Given the times we live in, moral clarity seems hard to come by for many. For example, is watching pornography sinful?
Does God condone the activity?
It would seem the vast majority of men, especially, have been watching pornography. Does its popularity equate to its moral neutrality or even its goodness?
For answers, let us look to see what the Church that Christ Himself founded has to say. We’ll begin with St. Alphonsus Liguori, the Doctor of the Catholic Church in Moral Theology.
THE DOCTOR OF MORAL THEOLOGY
The following excerpts are taken from a Lenten reflection from St. Alphonsus Liguori concerning the Bible verse 1 Thessalonians 4:5, which speaks of “the passion of lust” that everyone ought to abstain from.
We know he is speaking generally about “sins of impurity” in his piece. As we will see, watching pornography or viewing it in pictures certainly qualifies as one of the “sins of impurity.” Thus, everything this great saint has to say applies to watching pornography. (Italics emphasis original, bold emphasis my own.)
“They are deluded who say that sins of impurity are not a great evil.
“Immersed in their filth, ‘like the sow wallowing in the mire.’ (2 Pet. 2:22), they do not see the malice of their actions and, therefore, neither feel nor abhor the stench of their impurities, which excite disgust and horror in all others.
“Can you, who say that the vice of impurity is but a small evil–can you, I ask, deny that it is a mortal sin?
“If you deny it, you are a heretic; for as St. Paul says: ‘Do not err. Neither fornicators, nor adulterers, nor the effeminate, etc., shall possess the kingdom of God.’ (1 Cor. 6:9).
“It is a mortal sin; it cannot, then, be a small evil.
“It is more sinful than theft, or detraction, or the violation of the fast. How then can you say that it is not a great evil? Perhaps mortal sin appears to you to be a small evil?
“Is it a small evil to despise the grace of God, to turn your back upon Him, and to lose His friendship for a transitory, beastly pleasure?…
“St. Thomas says that Lucifer, who is supposed to have been the devil that tempted Jesus Christ in the desert, tempted Him to commit other sins, but scorned to tempt Him to offend against chastity.
“Is this sin a small evil? Is it, then, a small evil to see a man endowed with a rational soul, and enriched with so many Divine graces, bring himself by the sin of impurity to the level of a brute?
“‘Fornication and sensuality,’ says St. Jerome, ‘pervert the understanding, and change men into brute beasts.’ In the voluptuous and unchaste are literally verified the words of David: ‘And man, when he was in honour, did not understand: he is compared to senseless beasts, and is become like to them.’ (Ps. 48:13).
“St. Jerome says that there is nothing more vile or degrading than to allow oneself to be conquered by the flesh. Is it a small evil to forget God, and to banish Him from the soul, for the sake of giving the body a vile satisfaction, of which, when it is ended, you feel ashamed?
“Of this the Lord complains by the Prophet Ezechiel: ‘Then saith the Lord God: Because Thou hast forgotten me, and hast cast me off behind thy back.’ (Ezech. 23:35). St. Thomas says, that by every vice, but particularly by the vice of impurity, men are removed far from God.”
FROM THE CATECHISM
For a more recent source, let us look to the modern Catechism of the Catholic Church. According to the Catechism, is watching pornography a mortal sin?
Section 2354 reads, “Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other.
“It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world.
“It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials.”
A MORTAL SIN?
“Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God’s law; it turns man away from God, who is his ultimate end and his beatitude, by preferring an inferior good to him, explains Catechism 1855. A mortal sin is such a serious offense against God that those who die unforgiven of even one will go to hell.
Catechism 1857 further explains, “For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: ‘Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.’”
As St. Alphonsus elaborated and the Catechism mentioned, watching pornography is grave matter. And now that you have read this post, you can never again pretend to not have full knowledge as to its grave sinfulness.
So, be sure not to willingly be watching pornography in the future. That is, if you care to save your soul.
For further explanation of mortal sins, you can read more of the Catechism here.
What do you make of St. Alphonsus Liguori’s explanation?
Do you see how gravely immoral watching pornography remains?
Please feel free to leave a comment below.