“Look to my coming, at first light, on the fifth day. At dawn, look to the East” declared Gandalf the White to Aragorn as we rode Shadowfax out of the stables to rally the Rohirrim to the Hornburg which would soon be breeched. So, does Bishop Loverde rally all men of good will with the updated release of his 2006 Pastoral Letter, Bought with a Price at a time when it seems the darkest.
Originally written to expose this scourge and attempt to assist in addressing the cultural onslaught of pornography – regardless of its legal standing, Bishop Loverde now renews the letter with great vigor and even more help when it is most needed. In this version, he includes a dynamic forward by Matt Fradd of Covenant Eyes and author of Delivered: True Stories of Men and Women Who Turned from Porn to Purity, takeaways and practices in each section, a study guide for individuals, parish groups and parents, and plan of life to encourage us and deepen our resolve towards this issue.
Everyone has a story to tell on how they see it effecting society. Mine is from a Permanent Deacons point of view. Three years ago I assisted a neighboring parish with their Confirmation retreat set aside for the young men. There were 43 young men on that retreat and during Exposition, 27 of those young men shared with me their shame because of their addiction to pornography. That was 63 percent of the Confirmandi! I was floored, angered and…I felt helpless. I knew there was a problem and it was rampant but more than half of these 13 year olds not only were dealing with issues I never had to grapple with but all 27 displayed the classic signs of addiction. I shared my concerns with my colleagues and Bishop Loverde who had then set up a task force to look deeper into this issue.
Bishop Loverde could have just offered a press release just condemning pornography. Agreement would have rung out but it would have left those who are trapped with little hope. Instead, true to his episcopal motto, Encourage and Teach with Patience, he has offered and called us to something more:
We are a people called to share in the pure and noble vision of God and His creation.
He starts his letter by identifying the problem and reminding us that “Our natural vision in this world is the model for supernatural vision in the next.” He continues in this section entitled, The Current Threat to remind Christians that they are “intrinsically a people set apart.” We live here but are neither meant to adopt the secular attitudes nor participate in those activities that are contrary to our Christian dignity. It gets specific and doesn’t mince words.
Bishop Loverde continues by debunking the Four False Arguments while also suggesting remedies to combat the spread of the lies. How many times do we just hear the complaint with no tangible practice for relief? To individuals trapped in pornography, his tone is that of a loving father who only wants “freedom and life” for his children. Don’t get me wrong, he doesn’t hold back his strong words but only that the wound may be exposed and cleaned.
Addressing, What can be Done, Bishop directs his pastoral wisdom specifically: first to Christians in general, young people, married and engaged couples, parents and priests. He leaves nothing to chance. He offers practical counsel that not only renews our spiritual devotions and encourages a renewed understanding of what Blessed John Paul II called an “adequate anthropology of the human person,” but encourages us to avail ourselves of the various mental health professionals that may very well be necessary.
Finally, in the section on The Gift of Sight, Bishop Loverde threads the letter with the beautiful church teaching concerning how the gift of sight has its final orientation to gaze upon the face of God and the implications of the moral life:
This ability “to see” spiritually has implications for moral the moral life: “it enables us to see according to god, to accept others as ‘neighbors’; it lets us perceive the human body – ours and our neighbor’s – as a temple of the Holy Spirit, a manifestation of divine beauty.
In the end, this Pastoral Letter encourages us, teaches us, and calls us to respond from the deepest recesses of our heart to what St. Leo the Great exclaimed,
“Wake up and recognize the dignity of your nature! Remember that you were made in the image of God—which, although it was corrupted in Adam, was re-molded in Christ.”
If you have found that you are ensnared in pornography and cannot find a way out, I encourage you to pick up this letter and work through the guide and develop a plan of life. Worried about the journey? Jesus and His church is here to assist and serve you because, “Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom and life.” (2 Corinthians 3:17)