Q : 
I have been trying to quit my bad habit of patronizing massage parlors for ages as I now know it is conflicting with the sixth commandment. My sex drive pushes me so hard that I use masturbation with porn videos so to avoid the action of buying sexual satisfaction. Which action is more serious?
【 Question from 】 Hong Kong 香港

Fr. Francis : 

First of all, thanks for your honesty. It is not easy to admit one’s darkness so openly.

As far as the gravity of the action is considered, fornication of course is more serious than viewing pornography and masturbation. However, as they are all grave matters, if with knowledge and freely chosen, they are all mortal sins. So the end result is just as deadly.

Pastorally speaking, however, we must never be deterred from fighting the good fight even when we find ourselves falling with the same serious sins every day. The fact that we acknowledge that they are displeasing to the Lord, harmful to ourselves, and still want to make a change, that struggle itself is already meritorious, and is the result of God’s grace working in us.

Many people today struggle with pornography and masturbation. Most of them are men, but increasingly with women as well. I don’t think we are supposed to have so much easy access to the internet in the privacy of our bedroom or even bathroom. I don’t think our brains are designed to have that degree of self-control. Once pornography gets into that space, it is like inviting the devil into your bedroom and bathroom when no one else is keeping you accountable. Today we disguise it as personal privacy. But let’s face it, letting the devil through into our privacy is evil.

Before I talk about tactics for fighting these sins, I would like to ask you please do not be ashamed of your sex drive. Our sex drive is a gift from God. It is not evil. It was meant to drive us to authentic intimacy and sacrificial love towards others. It is the over-sexualized world today that brainwashed us that the only purpose of our sex drive is to act it out sexually. That is a perversion of the true beauty of our sexuality, and a counterfeit that totally darkens the glory of God’s original design. When you find yourself having this sex drive, ultimately therefore, you should view it as an invitation for you to channel it into charity towards someone else.

I have seen many programs on fighting this battle, and it comes down to these points:

  1. Pray. This is the only ultimate program. Best of all, have a daily devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Pray the Rosary everyday, even on your knees. If possible, visit the Blessed Sacrament, or at least set up a small shrine in your house and visit it every day, especially on those days you know you are most vulnerable. This is not a battle of strength nor is it a battle merely of the flesh, but we are against the devil and must instead throw ourselves completely at the feet of Jesus and trust in His power.
  2. Go to Confession as often as you commit these mortal sins, even if it means you have to go once a week or more, and never receive Communion before you do. These will help you to grow in humility, and in utter dependence of God’s grace.
  3. Write down all the thoughts and yearnings that lure you to commit these sins, then print out in BLOCK LETTERS “SATAN’S LIES” on top. These are usually: you can’t live without this… This time will be different… It is so Pleasurable it must be good… You can never be good so why fight… These are lies. These sins do not satisfy. They are here to rob and steal and murder. Recognize that they are sins, and tell yourself: “In the name of Jesus, I renounce them. I command them to leave!”
  4. Cut down on internet usage, especially between 10pm and 6am. In fact, unplug your internet or have it cut automatically during those hours. Never keep your computer or your phone in your bedroom. You know full well that those are the hours you will probably most frequently fall. Having access to the internet in your room is itself an occasion of sin, and not doing anything about a known occasion of sin is itself a sin.
  5. May as well follow with 4. With changing to a smaller data plan on your phone, so you can’t get around to the internet via your phone when your wifi cut out.
  6. Install good internet filters on all your electronic devices, including your phone. I think this should be basic across the board.
  7. Find a mature and discreet person, someone you can trust, who can be your accountability partner. This is someone who knows your problem, and that you will have to report to every day if you have kept the day pure or not. You will have to be completely honest with him. This person will need to be able to come after you if you lie or if you don’t report.
  8. If things are still out of control, you need help. Find yourself a 12-step program or if available a sexaholic anonymous program. I don’t know if they exist where you are, but they are becoming increasingly popular in North America.

Some of you may think the above is extreme. Unless you are blessed with the grace of not falling into this serious sin, believe me, with the many confessions I have heard and my own struggles with chastity, this is all out warfare. It would be like finding mouse droppings on our bed every morning and thinking putting out mousetraps being extreme. Unfortunately, most people are losing this battle, thinking that they are hopeless; or worse giving up, turning their hearts against the Church and blaming it being outdated and hypocritical.

The truth is, this is a battle that can be won, and it has been won by many, as long as we keep faithfully holding onto Jesus and resisting the devil.