by WAYNE LAUGESEN Register Correspondent
FALLS, Wash. ó Paul Rasavage is one of those professional,
suit-and-tie-wearing family men who never misses Mass.
his children Catholic and his oldest daughter is a
Carmelite. As a successful oil refinery engineer, heís long
been a pillar of his small community and the San Joachim and
Ann Catholic Church in nearby Alder Grove, British Columbia.
Rasavage, 49, has lived with a secret few in his parish know
about to this day. In his mid-40s, this seemingly perfect
Catholic family man was helplessly addicted to pornography,
an addiction, he said, that began in early adolescence.
an addict, but Iím no longer indulging my addiction,"
Rasavage said. "Anyone who is addicted to pornography will
remain addicted for life. Itís an addiction just like drug
or alcohol abuse, and it never goes away."
said heís far from alone among Catholic men. He said an
alarming number of those upstanding pillars of the parish
secretly view Internet pornography on a regular basis, which
he fears will harm most of their marriages and possibly land
them in hell.
Mark Bautista agrees. As pastor of several major parishes
during his 11 years as a priest, Father Bautista said he has
noticed a staggering increase in porn addiction among
Catholic men, women and children.
confessions heís heard throughout North America, Father
Bautista said itís safe to assume that up to 30% of men in
any given parish are regular viewers of pornography, mostly
via the Internet.
Furthermore, Father Bautista said it appears that up to 3%
of Catholic women are regular consumers of porn, and he
routinely hears porn confessions of girls and boys as young
seeing a dramatic increase that seemed to correlate with the
growth of the Internet," said Father Bautista, who recently
took over as pastor of San Joachim and Ann Parish and
volunteers as spiritual adviser to a porn-addict support
group launched recently by Rasavage. "Porn ó which used to
be the forbidden fruit of men who were willing to risk being
seen walking into an adult bookstore ó is now open to all,
and people get caught up in it by accident while theyíre
surfing the Web."
Father Bautistaís estimate of the scope of Catholic porn
addiction might be alarming, itís an underestimate by other
Christopher West, a Catholic scholar and apologist of Pope
John Paul IIís teachings on sex and marriage, said at least
80% of Catholic adults "have indulged" in pornography. He
believes up to 40% of Catholic adults engage in compulsive
or addictive viewing of porn.
Cavins, a Catholic radio talk show host on Relevant Radio,
said at least 40% of Catholic men and teen-age boys are
regular porn consumers.
are becoming more savvy at deleting the evidence from their
computers, and they get into a cycle of purging their
computer-history files, then going to confession and purging
their souls," Cavins told the Register. "The problem is,
theyíre getting caught up in a cycle of binging and purging
both their computers and their souls."
who has studied porn addiction and held conferences on the
topic, said the brain reacts chemically to pornographic
stimulation. Doctors explain that the brain of a person
stimulated by porn releases "endogenous" chemicals ó
substances produced within the human body.
have compared this to the narcotic effect of cocaine,"
Cavins said. "If you view pornography, you may go through a
physiological change and it wonít be a matter of ĎIím sick
of this and Iím going to stop now.í Most people who use porn
are sick of it and want to quit but theyíre caught up in an
addiction cycle thatís causing them to commit mortal sin."
West both argue that porn users suffer from a yearning of
the heart that can only be satisfied by the love of God.
Pornography tricks the user into thinking the void has been
filled, but the trick leads the user down a path thatís
destructive to himself and others.
Branch, a licensed addictions counselor and psychotherapist
who counsels Catholics in Denver, also said Catholics appear
to be struggling with porn addiction just as much as
non-Catholics. Addictions, she explained, do not respect
addiction, however, itís a spiritual issue," said Branch, a
Catholic. "We all have a wanting of God, and addictions come
in when we try to fill that need for God with anything other
said the Internet has resulted in millions of new porn
addicts in the United States. She frequently hears from
women seeking counseling after discovering their husbands
are viewing Internet porn.
prevents healthy intimacy between a husband and wife,"
Branch explained. "It does that for a number of reasons, and
one of the reasons is that someone is keeping a secret
because porn is almost always viewed in secret. Secrets are
not okay in marriage."
Father Bautista said porn addiction is relatively new to
hordes of Catholics who use the Internet at home or at work,
Rasavage began his addiction after finding issues of Playboy
and Penthouse that belonged to an uncle. The magazines, he
said, were hidden away at his grandmotherís house and nobody
knew he was looking at them.
fought with this, secretly, most of my life," Rasavage said.
"But when the Internet came along it just became too much. I
got sick of it to the point I had to do something. One day I
just said Ďenough,í and I decided to come clean with my
got up from the computer and called a family meeting. He
stood before three children and a wife he loved, ready to
bare his soul with a story that would certainly shock and
hurt them all. He told them heíd been secretly viewing porn
on the Internet and that heíd been hiding magazines most of
his life. He expressed his love for them all and explained a
desperate desire to quit viewing porn.
fortunate man, because they were very understanding and
forgiving," Rasavage said. "My wife has been very supportive
and nurturing. She happens to be a trained psychologist, so
she knows about addictions."
vowed to stop looking at porn, and he took his confession to
a priest. Then he began taking practical steps to keep
himself away from porn.
filtering software on his computer so his browser would
forbid the viewing of anything that might be sexually
explicit. He began avoiding grocery and convenience stores
and gas stations that sell adult publications. He joined
Sexaholics Anonymous, an organization Branch said can help
some porn addicts, as can Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous.
part of my recovery involves staying busy," Rasavage said.
"The most dangerous time for any addict is when youíre alone
As part of
his sustained recovery and his concern about other Catholic
porn addicts, Rasavage started a support group known as The
Serenellians ó named after Alessandro Serenelli, a former
Catholic porn addict and alcoholic.
As a young
man, Serenelli attempted to rape 11-year-old Maria Goretti,
and stabbed her to death when she fought him. On her
deathbed, Goretti told a priest she forgave Serenelli and
planned to see him in paradise one day. Eight years into
Serenelliís sentence, Serenelli saw St. Maria Goretti in a
dream, and she helped lead him to a conversion of heart.
someone as corrupt and degenerate as Alessandro Serenelli
can be converted and saved," Rasavage said, "so can any of
Wayne Laugesen writes from Boulder, Colorado.