From the Pastor: Safe Haven Sunday
Last year about this time every parish in the diocese was asked to promote what was termed “Safe Haven Sunday.” Each priest and deacon was asked to use the topic of the evils of pornography as the basis of his homily that Sunday. Why? We were all encouraged to preach about it on the same weekend because it is a very difficult topic to deal with from the pulpit but it needs to be addressed as it is a huge and growing immoral problem in our society and in our Church. If all clergy addressed it on the same day, nobody could run to a different parish looking for a nicey-nicey sermon and demonize the priest/deacon who tackled the tough issue, because they would find the same tough issue no matter where they turned! Only about half of the parishes wound up actually doing it, though. I won’t speculate here why the other half did not. But I can tell you from discussions about the results at our deanery meetings and at other gatherings of priests that it was hard to preach but reaped great rewards. It also revealed a great level of ignorance about the seriousness of this sin among the active Catholics. So today I am writing here to let you know that next weekend is our second Safe Haven Sunday. All parishes have once again been encouraged to preach about the evil of pornography. Prepare yourself ahead of time and prepare your children as needed.
Today, besides the heads-up, I also want to enlighten you on some certain facts in a cut and dry manner. Here goes. Viewing pornography is, in and of itself, a mortal sin, and it very often leads to further mortal sins. Just by viewing such indecent material the person violates the Commandments numbered 6 and 9. Yes, you commit the sin of adultery by viewing pornography (“But I say to you, that whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Mt. 5:28) and the sin of coveting thy neighbor’s wife (even if she is not, strictly speaking, somebody’s wife, for we are not to covet anyone’s husband, future wife, fiance, child, grandfather, etc., either). It often leads to other mortal sins such as self-abuse, rape, voyeurism, sodomy (with same- or opposite-sex partners), etc., and almost always with an increase in the vileness of the actions over time. (Don’t worry, these things will not be mentioned directly in the homily, for children don’t read the bulletins but they do hear the homilies.) This direct breaking of two commandments often is accompanied by breaking other commandments at the same time. For instance, can you really say you are honoring your father and mother (Commandment #4) if you are watching porn? Would they really be pleased to see you doing it, no matter your age? If they are, that explains how you got into this sin in the first place, yet it does not negate that it is a sin. If given the choice between pleasing God through chastity and custody of the eyes or pleasing yourself through pornography, which you know to be a mortal sin, which do you choose? If you put your own false “needs” above Him, have you not broken the first Commandment? Much of the visual “entertainment” of this sort purposely blasphemes God and His Church, encourages sick fantasies about clergy and religious, family members, and many other people, creatures, places and things which absolutely should never be seen in a sexual manner. Commandments numbers 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10 all quite often get broken by engaging in this seemingly private activity. Commandment number 3 is also often destroyed if this activity is done on Sundays or Holy Days or if, after engaging in this activity, the person receives Holy Communion in a state of serious (mortal) sin just because he or she is embarrassed to not receive, or convinces himself that he needs God in the Blessed Sacrament in order to get the strength to overcome the sin. (In case you don’t know, that is perhaps even greater than the other sins listed since it is almost always a premeditated sin. You can’t just receive Communion by accident and get sucked into it as you can with porn. You know ahead of entering the church for Mass that Holy Communion will be offered to those who can properly receive and you know ahead of time that you are not in a state of grace and should not go forward at that time. It pains me to have to warn you, but experience says that I must, that you may encounter a priest who says that it is not a big deal, not a mortal sin, or that, even if it is a mortal sin, you should feel free to receive Holy Communion anyway, as long as you are sorry and plan to go to confession sometime soon. Wrong. You must go to confession first. Period.
Finally, I want to let you know that the specific topic for Safe Haven Sunday this year is porn use among the young. Your children, your grandchildren, even the angelic ones, are, by all statistics, almost all viewing porn before they even know what it is or why people are doing the actions they are seeing. They are being hurt badly, becoming addicted to sexual sins, and being scarred for life or for eternity. What are you doing to stop them and to heal them if they have already been hurt?
With prayers for your holiness,
Rev. Fr. Edwin Palka