6 minute read

Pastor Confesses to 16-Year Porn Addiction

Last Updated: April 28, 2015

Luke Gilkerson

Luke Gilkerson has a BA in Philosophy and Religious Studies and an MA in Religion. He is the author of Coming Clean: Overcoming Lust Through Biblical Accountability and The Talk: 7 Lessons to Introduce Your Child to Biblical Sexuality. Luke and his wife Trisha blog at IntoxicatedOnLife.com

He was a leader in one of Australia’s largest churches. Thousands around the world prayed for him during his two-year battle with cancer. His hit song, “Healer,” inspired by his illness, has been played in churches around the world.

The only problem is, Michael Guglielmucci never had cancer.

About a week ago, Guglielmucci, one of the pastors at Planetshakers City Church in Melbourne, Australia, publicly announced that his battle with terminal leukemia was a lie.

And why did Guglielmucci lie about this? In order to hide his 16-year obsession with pornography.

Guglielmucci’s Confession

When Michael told his parents two years ago about his cancer diagnosis, their lives were “totally turned around.” Comforted by the love and support shown by their local church and all of their friends around the world, they held up under the emotional pain of the possibility of losing a son.

Then on Tuesday, August 12, they received a call to come and meet with Michael and his wife Amanda. They weren’t ready for what they were about to hear. Michael began to share the story of a 16-year addiction to pornography from which he simply couldn’t break free. Michael told his family that he loves God and had been throwing himself “into prayer, worship and serving God with full energy and enthusiasm,” but he couldn’t break free from his addiction.

How did this web of lies begin? In September 2006, Michael had an accident and went to a hospital. Tormented by living a double life, Mike told his parents that he thought he could “escape the pain by creating a diversion from his addiction to adult pornography,” so he created the cancer diagnosis. Michael states that the emotional pain of his addiction and his lies were so awful that he suffered from constant vomiting and many other symptoms of a genuine cancer patient. Once the web of lies began, Michael felt he could not stop, he felt he had gone too deep into his lie, so he continued to play up his illness, claiming glandular fever, a brain tumor, a burst ear drum, multiple myelomas, kidney failure, 33 broken bones, stomach cancer, and sending phony emails to his family and friends from non-existent doctors. He never actually saw a doctor. He would just go to hospitals and clinics and hang around in waiting rooms.

A few weeks before Michael’s confession to his parents, he had a dream of Jesus on the cross looking down on him saying, “The truth will set you free,” so he decided to bring his sins and lies into the open.

Below is Michael Guglielmucci’s confession:

“It is with much pain and sadness that I make this statement today.

For over 16 years I have struggled with an addiction to adult pornography. As a result of this secret life of sin my body would often breakdown.

I’d report the cause of my symptoms simply as illnesses, and I’ve thrown my life into a ministry for many years trying to compensate for my sin.

I believe that I do love Jesus and I know that he loves me, and it is this love along with the prayers of people around the world that bring me to this place of confession.

Two years ago, I reported that I was suffering from cancer. The truth is that although I was ill I did not have cancer, but was again using the misdiagnosis to hide the lie that I was living.

I know in my heart that it is the truth alone that will set me free and this is the reason for my confession.
I’ve dishonoured God, my wife, my family and the church, and I take full responsibility for my actions and would like to make it very clear that no one else was in any way aware of my double life.

I’m fully committed to a process of discipline, recovery and restitution and will see this process through to whatever extent is necessary.

I am deeply sorry and pray that you will find it in your hearts to forgive me.

Currently, I am undergoing professional medical assessment and evaluation to help identify and begin to treat the real and much deeper issues.

Please continue to pray for my wife and I and my family as we have a long, hard road ahead of us, but a road that I’m thankful to God that I’m finally walking.”

What’s Being Done About This?

On August 16, Guglielmucci confessed his two-year fraudulent cancer battle at a national executive meeting of the Australian Christian Churches (ACC) and was stripped of his credentials.

He has also written to the Police Commissioner offering to fully cooperate with any police inquiries into his fake illness.

Planetshakers has removed references to Guglielmucci from their website that credit his role on several albums. Hillsong has filed copyright “take-down” claims on every YouTube video that contains Mike Guglielmucci and his song “Healer.”

The ACC is now auditing his bank accounts, which include money donated from people touched by his hit song “Healer.” According to AdelaideNow.com, many people felt compassion for Michael’s alleged illness, especially after seeing the Hillsong video showing Michael leading worship with oxygen tubes in his nose. Several donations were made to Guglielmucci and his family. One donor said, “There’s no better script than to be dying of cancer and giving glory to God in a Christian context . . . it’s the highest form of fraud.”

Some are also blaming the culture of Michael’s church as a contributing factor. They are calling for the leadership to put thought into “the way accountability works inside Planetshakers City Church.”

Many supporters have rallied around Guglielmucci, including former Family First MLC and Paradise Church pastor Andrew Evans. Michael’s parents are also standing with their son in this trying time. In the midst of the confusion, many church members and old friends are expressing words of forgiveness.

