Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Dear Prudence

I would like to quote from a letter that was written to me. I cannot reveal the name of the writer for reasons that will be obvious. I thank him for making a practical idea available in case it may help others.

Dear Father Hart:

Because of some of your articles in Touchstone Magazine I wanted to write to you, so that you may use this (but please don’t give out my name)… I found myself becoming addicted to mild forms of Internet Pornography. It began small, just looking at pictures of naked women a bit here and there. Eventually, I found myself waking up without sleeping most of the night, because I had been up all night looking at always just that one more picture. I have never actually broken this acquired addiction, well, at least not exactly. Rather than fight temptation I prefer to avoid it. I bought a filter program for my computer. After a lot of tinkering I got [the filter] to do what I need, namely to block out those porn sights, but never interfere with legitimate functions that I need. Then I secured the filter with a password by closing my eyes while I created it, cutting and pasting it, so that I could not memorize it. It is printed in case I ever have to let a technician work on my PC, but the only copy is miles away in a desk in an office where there is no computer. So far this works, and I have peace, and finally get the sleep I need…

This reminds me of something David Mills posted in Mere Comments from another Touchstone reader a few years ago; it had come from a man who was tempted by homosexual desires and who also had become addicted to Internet pornography. In his case, his wife controlled the filter with a password, and in this case we have a man who has placed a barrier between himself and the password. I recall that David praised the first man for his prudence, and I praise this man for having the same virtue. And, both of them have shown the charity that it takes to try to make their experience profitable to others. It is a very practical solution to avoid temptation, or as some versions of the Act of Contrition put it, “to avoid the near occasion of sin.”

In the Sermon on the Mount the Lord spoke of plucking out the eye and cutting off the hand, which Saint Paul referred to as “putting to death your members on earth.” The violent take the Kingdom of Heaven by force, and this force is to resist unto the shedding of blood in striving against sin (Heb. 12:4). The language of bloodshed and self-mutilation seems rather strange to a mild soft-sell generation like ours. But, when the New Testament was being written Christians needed to be ready to die as martyrs, and therefore free from inordinate attachments and lusts. What we must learn is to be ruthless with ourselves, and to find practical ways to avoid the near occasion of sin. If unlimited Internet freedom offend thee, cut it off and pluck it away. Better to enter into life maimed than to have thy whole body cast into Hell.

For those who want to know about the virtues, we have seven. Four come from Wisdom 8:7 (“And if a man love righteousness her labours are virtues: for she teacheth temperance and prudence, justice and fortitude: which are such things, as men can have nothing more profitable in their life”) and the other three from I Corinthians 13: 13 (“And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity”).

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