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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

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The Sin of Pornography


Can you explain to me what specifically is sinful about pornography? I realize there are two different acts we could be talking about: that of acting in a sex film and that of viewing a sex film. Further, I realize there is a difference between the desire and the action as well.


First, the sin is a violation of Scripture or divine positive law.

Matthew 5:27-30 – “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into Gehenna. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body go into Gehenna.”

Pornography constitutes adultery in the heart and is a type of virtual prostitution. Second, pornography signifies a natural violation of human dignity. Instead of valuing another as a person or as a loving subject, the target of lust is objectified as a thing, literally reduced to meat.

Colossians 3:5-6 – “Put to death, then, the parts of you that are earthly: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and the greed that is idolatry. Because of these the wrath of God is coming upon the disobedient.

God urges us to embrace purity. Disobeying God is the very definition of sin.

4 Responses

  1. [This posted comment is heavily edited. The rehashed material on slavery has been expunged.]

    I know you don’t want to hear about the homosexual scandals that have plagued the church. There is one right now going on that involves the apartment of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Yes you said that these are rare rascals and are aberrations, not something common in the priesthood. Tell that to the Christian Brothers of Canada whose organization has been decimated by homosexual scandal or to the more than 4,400 priests and bishops in the US alone who have been charged with mostly homosexual offences.

    You talk down to us sinners, just like the priests of old… like the priests I grew up with that would punch you in the head if they didn’t like what you said.


    I am putting an end to this debate with you.

    I do take issue with some of your posted comments and many of the emails with which you saturate my account.

    You sent me a long email emphasizing the extremes of Levitical laws.

    You sent me a long email emphasizing your view upon the history of slavery, borrowing much from an online site.

    You sent me emails on the Muslim genocide of Christians.

    You sent me an email on a Toronto Muslim woman who purportedly wanted to kill people at a mall.

    You even sent me back my email copies of my own posts.

    You sent me a long email where you become an apologist for artificial contraception… emphasizing population and starvation.

    You sent me emails about liberal Catholicism in Canada.

    You sent me emails where you insist that most priests and bishops are homosexuals.

    The list goes on and on. I never subscribed for your personal news or commentary service.

    While you might be traditional on some points, you are as liberal as they come on topics like contraception. You add your voice to the enemies of the Church by attacking her ministers.

    I wrote you in an email from a year ago:

    “I have been a priest almost 30 years. It is my informed experience that most priests are heterosexual and celibate. Those who spread such scandal against the priesthood commit serious sin. I would urge praying for priests and sharing the stories of our saints… not gossip about supposed sinners. I do not make public observations about persons unless they go public first. Beware of second- and third-hand information. I do not believe the outrageous estimates. They are often circulated by dissenters and enemies of the Church or at least priestly celibacy. The lack of specificity damages the reputation of all priests… even my own.”

  2. Let me get this straight.
    Couples are forbidden to have any type of sex besides vaginal sex.
    Sex should only be preformed to have kids and nothing else.

    This is a something I never hear priests discuss in church. Why not?

    As far as sex goes the church should stop telling husbands and wives how to have sex.

    FATHER JOE: In other words, you are saying that the Church should surrender any moral message to a secular world that excuses almost every form of license and deviancy. Sorry, but the Church will not do this. I find it peculiar that you feign shock at the silence of priests on certain issues of sexuality and propriety and then, literally with the next breath, urge them to remain passive and mute.

    In older days people were forbidden to have sex on holidays and feast days.

    FATHER JOE: You do so delight in pointing out the aberrational and in doing so miss the deeper meanings of things. Just as the Jewish priests abstained from sexual activity during their time of service; there is growing evidence that the married men among the first Christian priests practiced perpetual and perfect continence. It was a custom for the laity as well to practice periodic penances and mortifications for spiritual reasons. This would include food, drink, sexual activity, etc. It is a wonderful way to say that we belong more to Christ’s kingdom than to this passing world.

    I have friends that grew up in rural Quebec and priest would come around always telling couples to have more kids.

