Pope John Paul II on Pornography

The following is a guest post by Mark Houck, a regular author at WhoDoesItHurt.com.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) says, “Sexuality affects all aspects of the human person” (n. 2332). If our sexuality truly affects all aspects of our person, then it is easy to conclude that the “partial truths” of pornography would pervert the nuptial union of a husband and wife (Theology of the Body, p. 88). Karol Wojtyla (a.k.a. Pope John Paul II) says in his book Love and Responsibility, “problems with sex are above all problems with the ‘body’” (p. 18). The multi-billion dollar industry of pornography has created a plethora of problems with sex because it has disordered man’s view of the body. Pornography has created turmoil in marriages and deeply wounded many men and women because of the lies which the simulated sexual acts depict.

Pope John Paul II’s response to this lie is the Theology of the Body. This theology gives all of us, who are the suffering survivors of the sexual revolution, hope. The Vicar of Christ has untwisted the lies of a generation by revealing the truth behind God’s original plan for our sexuality.

Just as Christ had to remind the Pharisees “that the Creator from the beginning made them male and female” (Matthew 19: 4), so too must we remember this truth. Pope John Paul II tells us that “the fundamental fact of human existence at every stage of its history is that God ‘created them male and female’ (Theology of the Body, p. 74). Man and woman were created for marriage, and “in the mystery of [this] creation, man and woman [become] a mutual gift” (p. 75). Pornography, and more specifically masturbation, represents a privation of the gift and therefore the exact “opposite of this ‘welcoming’ or ‘acceptance’ of the other human being as a gift” (p. 70).

In its truest form, the conjugal act should always reflect the “reciprocal ‘acceptance’ of the other” (p. 70). Pornography perverts the conjugal act because it reduces the mutual self donation of husband and wife to an object of lust. Pornography trains a spouse to look at his or her spouse as an object for their pleasure only. In other words, the conjugal act becomes an act of using and as a result spouses use one another for their own selfish objectives.

In his book Love and Responsibility, Wojtyla says, “a person must not be merely the means to an end for another person” (p. 25). In all relationships, the means must serve both the end and the subject (p. 24). Pornography perverts the marital act because it does not allow for the ethical and mutual self donation of the married couple. The sexual acts and intimacy between a husband and wife reflect “more an object of determined techniques” rather than beautiful acts of self giving.

Wojtyla warns husbands and wives against perverting the conjugal act when he says, “remember that you may not treat that person as only the means to an end, as an instrument, but you must allow for the fact that he or she, too, has, or at least should have, distinct personal ends” (p.28).

Theology of the BodyThe Catechism also states that pornography damages the dignity of its participants (n. 2354). The Word of God teaches us the personal dignity of the human body and of sex (Theology of the Body, p. 89). The words spoken by Jesus on the Sermon on the Mount: “You have heard that is was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:27-28). Christ’s words point to the dignity of every human person. In order to understand how pornography damages the dignity of its participants, John Paul II tells us “it is not enough to stop at the surface of human actions. It is necessary to penetrate inside” (p. 105).

“Adultery . . . means a breach of the unity by means of which man and woman, only as husband and wife, can unite so closely as to be ‘one flesh’” (p. 107). When a person views pornography, whether it is in a magazine, video or on the Internet, the person has breached marital unity and has committed adultery in the heart. When a man looks lustfully at a woman, “this desire, an interior act, is expressed by means of the sense of sight” (p. 107). When we look upon another person with “looks” that reflect an interior dimension of our heart then we damage the dignity of that person. The Pope refers to the story of David and Bathsheba as an example of this behavior.

The pornography industry is the modern day version of David and Bathsheba. Just as David could not protect the child that Bathsheba bore for him, pornography cripples a man’s ability to spiritually protect himself , the woman he loves, and his family.

Pornographic images reduce the person being lusted over to body parts only. There is no dignity when the human dimension is eliminated from the person. In short, the problem with pornography is not that it shows too much of the person, but that it shows far too little.

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For more information on the theology of the body, go to TheologyOfTheBody.com. There you can download a message by Catholic author and lecturer Christopher West, a research fellow of the Theology of the Body Institute, given to a Protestant church.