Among Michael’s supporters is his wife, Amanda. She was the first one to whom Michael confessed everything. She says that she is choosing to stick it out with her husband and support him through this process.

“We’re just not going to rush anything, we’re gonna walk through the process, however slowly it needs to happen in order for the healing and restoration to be complete, and then we’ll go from there. . . .  I’m actually seeking professional counseling myself. I need to be able to unravel a lot of emotion that’s bombarding me at the moment, I owe it to myself to work through that properly, and to him.”

A Wake-Up Call

While moral failures of high profile Christians have been happening for centuries, hypocrisy never seems to be a dull topic for the media. I don’t want to simply add more fuel to the fire. I do feel a sense of relief knowing that he has started the process of confession and repentance. Michael, if these words ever cross your eyes, know we are praying for you and your family. Jesus’ blood covers the worst of transgressions.

As I reflect on Guglielmucci’s story I feel extreme sadness, sympathy, and great alarm.

My heart goes out to the thousands who have been inspired by Guglielmucci’s supposed illness, especially those who are truly suffering from cancer.

His story should be a wake-up call to all those in Christian leadership. The Lord’s brother, James, wrote that “we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” (James 3:1). As Christians, we are all called to integrity; as leaders we are called to demonstrate that integrity and be above reproach. Christians need the fellowship of mutual accountability and confession; how much more do Christian leaders need it?

His story should also be a wake-up call to all Christians who are guilty of a secret life of any sort. Guglielmucci may not have had cancer, but his secret sin and guilt were like a cancer that ate away at him. I remember personally my own addiction to pornography and how the guilt and shame would literally gnaw at my gut. Guglielmucci’s real illness, unconfessed sin, was just as King David described it: “Blessed is the one whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered. . . . For when I kept silent, my bones wasted away through my groaning all day long. For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer” (Psalm 32:1,3-4).

His story is also a wake-up call to all individuals who feel trapped in a pornography addiction. In his first interview with “Today Tonight,” Guglielmucci said, “This is who I am . . . I’m addicted to the stuff, it consumes my mind” (see interview below). Honestly, in reading Michael’s confession, I am not sure what to believe about him. Given his deception, can we even trust his confession? Only time may tell.

Taking his story at face value, however, Michael is similar to many men in the church. Many men were exposed to pornography at a young age, at a time when they were more susceptible to pornography’s subtle influences. Many throw themselves into prayer, worship, and active ministry and can’t seem to break free from it. In these ways Michael is not an enigma. Many in the church lie defeated under the weight of this habitual sin.

Ironically, Michael says he actually wrote the song “Healer” because he wanted God to set him free from his addiction, but he hid this fact behind his cancer story. As the details of Michael’s confession are corroborated, perhaps “Healer” will become an anthem for people praying to break free from pornography. Perhaps at this very moment this prayer is being answered for Michael.

Regardless of the final verdict in this extreme case, God’s promise remains true: as we bring our sins into the light through accountability and confession, Jesus can and will heal us of our deepest and most sinful addictions. “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective” (James 5:16, NIV).

Guglielmucci’s Interview:

  • Comments on: Pastor Confesses to 16-Year Porn Addiction
    1. Amber on

      Great blog. I, too was very sad when I heard of this news. It’s easy to get angry about it but you’re right, he and his family need our prayers more than ever right now!

      Reply
    2. DannyBoy on

      Hey Luke,

      Thanks for dropping by my blog (diaryofdanny.blogspot.com), i agree with you that the christian community should forgive him… and we are in no position and given any rights to judge him… God will judge him and it is good that he finally came to realization especially when the Lord spoke to him.. he is really being set free and in his healing process..

      As you said.. it is a wake up call for all of us, not just for Mike… that God is real!

      By the way, I really salute you and for this web page Covenant eyes for doing great work and impacting people’s lives..

      God Bless,
      DannyBoy

      Reply
    3. Thomas on

      My heart breaks for him, his family and church. I understand his pain and loneliness because I myself have struggled with this addiction since I was about ten years old. There are day I feel like I just can’t go on and then I remember Jesus loves me. This sin carries such a burden that even though you know you’re not alone you can’t help but feel all alone. My wife has rejected any attempt to be open and honest about my struggle and that has let to a very strained relationship. I’m now 45 and we have two beautiful kids. I have prayed for God to just take me now before I damage my families name and His name. My heart and prayers go out to all men and women that struggle with this very real Cancer in the soul of society.

      Reply
    4. Dan on

      Hey thanx man for dropping by my blog..yea i totally agree with you…its not our place to judge a man..if we look at ourselves, we are not worthy of even judging a man by his sin because by nature we are all sinful but its only by the grace of God that we have been forgiven and our sin paid for already..its just up to us to make the choice to do the right thing and confess our sin and repent… but i personally believe that it was a good thing that he came out and confessed about the whole lie..can you imagine what would have happened if he was found out by someone else?…that would cause an even bigger impact on the church and Christians and Unbelievers..at least he is doing the right thing by fixing his wrong..by the way…great blog you have here…keep up the good work..

