The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ 2015 statement Create in Me a Clean Heart: A Pastoral Response to Pornography has been an inspiration and guide to Catholic leaders as they seek to address the severity of pornography in today’s internet age.
In the document, the U.S. bishops encourage clergy to embrace their sacred duty to protect children from pornography. As they explain, “The use of pornography by anyone in the home deprives the home of its role as a safe haven and has negative effects throughout a family’s life and across generations.” The bishops also challenge clergy to create safe environments in accordance with the ongoing implementation of The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.
In response to Create in Me a Clean Heart, Covenant Eyes created a Diocesan and Parish Implementation Guide that provides step-by-step instructions to assist clergy and Catholic leaders in fulfilling the bishops’ recommendations. One of those suggestions is to designate a Safe Haven Sunday.
What is Safe Haven Sunday?
At a very high level, Safe Haven Sunday is one weekend within the liturgical calendar dedicated to directly addressing the harms of pornography during Mass. Covenant Eyes created specific resources to help diocesan and parish leaders support individuals, marriages, and families in overcoming pornography and making their homes a safe haven.
Safe Haven Sunday is an annual initiative for dioceses and parishes. With a new theme and fresh materials from Covenant Eyes each year, diocesan and parish leaders are equipped to lead their communities in creating safe havens. This year’s theme is Equipping the Family, Safeguarding Children.
The primary resource for the 2018 Safe Haven Sunday is the Covenant Eyes book, Equipped: Smart Catholic Parenting in a Sexualized Culture. In Equipped, parishioners will find simple instructions to join a 7-day, text-to-opt-in email series. These emails contain easy instructional videos for turning their home into a safe haven. They explain the latest apps, Google Safe Search, YouTube Restricted Mode, social media risks, how to address online pornography, and more.
Providing the book is not required, but we do suggest that each parish order enough copies of Equipped to send one home with each family on the designated Safe Haven Sunday.
Safe Haven Sunday in the Archdiocese of New Orleans
On February 17-18, the Archdiocese of New Orleans was the first to launch the program to alert their 510,000 Catholics about the harm posed by pornography and provide them with the right tools.
I spoke with Timmy McCaffery, Associate Director for the Archdiocese of New Orleans Office of Marriage and Family Life and chairman of their Create in Me a Clean Heart committee, about why they decided to implement Safe Haven Sunday. Here is some of what he expressed,
“We had already brought the issue to our school and church parish administrators, and to the educators in our schools. Safe Haven Sunday seemed like the best and most fruitful way to really roll out the issue, as well as helpful resources, to the individuals and families in our church parishes.
We liked that the Safe Haven Sunday initiative provided our priests with a natural inroad for discussing a difficult topic. Many of our priests want to confront the issue directly but people aren’t always receptive to that. As well, many are not prepared to discuss it or simply feel awkward or unqualified when doing so. Safe Haven Sunday provided a way to address the issue of pornography as a larger community, all at the same time. It also made it possible to ground the response to the problem in prayer.”
Although it’s still too early to measure the full impact of Safe Haven Sunday for the Archdiocese of New Orleans, the initial feedback has been extremely positive. McCaffery shared,
“The response [to Safe Haven Sunday] was great. For the most part, it was very well received across the board. The priests, who are really on the front lines of the fight against pornography, particularly in the sacrament of Reconciliation, were grateful to have solid resources at their fingertips. They were glad to be able to provide resources to their parishioners at no cost to the families and at a very low cost to the parish.
It’s early still, but it seems like individuals and families were very happy to have it addressed. They were particularly happy to have resources available. Many of them, I think, know that there’s a big problem, they know that it’s out there, but they had no idea where to turn for help or simply for reliable information. The books they received, Equipped, really provided families with an accessible resource they could use to begin to make intentional decisions on how to protect their families and homes from pornography.”
Sixty-five parishes in the Archdiocese of New Orleans participated. Together, the parishes distributed 17,000 copies of the book Equipped.
Safe Haven Sunday achieved McCaffrey’s goal to facilitate openness within the archdiocese about the topic of pornography and has actually sparked opportunities for their team to address pornography in other ways throughout the archdiocese as well. He shared,
“We were very pleased [with Safe Haven Sunday]. All-in-all, our goal and desire the entire time leading up to Safe Haven Sunday was simply to provide a forum in which the issue of pornography could be addressed openly, and in which individuals and families could be given resources that would help them take ownership in the fight to protect their homes and families against the evil of pornography. We feel as though those goals were achieved, and that the conversation was opened in a way that would have been difficult to achieve otherwise.
Very rapidly we began to receive phone calls and emails from church parishes asking us if we could schedule times to come to their parishes to give talks to parents’ groups on addressing pornography and other sexuality-related issues in their homes. From the beginning, our plan has been to offer to all of our church parishes and schools the opportunity to schedule meetings like this. So we were excited to see that Safe Haven Sunday naturally moved people in this direction. It quickly fostered the desire for more information and the desire to do more.”
Can we hold our own Safe Haven Sunday?
We’d love to see more diocesan and parish communities help parishioners make their homes a safe haven. If you have any questions about Safe Haven Sunday or would like to hold a Safe Haven Sunday in your diocese or parish, please contact Amanda Zurface, JCL, Catholic Church Outreach Specialist.