On August 8-10, the Center for Marriage, Family, and Life will host a diocesan symposium entitled Integrity Restored that will provide education and training on the theological and psychological perspectives for ordained and lay leaders to respond to pornography and its effects on individuals, the family, and the Church. This initiative is part of a comprehensive plan to provide better resources to both those who struggle with pornography use and the people who support, counsel, and educate them around the issue of sexuality. In addition to this symposium, the Center has developed several resources for clergy and lay leaders to use within their ministry including confessional resources, therapist resources, and a pastoral resource booklet entitled, “Redeemed in Love.”

According to recent data1, 90% of young men age 18 have been exposed to pornography. Of the 90%, the average age these young men were sexualized by pornography was between 8-11 years old. Similarly, 60% of young women by the age of 18 have been exposed to porn as well. Almost 80% of this exposure, which isn’t always voluntary, is happening in the perceived safety of their homes. Into adulthood, 56% of divorces involve one party having an obsessive relationship to pornography.

Pornography does an injustice to authentic human love. Saint John Paul II said it best when he stated, “the problem with pornography is not that it shows too much of the person, but that it shows far too little.” In other words, pornography reduces the human person to an object—a thing to be consumed for pleasure—rather than focusing on the person as a gift, with all the complexity of their emotional, intellectual, and spiritual reality.

The foothold of pornography in modern culture is rooted largely in the reality of immediate access coupled with the science of how pornographic content stimulates the brain. This pairing creates the condition of possibility for pornography abuse and addiction to flourish. Recent studies indicate that pornography affects the brain in a similar way to how drugs or alcohol effect the brain. The substance—whether it is alcohol, tobacco, drugs, or even pornography—overwhelm the brain with dopamine, which is the “feel-good” chemical in the brain, creating the experience of a sort of ecstasy or high. The problem with this natural process is that, joined with the social and technological advances of the past several decades, a person has instant access to a nearly unlimited number of mood-altering sexual stimulants. As this behavior is repeated, the brain becomes naturally desensitized and requires more dopamine to achieve that feel-good state. The higher the release of dopamine in the brain, the greater the risk is that the person will become addicted to pornography.

Integrity Restored (integrityrestored.com) provides education, training, encouragement, and resources to break free from pornography, heal relationships, and to assist parents in preventing and responding to pornography exposure which is so devastating in the lives of our children. Integrity Restored is also a resource that trains and helps clergy in assisting families at the parish level, so that the domestic church truly becomes what it is, the human space in which we encounter Christ.

Participants in this symposium will be given a crash course in theology of the body, the science of addiction, relationships, and the different levels of intervention to help others to break free and heal from the devastating effects of pornography on marriages and families. Speakers for the event include Dr. Todd Bowman, Damen Owens, and Father Sean Kilcawly. Priests will have private sessions focusing on the Sacrament of Reconciliation and pastoral counseling. The symposium will be offered as follows:

August 8, 2017 | Our Lady of Perpetual Help, Salem

August 9, 2017 | Our Lady of Mount Carmel, Newport News

August 10, 2017 | Diocesan Pastoral Center, Richmond

All sessions occur between 10:00am – 5:00pm and include lunch. Registration for clergy is free. Registration for all other participants is $10. All are welcome to attend. Register online at www.regonline.com/IntegrityRestored by August 1. Contact the Center for Marriage, Family, and Life with any questions at cmfl@richmonddiocese.org or 804-622-5109.
1 Covenant Eyes, internetsafety101.org/pornographystatistics, growing wireless.com