Many men I know tell me they either have a "problem" with pornography or that they are "addicted to pornography." While there is some truth to this, pornography in and of itself is highly addictive and is a problem for anyone who views it, it often takes guys years to realize the problem isn't pornography but lust. It is true that pornography did indeed fuel our lust fantasy at some point and brought it to depths we previously thought impossible. However, the driving factor is not pornography as such but the Spirit of Lust. We owe to the Desert Fathers our classification that we call the seven deadly sins: pride, anger, lust, envy, gluttony, avarice, and sloth (remember: p.a.l.e.g.a.s.).
The Desert Fathers were master psychologists in many ways because they looked deeply into their own minds and hearts to better understand how it is we end up doing things we ought not do. They considered each of the sins, before they become sins, as temptations in the form of various spirits, thus with lust there is the "Spirit of Lust." The Spirit of Lust is in some way personified insofar as it truly is not merely a principle of evil that tempts us, but actual evil beings, fallen angels and Satan. Thus, lust is not merely a principle, but an invitation to the rebellion of God which the fallen angels live in for eternity. By uniting oneself with the Spirit of Lust one joins in the rebellion against the power and goodness of God. The person who engages in auto-erotic behavior using pornography to fuel his fantasy is actually a person who is coupling with forces which are demonic in nature. It is above all else a rebellion against Jesus.
That he is in rebellion against the Lord should be no surprise to the man who walks a spiritual path, for the man who watches his thoughts and his heart already knows this. Modern psychologists will try to tell you that you have a sex addiction or that you are compulsive sexually, but what they do not recognize (unless they are orthodox Christians) is that lust, in and of itself, is evil and corrupts man. It isn't the fact that the masturbation has become addictive that is the problem, but instead the fact that every time you lust, even for a moment, you are spitting on Our Lord Jesus on the Cross. It is a denial of the Divine Law and a rejection of the person of Jesus, who is the Way, Truth, and Life for us. Most modern psychologists will say pornography isn't so bad, as long as it is controlled; or masturbation is healthy, or it is normal to lust. It is all part of human nature, but this is not true. Pornography is objectively immoral, for those involved and for those viewing it. It is a grave evil as is masturbation. We know by faith and experience it is not possible to sin a little. Sin leads to more sin and without repentance and reconciliation will lead to separation from God. It is not possible to lust "a little."
The first step in breaking free from what we will call here compulsive lusting is to recognize that the problem is lust, rather than the way we choose to act out our lust. Lusting is a choice that is made over and over again, becoming a habit and then a compulsion. Men who use pornography to fuel their lust are usually, if they are married, objectifying their wife in some way; if not married, they objectify all women in some way or ways. They begin to see women as lust objects, and a woman’s value depends upon the degree to which she can provide a “hit” of lust. They walk up and down the street rubber-necking at any hint of an opportunity to get more lust. Each time they can they either take a little sip or a big drink; eventually, they will act out again either with pornography or in some other way. Some people think it is necessary to spend thousands of dollars for counseling to treat this lust addiction, but the treatment will not work if a man doesn't confront the problem of lusting. Fortunately, we, as Catholics, lack nothing in the fight against the Spirit of Lust, and if we are true to what the Church teaches, we will find this Spirit not to be as powerful as we once imagined. Eventually, through perseverance, we will begin to break free from the bondage of lust.
Fidelity to Jesus and his Church will lead you to freedom; you must believe that, no matter how many times you fail.
The tradition of Ascetical Theology in the Church is commonly called the "science of the saints.” Ascetical Theology is the practical science of how to respond to the moral demands of Divine Revelation, or to put more simply, it is training to become a Christian by seeking purity of heart in all things. In fact, the word ascetic comes from the Greek word askesis (practice) and originally was used in reference to olympians in Greece who were trained in self-discipline. Our Mother the Church gives us everything we need to break free from the bondage of lust and grow in Christian perfection. But we do need a plan of attack, a way to go about breaking free. We need the Sacraments, sacred Scripture, and accountability with other men who know what we are going through and also believe what we believe about sin.
Dom Lorenzo Scupoli, in his Spiritual Combat, outlines two simple, but profound principles that are integral to this battle: 1) Distrust of Self and 2) Confidence in God. These principles are what make a man do everything in his power to eliminate near occasions of sin, to become accountable, and to rely on God through the sacraments and spiritual exercises to overcome this Spirit of Lust. It is possible to do this with God (Philippians 4:13); without Him it is not possible.
If you have any questions or are looking for assistance in overcoming the Spirit of Lust with the power of Jesus Christ feel free to email me: parishpurity@gmail.
Authored by Barry Schoedel, MTS, MA