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By Rev. Stephen V. Hamilton, Sollemnitas Corpus Christi – Fr. Hamilton, Apologizes to Parishioners for Failing to Address Pornography Epidemic
Action Item: At Fr. Hamilton’s encouragement, please read this article with your son. Statistics show your son is already exposed or needs the positive reinforcement from his parents to grow in virtue. As Father said, “It is serious sin that needs to be confessed immediately, and especially before coming forward to receive Holy Communion.” Don’t be afraid, take courage. Your son’s salvation is at stake.
Action Item #2: Your priest has full permission to use this homily as his own without crediting Fr. Hamilton. Please go and encourage your pastor to give this homily. Father Hamilton has received many thank you’s for this courageous homily.
By Rev. Stephen V. Hamilton, Sollemnitas Corpus Christi
Dt. 8:2-3, 14b-16a; 1 Cor. 10:16-17; Jn. 6:51-58
18 June 2017 (Father’s Day)
I want to begin today with a brief prayer. If you are so inclined you can close your eyes and ask for the grace of the Holy Spirit. “Lord Jesus Christ, we pray that You would cover us, our families, and all of our possessions with Your love and the power of Your Most Precious Blood. Bind and drive out from among us any spirits who are opposed to Your Kingdom. Soften our hearts and heal our wounds so that we may receive Your Word today. Surround all of us with Your heavenly Angels, Saints, the strong arms of St. Joseph, and the mantle of Our Blessed Mother. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.”
Consider this hypothetical situation: What if we all knew that some defect in the water pipes of this church was resulting in harmful exposure to a high percentage of parishioners and running the high likelihood of serious physical health risks and even death… and we did nothing? We said nothing. I take it you would think that is crazy and irresponsible. You might even sue or demand the Pastor and other parish staff be replaced. We have basically that very situation, but in the area of spiritual health. And most people hear almost nothing about it from pulpits. Little is said or done to battle the crisis which is at epidemic proportions.
Today I want to discuss a topic that impacts many men and women across many age categories. While the impact is broad, it does seem true that this spiritual health risk seems to have a more significant hold on men and boys. Since the male susceptibility to this challenge is so high I am intentionally using Father’s Day to treat this topic and to call men in particular to battle, to better health of soul, and to better fulfill the role of protector for their family. Of course, I want to be sensitive to younger ears among us, but at the same time it could be irresponsible for me to be vague. Thus, I am going to speak this word one time so that no one can doubt what I am treating today, but after that I will use other language so as to limit exposure to younger ears. I think it is necessary to speak on the topic of the pervasive presence and use of pornography in our society.
All indications are that this is a widespread problem in our society, made ever more broad by easy access and free content through the internet. I have made some general reference to this topic in other homilies but this is, I believe, the first time in eighteen years as a priest that I have given this topic direct focus. Thus, I first want to apologize to you on this Father’s Day for failing to devote attention to this earlier in a clear, courageous, and manly way as your spiritual father. That is a failure and a weakness on my part because I should have been more resolved to protect my flock, just as you dads must do for yourself and for your families. Today that failure ends.
The statistics are alarming.
Studies indicate that 73% of kids are exposed to explicit material before the age of 18. 42% of kids first view it before the age of 13.
The average age of first exposure to explicit images on the internet is 11 years old.
The largest consumers of this material on the internet are kids ages 12 to 17.
50% of all Christian men and 20% of all Christian women say they are regular users of this material.
And with access to the digital world on our smartphones it is alarming that 1 in 5 mobile phone searches is for explicit material.
At younger and younger ages kids are spending significant amounts of time online daily. One study found that nearly 70% of kids ages 2 to 5 can operate a computer mouse, but only 11% can tie their own shoes.1 Together with this, studies show that only 1/3 of parents set up parental controls and monitor their children’s online activity. In addition, 41% of American teens agree that their parents have no idea what they are doing online.2 No one is immune from this invasion and the problem exists in Christian homes as it does in other homes. I don’t want to be misunderstood as if the problem doesn’t exist among girls and women too. However, boys and men fall prey to this at significantly higher rates. In all categories of statistics measuring things like type of content viewed, age of first exposure, and frequency of use, boys and men outpace girls and women by large percentage margins. One study indicated that the strongest predictor of use of explicit material is simply being male.
One of the realities of this topic is that a person, through no fault of his or her own, can be exposed to this material quite innocently. A misspelled word in a search engine can lead to exposure and that can place a hook in a person. If we aren’t careful first exposure develops into repeated curiosity and that develops into habitual use that impedes healthy human development and spiritual development. First exposure happened easily enough when I was a kid, but we must admit that with the dawn of the internet it happens much more easily and frequently now, and it comes directly into your home. First exposure to explicit material now happens in the room next door where your child is on the computer, tablet, or smartphone.
It Cannot Be Ignored
This is a matter that cannot be ignored in the parish, in your family life, or in each person’s examination of conscience. We can’t be silent while souls are being ensnared and the risk of hell increases. Use of this explicit material makes its users spiritually crippled and deadened. It is serious sin that needs to be confessed immediately, and especially before coming forward to receive Holy Communion. It becomes enslaving. It negatively impacts personal discipline, dating, marriage, and even the ability of a young person to trust a call from God to priesthood or to a religious vocation.