    FATHER JOE: The gift of children enriches both the family and the Church. The secular voices of modernity would tell such families to prefer a sterile womb and to destroy the unborn. You have to take sides. There is no middle ground. Beware of the bedfellows you have taken as your own. The good priest was right to do what he did. Luke 23:27-31:

    A large crowd of people followed Jesus, including many women who mourned and lamented him. Jesus turned to them and said, “Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep instead for yourselves and for your children, for indeed, the days are coming when people will say, ‘Blessed are the barren, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed.’ At that time people will say to the mountains, ‘Fall upon us!’ and to the hills, ‘Cover us!’ for if these things are done when the wood is green what will happen when it is dry?”

    Father Joe, do us a favor, in your next sermon, tell your married parishioners that they should not have sex for recreation. See how that goes. Celibate priests obsessed with the sex of married couples… an age old issue.


    The obsession is wholly yours. As for what I preach, I have offered the message many times that sex and the human body was not simply intended for recreation. My language is tempered by the young and innocent eyes and ears in the congregation. Such a few as yours betrays a separatist mentality in morality where the body is treated as a plaything and as something detached from the person. We are our bodies. The marital act is a truly human act and yet such can be betrayed by a wrongful intention and acts that violate “fides,” “proles,” and the “sacramentum.” The “unitive” meaning must never be sacrificed through acts that either mimic or fall short of the genuine marital act. Anal and oral sex appeals to the bestial and disordered; neither consummates the union of a husband and wife. Just because I am a celibate priest does not mean that I have nothing of value to say about marriage and human sexuality. I am well aware through counseling and Confession of the many struggles and sins that confront our Christian couples. It is beneath you to attack the messenger all because you reject the message. It signals the self-defeat of your argument.

    Given the multiple attacks on many issues and then the snide insinuations, I would ask you to stop emailing me and to post your comments somewhere else. I would urge you as a Catholic to wean yourself from the hubris that poisons your mind and heart to the teachings of our holy faith.

  3. It’s interesting how I see many women dress sleazy in churches— miniskirts, cleavage showing for all to see; yet I have never heard a priest reprimand these ladies. And it’s not just young women either. Anyways I think they should dress more respectful in church. Nonetheless, I would rather admire a pretty lady than look at most of the homo-erotic art in the Vatican. I have heard it from you before— yes it is art glorifying the human form created by God. How strange that most of the art is of male nudes showing genitals. I have been to the Vatican numerous times and the nudes are 95 percent male… interesting.

    FATHER JOE: I have never made an assessment of gender and religious art in the Roman basilica. There was a prejudice among certain scholastic philosophers that wrongly heralded the perfection of humanity in the male creation; indeed, they suggested that women were somewhat defective. However, such a bias flew in the face of the Church’s exaltation of the Virgin Mary as the highest honor of our race, just behind Christ. It may be that many people today have been so thoroughly infected with eroticism by the media that they are no longer able to look at the human form as would the admirers of beauty and created order in the past. Certainly women should dress modestly; but your details show little effort at the proper custody of the eyes. While we are sexual beings, we should not see the world around us through an exclusively sexual prism. Is there an inordinate preoccupation with sexuality that fuels a passionate attack against women for their lack of dress in church and then evokes a dark insinuation against the Holy See for Vatican art detailing creation and salvation history as homosexually provocative? I mean no personal incrimination, but maybe the larger problem is not what is being seen but the one doing the seeing?

    Non-topical to this discussion…

    I am a student of Roman history and you are misleading your readers. During Roman times slaves were bought and owned and sold. The slaves in the New Testament were owned by their masters. They did not have free will. Yes, St. Paul says to treat them fairly. Just like a veterinarian would ask you to treat your dog fairly. They were property. If a slave during Roman times did something against his master the owner could have all the slaves in the house executed. Stop comparing ancient slaves to Negro slaves. Would you like to be a slave to a master and be owned Father Joe?


