SAFE HAVEN SUNDAY
As your pastor, I am constantly impressed and edified by the love I see expressed in the families of this great parish. As I’m sure you realize, families are the backbone of this parish, indeed, of any parish and of the Church. As far back as Tertullian, a 3rd century Christian author, the family has been seen as the domestic Church. Yet, as the Universal Church is today struggling with the tragic clergy sex abuse scandal, families are struggling with the tragedy of pornography due to easy access through the internet. As we all strive to provide safe havens for our families, our Archbishop Charles Chaput has asked all parishes to join in a new initiative, Safe Haven Sunday; it will be observed next Sunday in parishes throughout the Archdiocese. The goal of Safe Haven Sunday is to give families tools to make their homes safe havens from pornography.
Although it has long been a problem in society, the wide access to the internet today has made pornography easily available to people of all ages. Studies indicate that the average age of exposure to pornography is 11, and many children view it at an even earlier age. These same studies show that 93% of boys and 63% of girls have been exposed to pornography by the age of 18. Meanwhile, 75% of children report that their parents have never discussed internet pornography with them.
Pornography is also a serious problem for adults. Again, recent studies reveal that 68% of men and 18% of women report that they view pornography at least once a week and 56% of divorces are at least partially due to one party having “an obsessive interest in pornographic websites.”
One of the realities of our web-filled world is that often a person can be exposed to this material quite innocently. A misspelled word in a search engine can lead to exposure that can so easily develop into habitual use that impedes human and spiritual development.
I think we can all agree that pornography is a serious evil against the dignity of the human person. As the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops stated so well in its recent pastoral response to pornography entitled Create in Me a Clean Heart:
God created the human person, male and female, in his image and likeness, as the crown of creation. Every one of us is a gift, with the inviolable dignity of a person. …Because of the beautiful meaning and dignity communicated by our bodies – which communicate our very selves – our bodies should be treated with the greatest respect. We, and therefore our bodies, are not meant to be used but loved.
Pornography, on the other hand, exploits the body, using it for selfish pleasure. It reduces the human body, made in the image and likeness of God, to an object rather than respecting it for what it is – “the crown of creation.” As is stated so clearly in Create in Me a Clean Heart: “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.” And so, to help families become safe havens from this onslaught on our society, we are providing all families with resources to assist you in talking with your children about internet dangers, making your electronic devices safe for your children to use and developing accountability among all families in this regard. You will find copies of Equipped: Smart Catholic Parenting in a Sexualized Culture, along with Safe Haven Prayer Cards. Please take one home and explore how you can make your home a safe haven. You will also find more information and resources at the Archdiocesan Office for Life and Family website: www.phillycatholiclife.org or join The Equipped 7-Day Challenge: A Digital Crash Course by texting SECURE to 66866 to receive seven days of emailed digital tips.
As we face this serious concern in our homes, I offer you some words of encouragement from our bishops, found at the end of Create in Me a Clean Heart:
As we close, we assure all who are struggling with the sin of pornography and striving to cultivate chastity that you are not alone in your struggle. Jesus is with you, and the Church offers you love and support. Trust in and be led by the Holy Spirit. The Lord’s mercy and forgiveness are abundant! “As far as the east is from the west, so far has he removed our sins from us” (Ps 103:12). God’s grace and concrete help are always available. Healing is always possible. We thank all men, women, and young people who are helping to build a culture of authentic love and chastity and helping others live a life of freedom and purity.