Expert Answer Forum
Pornography QUESTION from Lucy December 9, 1999 My husband is addicted to pornography. He doesn't want to give it up even though it is a serious sin and is coming between us. He says he likes it and can't seem to live without it. He goes to Mass and confession, but within hours or a few days he will be looking at pornography on the Internet. I worry that he will go to hell because of this.
ANSWER by John-Paul Ignatius on December 11, 1999 Dear Mrs. Lucy:
I am saddened to hear that your husband is addicted to pornography. But at the same time it is not surprising. Addiction to pornography and to sexual sins is pandemic in our society. Priests tell me that this subject is one of the most often confessed sins.
In dealing with this problem, both you and your husband MUST understand that he is most like addicted (from what your describe). If this is the case, the addiction must be considered no different than a drug addiction or gambling addiction. It is a REAL addiction.
People who suffer from this addiction routinely report that NOTHING they do resolves their problem – frequent confession, frequent Communion, prayers, mortifications, fastings, even simple exorcisms – nothing seems to work – except one thing.
Addictive behavior has its origins in brain chemistry. Those who are addicted to gambling, stealing, pornography, masturbation, adultery, lying, etc. etc. usually have an imbalanced brain chemistry.
Serontonin production is one culprit of addictive (obsessive-compulsive) behavior.
The very act of the compulsion is a form of self medication. When the brain chemistry is out of balance, the act of the compulsion, such as masturbation, actually acts to balance the chemistry – it is natural, and unconscious attempt to balance the chemistry. The problem is that the effects are temporary.
People who have gone to a psychiatrist about this obsessive-compulsive behavior and prescribed medication designed for the obsessive-compulsive issue, have found oftentimes COMPLETE relief from their addiction without effecting normal sexuality with one’s spouse.
We must be cautious however in thinking that the medication is a silver bullet. Even if the chemical reason for the addiction if gone, the psychological effects may remain – such as the habit of doing it. But the psychological habit is possible to resolve. Nothing will usually resolve the chemical problem except medication.
Thus I recommend that anyone addicted to gambling, stealing, lying, masturbation, adultery, fornication, homosexual sex, or any other sexual or habitual sin to seek the advice of a psychiatrist for possible mediation for obsessive-compulsive behavior.
Then, it is good to be part of a support group to help with any psychological residue from years of addiction.
We have a online support group called the Catholic Support Group for Pornography Addiction Recovery. The Url for information on the mail list, which is setup so that the members remain anonymous, is: CSGPA
In conclusion, I would encourage you to know that your husband’s addiction is most likely an addiction that began in childhood. Almost all addicts to pornography began their behavior in childhood. This behavior is NOT, I repeat, is NOT a reflection upon you, or his love and attraction to you.
I am sure that he loves you very much and this compulsion (which means he is compelled, he can’t help it) troubles him greatly.
If he can see a psychiatrist and talk with the doctor the specific things I have mentioned in this Answer, perhaps he can find some relief of this problem.
As for going to hell, the Church teaches one must have complete positive volition, that is, he must have complete freedom of will to choose the sin for the sin to qualify as mortal. Serious addictions and habits may indeed be cases of diminished responsibility. To quote the Catechism, no. 2352:
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 lessen, if not even reduce to a minimum, moral culpability. We will be praying for him and for you.
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