Viewing pornography is wrong

By  John-Henry Westen, Catholic Register Special
  • April 24, 2008

{mosimage}From time to time I am asked to do speaking engagements and more often than not I’m asked to speak on the controversial subject of human sexuality. I just returned from an awesome retreat where organizers urged me to give my usual, no-holds-barred talk on sexuality to over 150 adults.

Well, what a reaction! There were questions galore from Christians who many assumed would know all about such issues. One discussion that needs to be highlighted, however, was one I had with a Catholic marriage counsellor.

This woman was a sincere, believing Christian. She explained that she was rather taken aback at my talk with its blanket condemnation of pornography as extremely unhealthy from a psychological and spiritual level. She informed me that she was told by a priest that married couples, especially those having trouble with stimulation, could view pornographic movies together in order to assist their marital relations. She told me, moreover, that she did not feel comfortable with that advice at first, so she asked another priest who also said such viewing of pornography by married couples was perfectly acceptable.

Although I was dismayed, I cannot say I was surprised as I’ve been hearing this kind of thing for over a dozen years. The advice is totally opposed to Catholic teaching.

So, as gently as I could possibly muster, I explained both the Christian and psychological/emotional reasoning for the absolute banning of pornography.

First, I explained repeatedly that in Matthew 5:27-28 our Lord says clearly: “You have heard that it was said to them of old: Thou shalt not commit adultery. But I say to you, that whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

Clearly the husband/wife viewing pornography is looking at the other women/men in the film and lusting after them. Rather than an aid in healthy sexuality for the husband and wife, it is mutual adultery.

Further, still from a Christian perspective, pornographic films are produced in grave sin, sin which is the cause of Christ’s suffering and death. What are we watching in such films is the commission of grave offenses against God and His gift of marital love and procreation.

From a psychological perspective the watching of porn is also deadly. Studies have shown that the watching of pornography is addictive, and the images seen are etched almost permanently into memory. Such images pervade the imagination, especially at the most inopportune moments such as when normal sexual relations between married spouses is attempted.

Adultery in the imagination, or by watching porn, leads inevitably to infidelity either in person or virtually. Adultery usually leads to marriage breakdown and the nightmare of divorce.

How is it that Christian couples can be given such deadly advice? How is it that religious leaders can imagine such destructive suggestions can possibly lead to sexual and spiritual health? It is because we have a vacuum of true sexual education, coupled with a plethora of lies stemming from the secular world.

Sexuality is a gift from God. It is geared to a man and a woman giving themselves to each other freely, totally, faithfully and fruitfully until death do they part. Any sexual activity outside of that, whether it be pre-marital, adulterous, by force, with self, same-sex or contraceptive is harmful physically, psychologically and spiritually.

Spiritual leaders should have no fear in proclaiming these authentic truths. They do so not out of a “have no fun” attitude, but out of true care and concern for those to whom they minister.

(Westen is editor of

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