27 October 2022, The Tablet

Pope Francis admits 'reality' of pornography use among priests and Religious

Pope Francis admits 'reality' of pornography use among priests and Religious

Pope Francis listens to Korean Cardinal Lazarus You Heung-sik, prefect of the Dicastery for Clergy, at the beginning of a meeting with hundreds of seminarians and priests studying in Rome.
CNS photo/Vatican Media

Pope Francis has said it is a “reality” that some priests, seminarians and Religious use pornography. He warned that pornography represents an opportunity for the devil to enter the soul.

Speaking to priests and seminarians studying in Rome, Pope Francis said he would not ask the hundreds assembled to raise their hands if they had at least one experience of using their phones to access pornography.

But he asked them to think about whether they had experienced this or the temptation of pornography.

“It is a vice that has [afflicted] so many people, so many lay people, so many lay women, and also priests and nuns. The devil enters from there. And I’m not just talking about criminal pornography like that of child abuse, where you see cases of abuse in vivo: this is already degeneration. But a bit of ‘normal’ pornography.

“Dear brothers, pay attention to this. The pure heart, the one that Jesus receives every day, cannot receive this pornographic information.”

He urged any of those present who had downloaded such material to remove it. “If you can delete this from your mobile phone, delete it, so you won't have the temptation in hand.”

He added: “I tell you, it is something that weakens the soul. It weakens the soul. The devil enters from there: it weakens the priestly heart. Excuse me if I come down to these details on pornography, but there is a reality: a reality that touches priests, seminarians, nuns, consecrated souls. You have understood? All right. This is important.”

He was responding to a question about the ubiquity of the digital world and social media.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes pornography as “a grave offence” that “immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world,” injures the dignity of its participants, and “perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other.”

Pope Francis added that he was not just talking about “criminal pornography, like child abuse,” but what some people might call “‘normal’ pornography.” “The devil enters from there. It weakens the priestly heart,” the Pope repeated.

Francis explained that he wanted to bring up the problem of pornography because “it is a vice that so many people have — so many lay men, so many lay women, and even priests and religious sisters.”

“I believe these things must be used, because it is a progress of science, they do a service to be able to progress in life.”

He said however that he does not use them himself because they arrived too late in his life. “When I was ordained a bishop, 30 years ago, they gave me one, a cell phone.” He never took to it. “The only thing I was able to use is an Olivetti with memory, of only one line, which I bought when I was in Germany in an Angebot, 59 marks, nothing. And this helped me, and it remains in Buenos Aires.” And they had to be used “well”.

Pope Francis emphasised the importance of both spiritual direction and confession. “If you relate only to the confessor and not to the spiritual director, you will not know how to grow, it will be wrong. If you relate only to a spiritual director, a companion, and you don't go to confess your sins, this is also wrong.” A spiritual director need not be a priest, he added. They could be a nun, or a lay person.

He said there were four aspects to seminary training: “Spiritual formation must be serious, serious spiritual direction; serious intellectual training, not textbook, community formation among seminarians and apostolic formation.

He also warned against ambitious priests who make a “career” of the priesthood. Priests should be servants, not careerists, he said. And he urged the seminarians not to succumb to the temptation to gossip about other priests or even their bishop.



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