The Harm of Pornography and Hope Beyond Addiction

A New Series for the Catholic Connection
by Katie Sciba under guidance of Fr. Sean Kilcawley, STL

This piece is the beginning of a long sought-after series by  Bishop Duca and the Catholic Connection on the subject of pornography and the influence this industry has upon our society, particularly the foundational unit of the family.  It is a sensitive subject, but those bound to Christ are called to label this sinful practice for what it truly is. Future articles will cover the dynamic of pornographic material to the public at large, the negative effect it has on the family, and recovery opportunities for consumers, spouses and children.

“Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties…it perverts the conjugal act. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public)…It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church 2354)

Pornography is perhaps the most subtle, most widely accepted toxin to society. As an industry, it’s a giant, an addiction that brings harm to both brain and heart by altering neurological responses and decreasing a consumer’s satisfaction with reality. It traumatizes children and brings shame to addicts and spouses.

And at last, the world is fighting back.

Armed with the Sacraments, several anti-porn non-profits, neuroscientific evidence and personal accounts, the Church is publicly addressing that which has remained secret.

Despite being mostly free of charge and easily accessible, consumption costs in matters of the heart. Covenant Eyes, an Internet filtering and accountability program, cites that 56% of divorces “involved one party having an obsessive interest in pornographic websites,” and 70% of wives of husbands with sexual addiction could be diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from betrayal trauma. Dr. Jill Manning is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist (LMFT) whose research has uncovered the harmful relational problems with pornography. Her reports conclude that the number one effect of porn consumption is “increased marital distress and risk of separation and divorce;” number two is “decreased marital intimacy and sexual satisfaction.”

It’s not just marriages that are in danger. Research reveals that the average age of initial exposure to pornography is eight, which means children even younger are being exposed. Regardless of age, pornography can be traumatic and confusing. Repeat exposure can alter brain chemistry, making it as addictive as narcotics and alcohol in a short period of time.

Despite research, addiction and dangers to the family, society struggles to pinpoint why pornography is wrong. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops recently responded to this epidemic in the document Create in Me a Clean Heart, which states, “Pornography objectifies people and brings hurt and pain. It is an illusory substitute for real relationships and intimacy, which in the end bring true joy.”

Repeat users give reasons of anxiety, depression, discontent, loneliness and anger for engaging in pornography — which can be audio and literary as well as visual.

Matt, a 28-year-old husband and father in Maryland, shared his story of early exposure, young addiction and eventual freedom with While his tone was heavy, he laughed with relief when he mentioned an unintended break from pornography: “[After] porn…I could think clearer. I was less anxious…I wake up and life is good.” Matt continued saying that sobriety from his addiction helped him enjoy people and regain confidence. He had hope.

So what now? Whether seeking addiction help or looking for healing as the spouse of an addict, you’ll find the greatest aid in a therapist specializing in sexual addiction (CSAT), especially one with training from the Sexual Addiction Treatment Provider Institute (SATP). has a therapist directory in the upper right corner of the site, easily used to find CSATs in our diocese. Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFTs) can be of help in areas of marital and parental communication as well as healing. Though there are few Catholic CSATs or LMFTs in the area, many will respect Catholic values, so be sure to inform them of your faith. Look also for a spiritual director and a safe group or trusted confidant to listen and discuss progress in recovery, as this support is invaluable and sometimes more readily available when the need is immediate. is a fantastic resource for addicts, spouses, parents and clergy. Wives of addicts can find help at with a monthly subscription to classes and live sessions with therapists. For children, check out Good Pictures, Bad Pictures: Porn-Proofing Today’s Young Kids by Kristen Jenson and Dr. Gail Poyner for advice on how to address pornography with children. Install software from on all computers and devices, which both filters inappropriate content and sends accountability reports to recipients of the user’s choosing, keeping children safe and adults accountable.

There is hope beyond addiction and, by God’s grace, addicts and loved ones alike can find validation and healing through healthy connections with God and others to bring real healing and satisfaction.

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