Expert Answer Forum

internet QUESTION from brian June 5, 2000 Hi, I'm relatively new to the Catholic Community and i have a son who looks at porn on the internet. how bad a sin is this?
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius, O.L.S.M. on July 5, 2000 Dear Mr. Brian:
Looking at pornography is a GRAVE sin.
The Catechism teaches:
Offenses against chastity
2351 Lust is disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes.
2352 By masturbation is to be understood the deliberate stimulation of the genital organs in order to derive sexual pleasure. Both the Magisterium of the Church, in the course of a constant tradition, and the moral sense of the faithful have been in no doubt and have firmly maintained that masturbation is an intrinsically and gravely disordered action. 137 The deliberate use of the sexual faculty, for whatever reason, outside of marriage is essentially contrary to its purpose. For here sexual pleasure is sought outside of the sexual relationship which is demanded by the moral order and in which the total meaning of mutual self-giving and human procreation in the context of true love is achieved. 138
To form an equitable judgment about the subjects' moral responsibility and to guide pastoral action, one must take into account the affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety, or other psychological or social factors that can lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability.
2353 Fornication is carnal union between an unmarried man and an unmarried woman. It is gravely contrary to the dignity of persons and of human sexuality which is naturally ordered to the good of spouses and the generation and education of children. Moreover, it is a grave scandal when there is corruption of the young.
2354 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 offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials.
As with all Grave sins, it has the potential of being a Mortal Sin. To be a mortal sin the person must 1) be a grave sin (which this is); 2) the person must know that it is a grave sin; and 3) the person must, out of free will, decide to commit the sin anyway.
It is this last part that we must look at.
Pornography can be an addiction. As an addiction free will is damaged. If free will is damaged then the person is not fully culpable for his actions since he is not able to truly freely choose.
The Catechism emphasizes this specifically when talking about these sexual sins:
To form an equitable judgment about the subjects' moral responsibility and to guide pastoral action, one must take into account the affective immaturity, force of acquired habit, conditions of anxiety, or other psychological or social factors that can lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability.
But make no mistake, this is a SERIOUS sin.
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