Are You Poisoning Your Marriage?

Are You Poisoning Your Marriage?
By Fr. Paul Check,
St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church, Stamford, CT

Are you poisoning your marriage…either your marriage now, or the future marriage you one day hope to have because you are still single? This column is primarily written to the men of the parish, because they seem more likely than women to fall prey to this particular sin…pornography. Let me be as plain as I can: if you look at pornographic material, whether on TV, on the Internet, at the movies, in magazines, etc., you are violating your marriage vows: Either the ones you have already taken, or the ones you plan to take one day. In a word, you are being unfaithful to your spouse. Indeed, you are committing adultery of the heart. Depending on the frequency and the extent to which you give your heart to lust, you are quite likely in mortal sin, whether you are married or not. To receive Holy Communion in a state of mortal sin is a sacrilege, and another mortal sin. As a result, the graces of the Eucharist are blocked and ineffective.

To be both frank and charitable, gentlemen, if you believe that the sins of lust or masturbation or pornography are not serious, then you are holding to your own opinion, an opinion shared neither by Our Lord nor by His Holy Church, of which you are a member. “Everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Mt 5:28) “Among the sins gravely contrary to chastity are masturbation, fornication, pornography, and homosexual practices.” (Catechism 2395) The words “gravely contrary” refer to “grave matter” (cf. CCC 1857, 1858), that which constitutes the basis of mortal sin. Surely you are not ready to risk your salvation and your marriage because, in your opinion, these things are “no big deal”? I beg you to recall the words you say at the end of the Creed—“We believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.” These words mean that you trust that the Church speaks to you with the love and authority of Jesus Christ in matters relating to doctrine, morality, and the Sacraments, i.e. in matters touching your eternal salvation…your eternal salvation.

I am trying very hard to get your attention because the good of your marriage (now or in the future) and the good of your soul are my responsibility as a parish priest. And Msgr. and I are very aware—through our experience in the confessional and in the parlor—that pornography and lust and the sins that follow constitute major problems in the lives of many, many of you. And with God’s grace, we want to help you overcome them.

Lust causes spiritual blindness. It “clouds the mind,” as St Thomas Aquinas says. St. Thomas points out that the lustful man is like the lion, for whom every other animal in the jungle is a potential meal. The lustful man cannot appreciate beauty (exactly contrary to what he thinks), because he sees another person primarily as an object to gratify his own appetite. Lust, etc., can easily and quickly become addictions, like chains that bind the heart, every bit as real and devastating in their effects as alcohol and drugs. Think of it this way: if someone appeared at your door tonight and said, “I am here to destroy your marriage,” would you welcome them? Of course not… But opening the door of your heart to lust is the moral equivalent of inviting a stranger into your home. How easy it is to become blind to the danger…

Remember the story A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens? Covered by chains, Jacob Marley visits Scrooge from the grave. Those chains represent his sins, each sin being the relinquishment of a piece of freedom. When we sin, we allow something outside of us to control us, to bind us, and possibly even to destroy us. If I succumb to lust, I have lost my self-control and therefore my freedom…and I am allowing chains to form around my heart. My passions now control me…I do not control my passions.

“Where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more.” (Rom 5:20) Please begin to break the chains of lust with a humble and courageous confession. Chastity is the virtue of the strong. It brings peace and freedom to the heart, and fidelity and generosity to marriage.

Editor’s note: Fr. Check has graciously given permission for any parish to use his article in a church bulletin, provided the substance of his message remains unchanged. Please use it!