On September 26th, 2020, the Central North Carolina Region sponsored a Defense of the Faith presentation at St. Pius X Catholic Church in Greensboro. Dr. Rick Cook, a St. Pius X parishioner and psychologist at New Directions Treatment Center in Winston-Salem, spoke about the prevalence of pornography in society due to increased screen time because of COVID.
“There are limitless free sites; it is available for a click,” Cook explained. The internet provides all the ingredients for increasing the influence of pornography on society because it offers easy access, an affordable price and anonymity. “You don’t have to look hard to find it,” he said. “People who never would have been consumers are now regular consumers.”
More than one in 10 websites feature pornography, said Cook. And one in five internet searches seek such materials. Cook said 90 percent of boys are exposed to pornography before the age of 18, and nearly 80 percent of all children are inadvertently exposed to such materials.
Cook explained that pornography does not encourage the development of normal social relationships. “Part of growing up is learning to develop friendships, learning how to get along with others, how to manage feelings of attraction, but also how to handle rejection, disappointment and frustration,” Cook said. “Pornography doesn’t portray courtship or romance…nor does it teach healthy bonding,”
Cook explained in his presentation that pornography can easily become addictive, as can any activity that provides instant gratification and a powerful stimulus that can create euphoria. Addiction impairs reasoning and judgment, creating habits that are easy to set and hard to break.
Providing guidance and hope, Cook further explained that there can be simple triggers for addictive behavior. Individuals struggling with pornography addiction are encouraged to identify the emotional states that trigger their behavior. For example, 12-step programs refer to the acronym HALT, which stands for hungry, angry, lonely or tired. These are four emotional states that can lead people in recovery to relapse, he said.
Cook went on to share how to determine if someone might have an addiction. “It is important to determine a pattern of use.” Is there a time of day? Location? Situation? Does the subject lie about or minimize the problem? “Addiction thrives in secrecy. This is where shame sets in. Guilt is when you do something that goes against your values, but shame is about who you are as a person. Shame kills souls,” said Cook.
When talking to teens, he advises: “it is not a one-time conversation.” Parents should ask questions and shut down sources that feed an addiction. Families can devise a plan together, such as “turning in” all electronic devices to a central location at night, keeping computer screens visible, and modeling healthy media habits.
Msgr. Anthony Marcaccio, pastor of St. Pius X Church and chaplain for the Central North Carolina Region, punctuated Cook’s presentation by acknowledging how difficult the subject of pornography can be to address.
“It’s an uncomfortable subject to speak about, but one that’s necessary as we see the impact that it’s having on the faith lives of so many people,” he said. “Rick has been a great asset to me in ministry. I refer people of our community to him to bring health and healing of body, mind and spirit…. We hope that his message on this topic will get out to many, many more people.”
Below is a link from the Catholic News Harold, which covered the event.