I hope I don’t cause rash judgment or awkward situations here, but given the statistics on use of explicit material: Parents, you should likely just assume that your child has been exposed, and that your middle school and high school aged child may already have a habit of use. You must speak with them. You must first treat this issue in your own life with serious resolve. You must take measures to control and eliminate the entry points for this material into your home. Use internet locks and filters and even have everyone in the house turn in all cellular and internet devices each evening where they remain locked in the parents’ bedroom until morning. Men, dear brothers in the faith: You especially need to take such measures to protect yourselves, your wives, and your children. We need to live courageously this aspect of fatherhood as protector in our homes.
Don’t Be Shamed
As the spiritual father here I want to set the tone for our response to this moral epidemic by saying that in the spiritual family of this parish, no one is permitted to shame anyone else about this struggle. The devil knows what he is doing in trafficking this filth. Anyone who is struggling needs to know they are loved, they are supported, and that they are called to true and authentic human relationships. Jesus gives us the example from the woman caught in adultery who easily could have been shamed. Instead, he says: “Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again” (Jn. 8:11). So, in this parish, I am opening this topic for conversation and I am asking you to continue it in your home and with your family. Opening this to conversation can allow healing to take place.
This is because in talking openly and honestly we will draw each other, spouses and children, into more authentic relationships that, together with confession, prayer, struggle, and acts of penance, will result in lessening the grip of false virtual “relationships”. Anyone struggling needs to be prudent, but opening this matter – not to everyone – but to a trusted friend can offer accountability in the battle. I want you to know that there are in fact people who do not use explicit material. The battle is possible. Victory is already with Christ Jesus. And others in this parish will be ready to stand with you as you engage in battle. It is time to reject the devil’s message that tells you to keep this matter hidden. Kept hidden in the darkness, he increases his power over you. In the light, he flees.
Furthermore, we are also going to confess this matter with humility and honesty each and every time there is a fall and a sin. God is ready to meet you in this struggle and He is already loving you as you hear this invitation to confession. He loves you and He wants you to have a deeper relationship with Him. In the bulletin this weekend there are some resources grouped together to go along with this topic. You can follow the links provided and get more information and resources for help in the battle for purity. Remember too that my homilies are recorded and available as a podcast on the parish website (http://www.stmonica-edmond.org/_blog/podcast). The text is also posted on the website (http://www.stmonica-edmond.org/_blog/Homilies_and_Remarks). It may be helpful to listen to this message again or to pass it along to others you know. As spiritual father I want to give some clear directions. These directions can be followed by anyone, but on this Father’s Day I want to issue a special call to the men of our parish to engage in this battle and to step up with fellow brothers to be evermore the protectors and the spiritual heads of our families that we are called to be.
Therefore, I want every man in this parish to learn how to pray the Rosary to invoke Mary in this battle. She brought us her Son who crushed the serpent’s head. Her intercession is powerful. Resources to learn the Rosary can be found through the parish office or online. Pray it in your home with your family. I would like more and more men to volunteer to lead the Rosary before the start of each weekend Mass.
Reverent worship is a weapon in the battle and so, in addition to faithful attention at Holy Mass, I ask each of you to sign up for a Holy Hour of Adoration in our chapel, or to share an hour with your family, or with another friend. Come receive blessing in the Lord’s Real Presence and train your eyes to look upon the Holy One in our midst.
Men, I encourage you to invoke St. Joseph in this battle and to ask his help to see in him a great example of what it means to be a man of faith, a man of strength, and a man of purity in the family.
Don’t forget the value of using Sacred Scripture, taking on practices like fasting, and using blessed objects like Holy Water or religious medals.
Finally, make regular use of confession and take the steps necessary to find an accountability partner.
On this Solemnity of Corpus Christi, we celebrate our faith that in holiness and purity Jesus gives us His true Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity as the food for our journey to salvation. In this battle for purity where easy temptation offers the ability to be a consumer of someone else’s body, we need to respond by preparing ourselves to consume Jesus’ flesh with always greater reverence so that we remain in him. Jesus shows us the characteristic of sacrificial love, which is part of human love and the meaning of the human body. “This is my Body.” We hear those words of Jesus at each and every Holy Mass. May they be our constant reminder to say “no” to those whose flesh is exposed for profit and instead to submit ourselves to the flesh of Jesus Christ that saves us!
1. Smith, J.R. 2011, January. Kids are learning computer skills before life skills. AVG Official Blogs, http://blogs.avg.com/uncategorized/kids-learning-computer-skills-before-life-skills/.
2. Symantec, 2008, February 13. Parents, get a clue! Norton Online Living Report reveals what your cyber-savvy children know that you don’t. http://www.symantec.com/about/news/release/article. jsp?prid=20080213_01.
3. Gustavo Mesch, “Social bonds and Internet pornographic exposure among adolescents.” Journal of Adolescence 32 (2009): 601-618.