend of mine told me that the Nazis dropped pornographic materials on the Allies (or specifically Poland, can’t recall) because Hitler knew that “pornography weakens men.”

        I never knew 1) whether that story was true and 2) whether lust/pornography weaken men, but your anecdote confirms the latter assertion.

        Just searched on wikipedia and found this claim: “that the Nazis promoted pornography in Poland – or anywhere else – is disputed by those who point out that Nazi Germany banned pornography on February 23, 1933 (Richard Plant, The Pink Triangle) and that Hitler, in Mein Kampf, saw pornography as inextricably connected to world Jewry’s plan to corrupt the Aryan race. Czeslaw Madajczyk’s book, the alleged source of the “Polish porn” claim, is not available in English.”

        So the first assertion of the story I was told is disputed. Wish I knew Polish and could read that book!

        God bless, and I am so grateful to our Lord for healing you.

  23. Hello, thank you for your most excellent article. It was very good and really made me think about being more compassionate to people suffering from this sin. I didn’t read all of the comments, but one thing I think you might have considered including in your post was others besides husbands: brothers, sons, cousins, friends. This seems to be a huge problem in our culture and it seems to me that it effects far more than just husbands/wives. God bless you and thank you for sharing your story.

Comments are closed.