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By Michael Gagnon
Like many men in our culture, I have struggled with pornography throughout my life. Similar to most any addiction, you are never truly free of it but learn to find mastery over it with healthy boundaries, help from others and – above all – the grace of God.
One key component to mastery of an addiction is knowledge of the truth. And it is here where I find that Humanae Vitae is a tremendous help. It speaks the truth about marital love in a clear and concise way, restating the Church’s ever-present teaching on marital love and thus setting up the foundation of the Theology of the Body and my freedom from porn.
I first read Humane Vitae when I was in college. In fact, it was the first encyclical I ever read and how blessed my life has been because of it! I had never heard of Theology of the Body, nor really understood the Church’s teachings on marriage. I had given an assent of faith to the Church’s authority, but it was a blind one. Humanae Vitae opened my eyes for the first time to the beauty of married love and convicted me of the need to form a pure heart within myself.
What Humanae Vitae does is set up a truly beautiful and good framework for married love and warn us of the dangers of counterfeit loves. At the time of my first reading of Humanae Vitae, I was just beginning to truly struggle to overcome my addiction and found hope in reading how only in self-denial and self-mastery could a couple conform their love to right order, to life and truth (HV 21).
What does porn do but teach a person to give into their desires and allow those desires to order and control his life? But here, the Church was saying it is possible to find freedom and mastery over our desires. Hope!
Beyond giving hope and a clear teaching on the real meaning of married love, the encyclical challenges us to fight for this truth, to fight for real love, not the artificial, superficial and selfish
love lust of contraception. And let’s be clear: pornography is the ultimate contraception, where there is no real exchange of selves whatsoever but a completely artificial and sterile act of lust.
Thus, the release of Humanae Vitae was a seminal moment in the life of the Church and, decades later, a huge blessing in my life personally, and I thank God every day for the wisdom and courage of Blessed Pope Paul VI.
Michael Gagnon is a father of three and a Catholic youth minister from Georgia. He blogs at AwkardCatholic.com.
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