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Why Porn Makes It Difficult to Discern a Call to Vocational Ministry

Last Updated: August 10, 2021

Amanda Zurface

Amanda Zurface holds a license and MA in Cannon Law and a BA in Catholic Theology and Social Justice. She has served in various roles within the Catholic Church, both in the United States and internationally. She the co-author of Equipped: Smart Catholic Parenting in a Sexualized Culture and Transformed by Beauty, and works to equip Catholics with Covenant Eyes educational resources. She resides in Lexington, Ohio, where she also manages her own website that provides online spiritual direction and canon law consultation.

Every day many men and women give their lives to prayer, studying the Word of God, serving the poor, teaching and preaching, evangelizing, helping in the wake of natural disasters and war, and ministering to the old and sick.  They’re our pastors or priests, our spiritual fathers and mothers, our religious sisters, brothers and nuns, our leaders.

While they seem somewhat mysterious to us, they really aren’t so different from me or you.

These are men and women who, as Pope Francis says, “[have gone] beyond [themselves] and have placed their lives at the service of God’s plan” in a countercultural way.

Men and women are missing their vocations because of the impact pornography has on us individually and as a culture. While there has been an increase in vocations to ministry, specifically to the Catholic priesthood and consecrated life, there is something getting in the way of many men and women answering God’s call. This goes for those who are called to marriage as well.

Pornography Affects the Local and Universal Church

A few months back I was preparing for a radio interview on the topic of pornography and its overall effects, including its negative impact on the Church. In my preparation, I prayed about the possibility of being asked the question: “How do you see pornography affecting the Church?” I was ready with an answer, because it was clear to me both at the time and now that:

  1. Pornography regularly comes up in the study of marriages.
  2. Children are being exposed to pornography at younger and younger ages.

You might ask, “Well, how does this affect a particular church?” And more specifically, “What does this have to do with vocation and calling?” Porn does not discriminate.

Pornography Harms Marriages and Family Life

As we are aware, divorce is a reality for many married couples. Pornography use by one or both partners often contributes to these ending marriages. Viewing porn can lead to marital distress, infidelity, devaluation of monogamy, marriage and child-rearing, and it even leads to sexual promiscuity of married persons.

In 2002, the American Academy of Matrimonial Lawyers reported the following as the most salient factors in divorce cases:

  • 68% of the divorces involved one party meeting a new lover over the Internet
  • 56% involved one party having “an obsessive interest in pornographic websites”
  • 47% involved spending excessive time on the computer
  • 33% involved excessive time spent speaking in chat rooms

Pornography is harming marriages. But, how does this impact vocations for ministry, the Catholic Priesthood or consecrated life?

Pornography is a Thief and Steals Vocations

When marriages are harmed, families are too, especially the children. Without the presence of pornography in our marriages or on children’s smartphones, our young people are more likely to be open to their vocational call.

We can go off statistics here as well. The average age of first exposure to Internet pornography is 11 years old (6th grade). This may have happened by accidentally stumbling onto a pornographic magazine at a cousin’s house, from a classmate showing an image on his smartphone or from innocently googling “sex” because she was curious. One exposure can create a lifetime of viewing and struggling. The largest consumers of Internet pornography are kids ages 12 to 17 (6th to 11th grade).

When someone views pornography regularly, they often develop the following:

  1. A shame-based relationship with God
  2. An incapacity for human relationships and intimacy

These two big factors often keep or delay one from entering into the vocation to which God is calling them.

Pope Francis shares that conversion and vocations are two sides of the same coin and stay interconnected throughout the disciple’s life. Every disciple, each person committed to the Christian walk, will have ongoing conversions throughout life. There will be ongoing “aha moments,” there will be turning away from God in little and big decisions, and then running back to Him with sorrowful and trusting hearts.

This is also the case for priests, pastors, religious and lay people. Pornography targets all, and it does not discriminate.

How You Can Encourage Healthy Vocations

  1. Do you have young families in your lives? Make a commitment to tell two young families this week about the harmful effects of pornography on marriages and children. Share Covenant Eyes as a tool to help guide their marriages and parenting.
  2. Tell your pastor about Covenant Eyes. Consider sharing our free e-books or displaying Covenant Eyes flyers at the church’s information table.
  3. Pray for those with ministry vocations everyday, but especially this Sunday, April 17th, as the Universal Church celebrates the World Day of Prayer for Vocations.
  4. Share with us what you’re doing to support marriages, family life and vocations! 

World Day of Prayer for Vocations will be observed on Sunday, April 17th, also known as “Good Shepherd Sunday.”  The purpose of this day is to publically fulfill the Lord’s instruction to, “Pray the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into His harvest” (Mt 9:38; Lk 10:2).  Please pray that young men and women hear and respond generously to the Lord’s call to the priesthood, diaconate, religious life, societies of apostolic life or secular institutes.

  • Comments on: Why Porn Makes It Difficult to Discern a Call to Vocational Ministry
    1. stephen on

      How true…porn is no respecter of persons. It can wrap its tentacles around people of all ages and all vocations.
      It not only keeps potential pastor and priests from entering the ministry, but can take the wind out of their sails once they are in ministry. The Bible says, “Do not put out the Spirit’s fire.” I Thess. 5:19 One good way of dousing the Spirit is by the mind feeding on porn. The Bible also says, “As a man thinks in his heart so he is and so he becomes.” Once the Holy Spirit is gone it is just going through the motions and is just a shell of the real thing.
      Keep up the good work, Amanda!

      Reply

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