Arts and Culture

The Problem of Pornography

by Father Robert Lauder

THOUGH  pornography has been part of our society for many years, I still think of it as a new moral problem. What is new of course is the easy access that everyone can have today to pornography. Up until recently I had an image of pornography as being available in sleazy looking theatres over on 42nd St. in Manhattan or in secret sections in the back of some bookstores. The new sites for pornography are the television set and Internet.
Pornography has become so accessible that I recently heard a young lady insist that every male has watched pornography. She may know more about the problem than I do but still her view of human nature seems terribly tainted. Her statement is evidence that pornography is a very big problem.
A few years ago a film critic announced that he was going for a “cure” because he had become addicted to pornography. I wonder what a steady diet of porn does to a person’s consciousness and conscience. Marriage counselors and psychologists claim that the viewing of pornography can create serious problems in a marriage. One counselor told me that he dealt with a case in which a husband’s habit of watching pornographic films just about destroyed his relationship with his wife.
Addictions to alcohol and drugs can lead to severe self-destructive patterns of behavior. I have come to believe that an addiction to pornography can do the same. Sexuality is a great gift from God that can enable us to relate to one another on deeply personal levels. I am referring not only to genital sexual relations but to deep friendships. Pornography is completely impersonal. Instead of relating to real persons, pornography calls people to experience sexual pleasure through images with no reference to any kind of personal relationship.
Problems presented by pornography have been on my mind lately because of a new documentary on pornography. The film, “Out of the Darkness,” was co-produced by a friend of mine, John Saffian. The film is not perfect, (what film is?) but it is very good in that it raises important questions about pornography, about what it can do to us and about what we can do to deal with it.
Interest in the film seems to be growing. At the John Paul II Film Festival last February, the theme of which was “The Mystery of Love,” the film won The Mystery of Love Award. It was judged the best artistic expression of the festival’s theme. The film recently screened multiple times during a Morality in Media national pornography awareness campaign.
“Out of the Darkness” will be part of the cultural program at the upcoming World Youth Day. The film will screen in Madrid on Aug. 17. On the same evening, NET TV will broadcast “Out of the Darkness” at 8 p.m.
DVDs of the film are also available at
Last spring I had planned to show the film to students in my Philosophy and Film course at St. John’s University but was unable to fit it into the schedule. I wanted to screen it for them because I wanted to hear what college students thought about pornography. Their experience of film and television is so different from that of my contemporaries. Looking back at the 1950s now, it seems like such an innocent period in comparison with what is being shown today. The next time I give the film course I will carve out time for students to view and discuss the film.
In homilies and lectures, I often emphasize that not only are clergy and religious the Body of Christ in the world but members of the laity are also members of Christ’s Mystical Body. The good that lay people can do in the world is up to their zeal and energy and their cooperation with the Holy Spirit who dwells within them. Even after all the years that have passed since the Second Vatican Council, many laypeople do not realize the value of their contribution to the Christian Apostolate.
Pornography is a serious problem and “Out of Darkness” provides an opportunity to see and hear experts talk about what pornography is doing to those who view it and what can be done to combat the problem. I am grateful to John Saffian and other members of the film’s creative team.
Father Robert Lauder, a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn and philosophy professor at St. John’s University, Jamaica, writes a weekly column for the Catholic Press.