ST. FRANCIS — Pornography use and addiction must be addressed, according to those who see the effects of it, during preparation required of couples wishing to be married in the Catholic Church.

An archdiocesan initiative aims to help people free themselves from use and addiction to pornography.

An archdiocesan initiative aims to help people free themselves from use and addiction to pornography.

“Part of that conversation should be, ‘So, what are your thoughts on pornography?’ Put it right out there. ‘Why do you think it is not OK?’ Engage the couple in that conversation and certainly, based on how that’s going, educate them, as well as help make sure they understand the pitfalls involved,” said psychologist Tim Shininger, a husband, father of four children, and member of Divine Savior Parish, Fredonia.

He said the topic is part of instruction about authentic sexual love and healthy sexuality.

“If that husband-to-be is struggling with some of this, and is not very well formed in why this could be a significant issue, that (conversation) helps him and that helps the two of them: What do we have to be aware of as we move forward with this? What’s important to her about this so he understands that,” Shininger said. “Hopefully, if he is struggling with some things, this is an opportunity for him to say we should talk with somebody about this.”

‘Secret issue’ must be discussed

Zabrina Decker, chancellor of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s marriage tribunal and office for ecclesiastical processes, credited the archdiocese’s initiative, “Break Free of Pornography Use and Addiction,” with reminding pastors and others doing marriage preparation that pornography is “a very, very important issue, an insidious sort of secret issue that we need to talk about like other addictions that are out there.”

She said because pornography objectifies a person, those doing marriage preparation face “a huge challenge” in bringing “people back to the understanding that we are created by God. Our bodies are created by God. Sexuality is created by God for a purpose.”

Decker said in marriage preparation, pornography must be addressed “full on.”

“It can’t just be, ‘Do you use porn now and then?’ Don’t be embarrassed by the question; you have to be front and center with this with couples,” she said. “I don’t care what age, I don’t care what experience – with validations (recognition of marriages that took place outside the church), first-time marriages, whatever it is – it is one of those questions that needs to be asked and we need to be very forceful about it.”

No place for it

Decker said preparers must identify and convey what the church teaches about sexuality and marriage to couples, and that pornography does not have a place in it.

“We are truly really here for the good of the spouses to be able to share life in common and that does not mean your partner is an object for your own sexual gratification,” she said. “Or that you ignore your partner and get sexual gratification from a screen or from a publication of some sort.”

Decker said pornography use by either member of the couple planning to marry is “a yellow flag and it’s something that needs to be discussed before they get married.”

“His intention as to the use of porn within the marriage needs to be discussed,” she said. “‘No, I can stop anytime. I will stop’ – fine, but then I would go to pre-marital counseling just to make that possible.”

She said if she were marrying a man, and she noticed his use of pornography, he’d have to stop immediately.

“There’d be no, ‘After marriage, I’m going to stop,’” Decker said. “I’d say, ‘We’re going to go to counseling and we’re going to find out why you started.’”