Catholic Medical Quarterly Volume 69(4) November 2019

Porn kills love -
the new pandemic of Internet Pornography

Fr James McTavish MA, FRCSEd, STL, FMVD Provincial, Verbum Dei Manila, Philippines

James McTavishInternet pornography is said to be the fastest growing addiction in the world. Data released by “Pornhub” the world’s most popular internet porn site, reveals that in 2017, 81 million people visited their site each day. Every 5 minutes, Pornhub transmits more data than the entire contents of the New York Public library’s 50 million books and in total 595,482 hours of video were uploaded in 2017. If you watched that continuously 24 hours a day, you would still need a staggering 68 years to get through it. That is an incredibly sinful waste of time, and energy.[1]

Pamela Paul, a TIMES magazine reporter, said of the increasing use of pornography:

Today, the number of people looking at pornography is staggering. Americans rent upwards of 800 million pornographic videos and DVDs (about one in five of all rented movies is porn), and the 11,000 porn films shot each year far outpaces Hollywood’s yearly slate of 400. Four billion dollars a year is spent on video pornography in the United States, more than on football, baseball, and basketball. One in four internet users look at a pornography website in any given month. Men look at pornography online more than they look at any other subject. And 66% of 18-34 year old men visit a pornographic site every month.[2]

How Online Pornography Affects Americans

  • About 200,000 Americans are classified as “porn addicts.”
  • 40 million American people regularly visit porn sites.
  • 35% of all internet downloads are related to pornography.
  • 34% of internet users have experienced unwanted exposure to pornographic content through ads, pop up ads, misdirected links or emails.
  • One-third of porn viewers are women. 

Of course, being a global issue, the effects of pornography reach the 4 corners of the globe. The Filipino Bishops noted:

Given the all-pervasiveness of the Internet, it should not be surprising that pornography has invaded our homes, workplaces, schools, and churches. The Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality (YAFS) Study of Filipino Youth in 2013 has revealed that 56.5% of Filipinos aged 15 to 24 years old have been exposed to pornographic videos and movies, 35.6% have been exposed to sexually explicit reading materials, and 15.5% have viewed pornographic websites. These young people are the future husbands and wives, fathers and mothers, of our nation, whose capacity for self-giving love has been deeply wounded.[3]

Negative effects of pornography

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:

Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials.[4]

A young man, twenty years old, commented to me, “Father, I have been watching porn since I was 10 years old. There is nothing I have not seen. Some images will stay with me the rest of my life.” I did not inquire further as to what he had seen! At the individual level, the watching of pornography is usually associated with masturbation. Pleasure hormones released create new neural pathways as “what fires together, wires together.” Like any drug, the “fix” may need to become stronger to get the same hit. What previously might have appalled the viewer now needs to be watched to get the same “high.”

There is a noble effort by a group called “Fight the new drug” who describe themselves as “a non-religious and non-legislative organization that exists to provide individuals the opportunity to make an informed decision regarding pornography by raising awareness on its harmful effects using only science, facts, and personal accounts.”[5] A popular and effective slogan they use is “porn kills love” reminding us not to be naïve. Internet pornography brings a new level of sexual degradation, as often the images portrayed involve submission, violence, sexual deviancy with a widespread portrayal of same sex and bisexual acts, as well as with multiple partners. All this tends to normalize what is not “normal” - hardly good sexual role modeling for the viewers.

In terms of relationships many men end up preferring to watch pornography than to be with their own wives. Dr. Patrick Fagan of the Family Research Council produced a research synthesis on the effects of pornography on individuals, marriage and family. He reported that “married men who are involved in pornography feel less satisfied with their conjugal relations and less emotionally attached to their wives. Wives notice and are upset by the difference.”[6]

The ripples of the negative effects of pornography extend into our society. Once I did some outreach with an NGO that dedicates to street mission with prostituted women. I asked them how is the situation of prostitution in Manila. They said “It is really increasing Father.” When I enquired why, they replied “Pornography is the theory and prostitution is the practice.”

What can be done?

Obviously, prevention is better than cure, so better not to start looking at pornography in the first place. The prophet Jeremiah announced: “Death has come up through our windows, has entered our palaces” (Jeremiah 9:20). St Alphonsus Liguori, commenting on this passage, wrote: “For as to defend a fortification it is not enough to lock the gates if the enemy be allowed to enter by the windows; so to preserve chastity all other means shall be unprofitable unless we carefully watch over the eyes.”[7] The eyes are the window to the heart. One seminarian approached Fr. Cantalamessa, the former Papal preacher, asking why it was wrong to gaze upon created beauty, especially beautiful women. After all, reasoned the seminarian, if God did not want us to enjoy such visual feasts why did he give us eyes? “It is true God gave us eyes,” responded Fr Cantalamessa, “but he also gave us eyelids to close them sometimes!”

The internet can be a place for self-help and many excellent resources exist such as the aforementioned “”. Filters can be placed on internet search engines, to filter out explicit search results. Placing the laptop in a public place as well as having a person to whom one is accountable to may be beneficial.

Importance of prayer

In the fight against lust we need the help of prayer, as “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). The Catechism of the Catholic Church underlines this: “Prayer is a vital necessity. Proof from the contrary is no less convincing: if we do not allow the Spirit to lead us, we fall back into the slavery of sin” (n. 2744). And perhaps if I am not disturbed by this sin, by the grace of God, I can pray for the millions who are affected.

Medical ethical bodies could incorporate teaching on the dangers of pornography in their portfolio of moral topics. As part of the new evangelization, renewed efforts can be made in our teaching, preaching and catechesis to remind contemporary man and woman of their inherent dignity, coming from their being made in the image and likeness of God. This evangelization necessarily includes the digital world, so that, as Pope emeritus Benedict XVI encouraged us, “in the world of the internet, which enables billions of images to appear on millions of screens throughout the world, the face of Christ needs to be seen and his voice heard.” [8]


  1. Porn hub /insights/2017-year-in-review. Editorial  comment:- Happily the internet based link for this reference did not work when we tested it. We would not recommend that you  attempt to visit  this site.
  2. Pamela Paul, “From Pornography to Porno to Porn: How Porn Became the Norm,” in The Social Costs of Pornography: A Collection of Papers (Princeton, N.J.: Witherspoon Institute, 2010).
  3. Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, “Created for love, created for chastity,” A Pastoral Response to the Grave Evil of Pornography, February 10, 2016. Available at
  4. Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2354.
  5. .
  6. Dr Patrick Fagan, The Effects of Pornography on Individuals, Marriage, Family and Community, Family Research Council, Washington DC, December 2009. Available at
  7. Alphonsus Liguori, “Discourse on the Necessity of Mental Prayer for Priests,” in Dignity and Duties of the Priest or Selva, ed. Eugene Grimm (New York: Elias Frederick Schauer, 1888), III, 249-250, available at .
  8. Benedict XVI, Verbum Domini, n. 113.