      Reply
    5. Laura on

      Great blog. What a unique and compassionate perspective on this issue. Ben and I really enjoyed it.
      Thanks and keep up the good work….

      Reply
    6. Mabel on

      hey luke,

      thanks for dropping by my blog too. i’ve heard this news from a fren of mine and i decided to write bout this news too.. even though we’re oceans apart, we will continue to support him and his family in prayer. may God grant him strength to go on.

      take care everyone and God bless.

      mabel from malaysia.

      Reply
    7. Rob McQueary on

      This story is why I believe in what Covenant Eyes (CE) is all about. For years (even before I knew of CE) I was talking about changing desires & choices instead of slapping on a filter that would remove not only pornography but also an individual’s responsibility to make right choices.

      May the sadness of Michael’s story be a call to humility for all of us. I realize that I am one click away from the same destruction.

      Reply
    8. Daphne on

      can you imagine the kind of strength it took to stand up in front of millions and confess all that? yes, he did wrong, but he could’ve kept on hiding it and avoided all the consequences he now faces. I personally believe if the man had the guts to confess like that, then he’s gonna make it. what’s really sad is when the man with the addiction never confesses until they’re caught. (and even then sometimes, try to explain it away) Even sadder when the pattern continues over and over, for years, with the man saying he wants to change, but he doesn’t. (and still doesn’t see that he has an addiction)I would love to see cov eyes have a support section for wives, because men cannot truly understand the devestation they cause us. Yes, they see the tears, anger, frustration, but they don’t get the depth of it; how it can make us question their faithfulness to us, how it makes us wonder if they’ve had affairs, how it eats away at our very being, telling us we’re not good enough, skinny enough, pretty enough, etc, whatever the case may be, and although we know in our heads that is not true, that it is not our fault, it is a mortal wound to the lifeblood of the wife and marriage. And guys, if you suffer with this addiction, please understand that when your wife finds out, (even if it’s bc you confess) she is bound to be hurting for a while, so please don’t be angry, or assume she doesn’t love you anymore because she doesn’t want you to touch her, then you lash out and do it again bc of her rejection. You need to understand that this addiction makes us feel like we are garbage, worthless in your eyes; it devalues us as your treasure. We feel dirty, sad, sick, all at the same time. Sometimes we even lose all desire. (which also is not good!) Best advice I can give you? Do everything you can to show her you want to change. From installing cov eyes, to marriage counciling, to being accountable for your wherabouts at all times. If you love her, do whatever you have to do to get rid of the addiction before she decides it’s just too painful to keep going through year after year, cuts her losses, and moves on. Which is, btw, something no loving wife initially wants to do; but put them through the wringer enough times with this thing, and she’s gonna assume eventually that it’s more important to you than she is. One last thing; you’d be surprised how many wives would stand by their husbands and fight through it with him, if he confessed w/o being caught, and was ready to do any and everything possible to make it right. So give her that chance; she may surprise you. And you may surprise yourself, by finding that she is more precious to you than the temptation. PS I think I will start my own page on this; seems I have a lot to say. just gotta figure out how to start one…

      Reply
    9. Luke Gilkerson on

      Daphne,

      I agree that it took some guts to go public about his addiction. He knew the truth was going to hurt many people.

      We do have a section in our blog for “Wives of Porn Addicts” and we will continue to add helpful resources and articles in that section, including resources from counselors and pastors.

      I encourage you to check out PornAddictHubby.com and see what forums and resources they have.

      Reply
    10. Brendan on

      Thanks for stopping by ZA! I think we’re on the same page here; great article.

      Brendan

      Reply
    11. Shaun on

      Thanks Luke, I’m glad i’ve finally found a site which is explaining the story with love. Keep up the good work

      shaun

      Reply
    12. Andrey Cliffe on

      Michael Guglielmucci has my full personal support and prayers

      Reply
    13. Rev. Stevan Garner on

      Addictions are a part of the “worldly” life, a life that we as teachers and ministers of the Word must overcome. My personal addictions (drugs and alcohol) in the past still haunt me from time to time. I have overcome my addictions through my faith in Jesus’ healing power and the Grace of God and so will this young man.
      He will or has been forgiven, but I feel that he too will answer for what he has done in mis-leading so many Christians into believing that his “sickness” was another source. Sickness of the mind that corrupts all morality is in my opinion the worst sickness that we as teachers of the Word have to cope with. My prayers go out to him, his family, and to all the people in the world who are trying to free themselves from the slavery to lust of any kind.

      Reply
    14. kwabena on

      he has done a good job .now i know that GOD can save you from any addiction nomatter what the addiction is.may GOD bless him

      Reply
    15. joleen on

      thanks for visit my blog, your blog are great and with so much information. Hope that he will be healed. Definately i think this incident really wake many ppl up especially those who hidden themselves from their own personal struggle =) God’s glory still shine through this time.

      Reply

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