Bought with a Price: The Gold Standard for Dealing with Pornography
By Dr. Jeff Mirus | March 04, 2014 4:48 PM
Today, Bishop Paul S. Loverde of Arlington released a new and expanded edition of his 2006 Pastoral Letter, Bought with a Price (see the original edition in our library). The new edition—available in a very attractive booklet or downloadable as a PDF file—is advance-dated to March 19th, the Solemnity of St. Joseph. I first recommended Bought with a Price in The War against Pornography (December 19, 2006) as the best starting point for those who want to protect themselves and their loved ones from the horrifying dangers of pornography. The new edition is even better. It is available in the purity section of the website for the Diocese of Arlington.
Bought with a Price is the gold standard when it comes to explaining the problem of pornography and expressing the Christian vision of the person which must be cultivated to overcome it. The new edition adds an outstanding introduction by Matthew Fradd of Covenant Eyes, author of the book Delivered: True Stories of Men and Women Who Turned from Porn to Purity. It also includes a study guide which can be used by individuals, families and parish groups. It incorporates a plan of life, offering both prayers and practices (daily, weekly, and less frequent) to assist in developing the habits of purity. Finally, the layout and graphics make the whole package engaging and easy to read.
The subtitle of the original Pastoral Letter was “Pornography and the Attack on the Living Temple of God”. The subtitle of the new expanded booklet is “Every Man’s Duty to Protect Himself and His Family from a Pornographic Culture”. Everyone can benefit from the text, but the new subtitle emphasizes that pornography is overwhelmingly (though not exclusively) a male temptation, a temptation that leads to a culture which persistently victimizes women and children. Ultimately, it is a problem which can be mastered only if men learn what it means to be men, own the problem, and take the lead in dealing with it.
The text, following the introduction and Bishop Loverde’s preface, is divided into four logical sections:
- The Current Threat
- Four False Arguments
- What Can Be Done
- The Gift of Sight
A brief conclusion rounds out the presentation.
Each of these sections is important, but I particularly appreciate the second and the fourth. We are all familiar with the standard arguments used by secular-hedonist pundits to make those who oppose pornography appear foolish and backward. The first is the claim that pornography is, in essence, a victimless crime: “There are no victims; so no one is being harmed.” Nothing is farther from the truth, and Bought with a Price leaves no question about it. The second false argument is that “The temperate use of pornography can be therapeutic”, which the booklet rightly points out is very much like saying the temperate use of hatred or racism can be therapeutic.
The third false argument is that “Pornography can be an aid in maturing, both emotionally and sexually.” This is rather obviously the opposite of the truth, since maturity depends integrally on self-mastery. And then there is the fourth and final false argument, the old canard that “Christian opposition to pornography comes from the Christian hatred of the body”. But the Christian vision has nothing to do with hatred of the body. The Christian vision understands that the human person is a unity of body and soul, and that both body and soul have been redeemed—bought at a the price of the suffering and death of Jesus Christ. Or, as St. Paul put it:
But anyone who attaches himself to the Lord is one spirit with him. Keep away from sexual immorality. All other sins that people may commit are done outside the body; but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. Do you not realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you and whom you received from God? You are not your own property, then; you have been bought at a price. So use your body for the glory of God. [Jerusalem Bible: 1 Cor 6:17-20]
The self-understanding expressed by this passage—the self-understanding brought by Jesus Christ—enables us to see everything through new eyes. This is the beauty of the fourth section, “The Gift of Sight”, for the Christian sees not only the reality of sin in the world, but also the purpose of things, and even the triumph of all things made new in Christ. It turns out that the key to this deeper and richer vision is purity. “Blessed are the pure in heart,” says Jesus Christ, “for they shall see God” (Mt 5:8). But we do not see God as some sort of an abstract formula. We see him in ourselves and in our neighbors. And that is the “sight” which changes everything.
It is this vision and this incomparable grace which makes all things possible, including the difficult and usually extended process of overcoming all the bad habits that a pornographic culture has fostered in us. If you have delayed cultivating the virtue of purity in your own life, or have failed to make it a centerpiece in the life of your family, then once again I counsel that there is no better place to start than Bishop Paul Loverde’s Bought with a Price. This price is our hope. This hope is our God.