Pornography is a huge addiction in our society: ripping way the innocence of children, stripping teens of a realistic expectation of sex, driving boyfriends and girlfriends into sex prematurely, deadening marriages, afflicting all ages, and destroying families. Marcel LeJeune has dealt with this scourge in his ministry and has written one of the most complete guides on breaking free from a Catholic perspective. I recently read through Cleansed: A Catholic Guide to Freedom from Porn and was impressed.
LeJeune has some clear opening chapters describing pornography and the situation before he jumps into ways to overcome it. He begins with a definition: “Pornography is material that portrays suggestive behavior in order to arouse sexual desires and reactions.” (8) Marcel cleary opposes the Christian and pornographer’s view of sex: “No amount of fear tactics or negativity can sway someone away from porn once that person has been using it for a while. Rather than peddling what is bad, we need to focus on the beautiful and positive message of Christ has given us about sex. Sex can be a beautiful and amazing act if we choose to use it in the manner God intended.” (14)
He admits, as I would agree, that the Church has been slow to respond to this and unfortunately the church’s reasons seem out of date to most people today. The only thing I think was unnecessary in these introductory chapters was explaining the history of Christianity’s view of contraception: it is important to link contraception with pornography in the sense that both promise “consequence-free” sex which takes sex outside of a committed relationship, normally marriage, but talking about the Lambeth Convention and Humanae Vitae seemed more of an interesting sidenote than focal for his topic. He does point out how the marital act should be about the other person – “I love you. I want to spend the rest my life with you and have children with you” – not about oneself – “I want to have sex with you.” (37)
The center of this book is Chapter 4 where he gives 18 strategies to stop and overcome pornography. Five are worth repeating here:
- Get rid of porn and easy ways to access it.
- Find an accountability partner.
- Practice fasting.
- Learn to overcome temptation.
- Redeem thoughts of temptation rather than trying to suppress them. Offer them to Jesus.
Two other strategies that he has implicitly but I think are also important and which I’ve blogged (when I emailed these to Marcel, he liked them):
- Don’t Say “No,” Say “Yes” to Something Else.
- Understand the virtue of chastity and consciously view others as persons not objects.
Then he rounds out the book talking about other aspects of pornography and Catholic morals. Most of it is pretty straightforward virtue ethics, prayer and sacramental life with an emphasis of recovering it after recovering from pornography. I particularly liked how he shows our desires for pornography are really hidden desires for Jesus: “Porn will never satisfy. It always leaves is demanding more. It will never bring us to happiness and peace were looking for. Jesus always satisfies and only asked us to give him our hearts.” (70)
Despite a few flaws like three pages dedicated to the history of the morality of birth control and not being explicit about two strategies I think are important in fighting pornography, this is still by far the best full-length book on the topic I’ve seen.