Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Battle for Purity

Paul S. Loverde, the bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Arlington, Virginia, has an interesting essay on the First Things site (Let the Battle for Purity Begin). Based in part on the new edition of his pastoral letter on pornography, “Bought with a Price” (available at Amazon for Kindle and at, Bishop Loverde writes that

The pornography epidemic is something to which all people of good will must devote more attention and talk about more openly, but first we need to understand something of the scope and character of the problem.

He goes on to say that

Those who deny that the act of viewing pornography has any negative consequences must understand just how toxic the situation has become. It may be that a man now in his forties, say, remembers being a curious adolescent, stealing glances at a magazine in a neighbor’s home or in the aisle of a convenience store. As morally problematic and harmful as that act surely is, such behavior was arguably slow to become habitual and the physiological and psychological consequences were infrequently severe. That experience is far removed from what young people face today.

He goes on the discuss briefly some of the scientific research about the effects of pornography as well as the moral and spiritual consequences that he’s seen in his own pastoral ministry.

As an Orthodox priest, I found his pastoral letter is well worth my time to and I would encourage other Orthodox clergy and laity to read it as well.

I think that if we as Orthodox Christians are to take seriously the concern raised in the bishop’s letter, we need to take more seriously our own preaching and teaching on human sexuality. While essential it isn’t enough to simply condemn pornography (and Bishop Loverde goes beyond saying “No!”). We must also make sure that cohabitation, artificial contraception as well as divorce and remarriage are rare among us. Yes, this is a huge task and pastorally this is not an issue that lends itself easily to a “one size fits all approach.”

However important it is to say “No” to sin, we must offer as well a positive teaching on chastity both inside and outside marriage. I think as Loverde’s essay title suggests, this will be a battle and one fought not only with those outside the Church but also within our parishes and dioceses. I say this not because of any lack in the tradition but in the sober realization that Orthodox Christians men and women of all ages are also victims in the wars of “sexual liberation.” Many of these men and women are our own walking wounded and we need to care for them if we hope to be faithful in our witness to the Gospel.

In Christ,

+Fr Gregory

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