BY Peter Diamond | April 19 2019 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

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Catholics take lead in combating harms of pornography addiction

Upcoming ‘porn block’ in the UK is welcomed by campaigners, but free speech concerns are highlighted by Church

Catholics have welcomed an upcoming age block on pornography in the UK, which is due to be implemented in the coming months, and said the Church can take a lead on combating the harms of porn addiction.

It was announced this week that age-verification for porn sites will be introduced on July 15.

Once introduced, adults will have to prove they are over 18 by registering their details or buying a voucher, in order to access porn.

 

Free speech

Catholics who help combat addiction and the Church in Scotland have welcomed the move, though caution that freedom of speech must be protected from government censorship.

Matt Fradd is a Catholic author and speaker on the subject of porn in the US.

He has recently launched a new 21-day programme Strive21 to deliver people from the harms of pornography addiction.

“I’m excited about the UK porn ban,” he said. “It won’t stop young people trying to access porn but thankfully we are now seeing this kind of deterrent introduced.

“The Church has a role to play in the battle against pornography. As the Catholic catechism says, ‘we were created in the image and likeness of God,’ and because of this it changes how we think about people. The Church teaching on this particular subject is that porn enslaves us—we are called to be master of our passions.”

 

Unknown harm

Mr Fradd added: “Porn use has rocketed in recent years and most children aged 8-12 are viewing porn and they are basically guinea pigs for something that we won’t fully know how harmful it is until 50 years down the line.

“I think it is something that in 50 years people will be shaking us with frustration saying, ‘how could you do this, how could you let us watch this stuff.’

“It is a disaster waiting to happen but thankfully people are beginning to listen and wake up to the harms of children watching porn.”

Strive21 launched in the US two weeks ago and has already had over 1,000 men sign up to the porn-addiction programme, and a Catholic seminary has shown interest in using the tool.

 

Addiction harm

A Scottish priest involved in healing ministry has also welcomed any ban that would help combat porn addiction.

Canon William Fraser, parish priest of The Visitation Church in Taynuilt, said: “Sadly I have seen the harms of addiction through my work in healing ministry.

“Normally porn addiction becomes a habit for someone not just through porn itself but as a reaction to ‘hurt.’ This is like any form of addiction whether it be drink or drugs and more often than not if the ‘hurt’ part is healed then it becomes easier to deal with the ‘habit.’”

Canon Fraser added that to ‘remove’ someone from a porn addiction can take one session but in ‘extreme cases’ can take several months or even years to address.

“We constantly have to be reminded that the power that exists within us through Jesus Christ is far greater than any power in the world,” Canon Fraser said, adding that ‘God will set us free just like He defeated all sin on the cross.’

 

Statistics

Porn is a £75 billion global industry. A 2016 study published in the Eastern Economic Journal revealed people who view porn regularly are less likely to get married than those who do not.

Mary Sharpe is chief executive at The Reward Foundation, an educational charity based in Scotland that looks at the science behind sex.

Ms Sharpe said: “We are totally in favour of the incoming legislation. Parents often think porn is the same as it was 20 years ago, but it is now much worse. It is driving a lot of sexual aggression.

“It is having a major impact on people’s brains, particularly young people who are prime to becoming hooked on things.”

 

Papal endorsement

The Pope has endorsed Ms Sharpe’s charity, and it is working with Catholic schools to develop lesson plans for teachers.

“We think the new legislation is critical. It’s not going to cure the problem but education is vital in schools and in homes,” she said.

“We are creating and developing lesson plans for schools across Scotland, including Catholic ones, where we will create them in line with the teachings of the Church and God’s loving plan resources.

“Churches and parishes can play a massive role in combating the issue. It is critical to educate Catholics on this subject and the Church can’t just pray such an issue will go away—they have to listen and act with good faith and if they do so they can lead on the issue.”

 

Priestly empowerment

Mary added that priests could also be ‘empowered’ to speak on the issue or offer people advice on where to go for help.

Freedom of speech campaigners have however raised concerns that the new legislation will see a clamp down on free speech. The porn ban is part of wider government efforts to restrict what it deems as hate speech online.

A spokesman for the Catholic Church in Scotland said: “It is essential, that any new legislation purporting to tackle ‘online harms’ and ‘offensive material’ upholds the fundamental right to freedom of expression, thought, conscience and religion which allows a robust exchange of views and debate, without fear or favour.

“Securing the online safety of children and vulnerable groups is extremely important. In the absence of an objective definition of ‘harms’ however it is difficult to see how this might be done.”

“Allowing an independent regulator to decide whether or not content is harmful and potentially ban it, could in theory lead to restrictions on the expression of religious beliefs.”

 

SCES

Scotland’s Catholic parent body has welcomed the porn block.

Jo Soares, chair of the Scottish Catholic Education Service’s parents’ group, said: “The new legislation should make it far more difficult for children to access inappropriate sexual material online either accidentally or experimentally.

“It is important that we do restrict pornographic content so that our children do not develop unsafe attitudes to sexual behaviour and consent or unrealistic views of relationships and body images.

“The restriction of online pornography to adults will hopefully make it less difficult to guide our children towards material which teaches in accordance with our belief in the dignity of every human person.”

 

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