    Everyone has free will, even the slave. Our options may be limited, but there is still the freedom to say, yes or no, realizing that there will be consequences for our actions. You know nothing of my family background, but many European colonists came to America as indentured servants. This was a form of servitude or slavery— temporary and economic. Slaves from Africa were forcibly brought here against their will. There was a level of depravity and oppression against them that many in the ancient world would have found monstrous. The main difference between the two forms of slavery was the racial element. Most Roman slaves were fellow Europeans. They were captives of war and often looked upon as barbarians needing the firm hand of civilization. No one today would argue that either form of slavery was morally justified; but they should be understood and distinguished. Further, while Christianity and Judaism tolerated and/or participated in slavery; I will say again that the seed to its eradication came with the Gospel message of Christ. Unfortunately, sometimes Christians compromise the saving kerygma. Indeed, the Catholics of Maryland were dissenters against the Popes during period of colonization as the universal Church in the 1600’s had finally condemned slavery. But just as people today ignore the voice of the Church about the unborn and abortion, so too were the black slaves denied the full dignity of personhood and reduced to property. Roman slaves could earn personal wealth and even buy their freedom. Their children could be given manumission and citizenship. No one doubted the humanity of Roman slaves but black slaves in America were regarded by many as animals. American slavery was promoted for economic reasons, as was the Roman, but here it was also racist. By comparison, the Empire justified slavery through conquest and a harsh Roman justice.

    Your assertion that St. Paul urged others to treat slaves like dogs is nonsense. It has become evident that while you go through the motions, you have either loss your faith or it has become sick. The apostle urged that slaves should be seen as brothers and sisters in Christ. They had a right to the sacraments and to share at the table on the Lord. He acknowledged our common baptism that changes all things.

    As for myself, I am a Catholic priest. The day I was ordained, I became a slave for Christ. The fact that you do not understand this shows just how far you have fallen from our truths of faith. I teach what the Church teaches, not my human opinions. I go where I am sent and I do what I am told to do. “Here am I Lord, your servant is listening!”

  4. Anyone that looks at a woman with lust is a sinner. Well that about sums up all heterosexual males on earth.

    FATHER JOE: There is a profound difference between the admiration of beauty in God’s creation and fantasies about manipulation and corruption. Lust devalues the person as an object to satisfy concupiscent human wants. Love raises up the dignity of a person as a subject that matters and for whom in a rightly ordered passion we would sacrifice something of ourselves. Matthew 5:27-28: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

    Don’t forget that the Bible sanctions slavery or the very least says nothing against it. Remember St. Paul asked slaves to obey their masters. These were human beings that were bought and sold.

    FATHER JOE: Ancient slavery, often through conquest, was quite different from the type of slavery as practiced by North America. Slavery was not regarded as a perpetual institution and many of the pagan, Jewish and Christian authorities defended the dignity of men and women in bondage. Indeed, while tolerated, the seeds for the demise of slavery were planted in the Gospel. Oppression ran against the very heart of Christ’s outreach to the poor, to women, to tax collectors or to any who were marginalized. Galatians 3:27-29: “For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendant, heirs according to the promise.”

    I remember a priest saying that sex before marriage is worse than murder.

    FATHER JOE: There is no apologetic weight to such a dubious and anonymous statement. Murder does not allow for conversion on the part of the victim. The perpetrator cannot restore what he has taken. The couple who have committed sexual sin can both know repentance and absolution. Indeed, they can help each other in rediscovering the gift of saving grace and holiness of life. What the priest probably meant was that we need to see all mortal sin as deadly. Indeed, it is more grievous to damn the soul than to kill the body. Matthew 10:28: “And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in Gehenna.”

    The same priest mentioned before stated that all sex between married couples must have the man climax inside the woman. If there is any foreplay that results in a climax outside of the woman then it is a grave sin. That excludes any and all oral sex between married couples. That excludes any and all mutual masturbation as it results in the man climaxing outside of the woman.

    FATHER JOE: Sexual activity should not be depreciated to the level of recreation. The body is not a plaything. the conjugal union is a profound self-donation. Sexual activity is limited to husbands and wives. The marital act is that type of act that is open to the generation of new human life and which fosters the fidelity and unity of the spouses. Given human weakness and how sexual expression is not utterly under human control, there may be accidents or mistakes in judgment. Couples might intend to complete the marital act but biological issues may impede it or cause an accident. There might also be an outside interruption, as when there is a household emergency or a small child innocently runs to the parents’ bedroom. Couples should not be fearful or scrupulous about their intimacy. But they should always be respectful of this tremendous power that God has deigned to share with them. God gives us right and wrong but the incarnation demonstrates that he appreciates and is in solidarity with humanity. He understands our struggles and is always ready to forgive his children who love him and each other.

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