Pornography Addiction and the Common Good
Addiction is on the Rise in America
We have a problem! All forms of addiction are on the rise:
Drugs and alcohol: There are 28 million American alcoholics. (National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics) 62% of teenagers in 12th grade have abused alcohol. Drug use among 8th graders went up 61% between 2016 and 2020. (National Center for Drug Abuse Statistics) Over 100,000 Americans died from a drug overdose in 2021. (National Institute on Drug Abuse)
Gambling: 5 million Americans are compulsive gamblers “and gamblers are getting younger and more depressed.” (Rutgers Addiction Research Center) The National Council on Problem Gambling has found that 14 to 19 percent of high-school gamblers “either fit the criteria of having a gambling problem or are showing “signs of losing control”.” (Kindbridge Behavorial Health)
But, perhaps the most potentially debilitating addiction is to pornography because it “represents a serious threat to society as a whole.” (Pope St. John Paul II, 2)
Porn is ubiquitous: There are somewhere between 4.5 and 8 million porn sites — with one site alone logging nearly 6 billion viewing hours, (Human Life International) while Pornhub was the sixth most visited website in the US in 2023. (Semrush.com)
Covid-19 school closures resulted in a huge rise in adolescents accessing porn sites — with devastating “implications on the brain’s nervous system among teenagers.” (Journal of Positive School Psychology)
More damaging may be the many studies showing young Americans do not believe pornography is bad for society.
Pornography Addiction Effects
With consistent use pornography rewires the brain. “The majority of scientific studies have highlighted the profound impact of pornography on the thinking and behaviour of children“. (Pope Francis)
“[T]he hypofrontality syndrome suffered by pornographic addicted individuals, put them at risk of serious mental disorders” (Journal of Positive School Psychology) such as schizophrenia, ADHD, bipolar disorder, and major depressive disorder. While “adverse effects in sexual development and sexual functioning, especially among the young population” often result.
Studies consistently reveal that workers in the pornography industry, as well as consumers, face mental health challenges, become addicted to drugs, and contemplate suicide.
In summary, pornography conditions users to see the real world as being the same as the fantasies and scenes they consume on screen – with devastating effects on the ability to develop meaningful relationships.
And “frequently it [pornography] is linked to human trafficking.” (Pope Francis)
Pornography Devastates the Common Good
Pornography addiction, and its effects are directly opposed to the the common good. “The political community exists…for the sake of the common good, in which it finds its full justification and significance, and the source of its inherent legitimacy”. (Gaudium et Spes, 74)
The “common good” is a critical concept. It as an aspirational result: “the sum total of social conditions which allow people, either as groups or as individuals, to reach their fulfillment more fully and more easily”. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 1906)
As Pope Benedict XVI said, “there cannot be holistic development and universal common good unless people’s spiritual and moral welfare is taken into account”. (Caritas in Veritate, 76)
Is There Hope?
Armed with Catholic social teaching, we can build a “civilization of love“! (Congregation for Catholic Education, Foot Note, 35)
How? The Church calls us to “increase public concern” and “awareness of the need for decisive intervention by the authorities charged with the promotion of the common good.” (Pope St. John Paul II, 3)
And “To destroy such structures and replace them with more authentic forms of living in community is a task which demands courage and patience.” (Pope St. John Paul II, 38)
Pope Francis calls the porn industry and its exploitation nothing less than “crimes that need to be fought with intelligence and determination, through a broader cooperation among governments and law enforcement agencies”. (To Participants in the Congress on “Child Dignity in the Digital World”)
And “A similar concern…should become increasingly felt in the finance and the economy of the digital world.” (Pope Francis)
But it all starts with the family! “[A]s the primary cell of society the family must be the first champion of the battle against this evil.”
Learn More about Porn’s Assault on Human Dignity.
Catholic social teaching is built on three foundational principles - Human Dignity, Solidarity and Subsidiarity. Human Dignity, embodied in a correct understanding of the human person, is the greatest. The others flow from it. Good governments and good economic systems find ways of fostering the three principles.
This means a correct understanding of the human person and of each person’s unique value. All Catholic social teaching flows from this: the inherent dignity of every person that comes from being made in God’s image.
Solidarity is not “a feeling of vague compassion or shallow distress at the misfortunes of others. It is a firm and persevering determination to commit oneself to the common good”. (Pope St. John Paul II, 38) Love of God and love of neighbor are, in fact, linked and form one, single commandment.
Subsidiarity “is a fundamental principle of social philosophy, fixed and unchangeable, that one should not withdraw from individuals and commit to the community what they can accomplish by their own enterprise and industry. So, too, it is an injustice and at the same time a grave evil and a disturbance of right order to transfer to the larger and higher collectivity functions which can be performed and provided for by the lesser and subordinate bodies”. (Pope Pius XI)