Did you know studies show that 93% of boys and 62% girls are exposed to internet or some other form of social media pornography before age 18? Did you know that 71% of teens have something to hide on-line from their parents on what they are doing on social media? These young people have either disabled parental controls without them knowing, used phone messaging instead, created other private browsing, or other means to gain control of their social media. Did you know that 57% of young people seek out pornography once a month? This is compared to 85% of adult men and 48% of adult women who use pornography 1-2 times a month. This is not to mention the cyber bullying that goes on among teens. These numbers are just the tip of the proverbial “iceberg” that should be shocking to us as internet pornography is one of the largest growing industries in the United States as well as in our World. For these and many other reasons this year the USCCB (Bishops of the United States) have declared March 2-3rd to be “Safe Haven Sunday.” Bishop Kettler, himself, has asked that all parishes in our diocese make some mention of this in order to bring about greater awareness to these unhealthy trends and highlight the damage it causes to all members of the family.
The family home should be a safe haven, but inappropriate use of technology tends to invite people and situations in our homes that we would never let in the front door! The greatest threat is to the sanctity of Marriage and the threat of twisting the minds and hearts of our young children in their understanding of sexuality and love. These often have permanent and long lasting effects. Often parents are unaware of what is going on or feel overwhelmed with not knowing how best to protect their family and handle this situation while living in a fast-paced, digital world. With this in mind our Church (USCCB) is attempting to take steps to raise awareness, offer some practical resources, provide information and give means to help protect our families, children and spouses.
On “Safe Haven Sunday” Bishop Kettler has asked us to preach on subject. Also there will be a brochure inserted into each bulletin next weekend with more information, giving parents (and grandparents!) suggestions on how best to be more vigilant and involved in your child’s (grandchild’s) social media life. There will also be other resources one may look up to gain more knowledge and information. I have ordered a dozen books entitled, “Equipped: Smart Catholic Parenting in a Sexualized Culture” by Covenant Eyes. These will be available in the back of each church for anyone to pick up. I am sure you can also order them on the online.
Now, some might ask: “With all the bad press and allegations by Catholic clergy in the areas of sexual abuse, what rite or authority does any clergy member have to speak on this topic? Good question and good point! As a member of the clergy, I feel that painful criticism and hesitation in myself! My first answer to that is, “If we are not part of the solution, then we are part of the problem.” This has to end, so where do we start? This issue will not go away unless it is directly addressed on all levels and on all fronts: at home, in the church, in the work place, and even far away! Secondly, many of the materials and concern regarding this very topic comes from parents like you who want to bring this issue forward and need us as a Church to present it to a larger audience. The Diocese and local parishes are the perfect avenues to do so. This is why we are being so pro-active about this.
At the very least, we can all pray for a greater understanding of the value of chastity, of how what we put inside us and what we hear through social media can positively or negatively affect us. We can all be more vigilant, watchful for signs, more aware, and better equipped to turn these tides around. Studies show how it can distort ones understanding of marriage, sexuality, and love. We don’t want “porn to be the norm.” Having a better understanding of who we are can help us arrive in a safer and better place of where we need to be, a safer digital world for all! Peace and may God bless us in our efforts to combat evil, protect our children and our self in order to further the Kingdom of God in our midst!