How should Catholics respond to the sexual exploitation culture?

Categories: Around the Diocese,DMD


Patrick Trueman

Patrick Trueman, CEO and president of Morality in Media, served from 1988 to 1993 as chief of the Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Criminal Division of the U.S. Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. He will present the workshop “A Catholic Response to the Sexual Exploitation Culture” at Diocesan Ministry Day Aug. 31 in St. Cloud. He will also present an evening session on “The Multimedia Assault on Our Nation’s Youth.” The following is a recent Visitor interview with Trueman. It has been edited for length and clarity.

Q: What is the sexual exploitation culture and how pervasive is it in our society today?

Trueman: We have a generation growing up in an image-based culture. That’s different from my generation. Kids today can navigate the entire world on a laptop. That includes the world of pornography.

What they are taught is what the culture brings them. That’s the television. That’s the Internet. That’s the movies. That’s the magazine and the Hollywood culture. With all that sexual imagery, we have to be concerned about the future development of kids because they’re taking it all in. Their brains are not even fully developed when they’re in their early 20s, and this is the primary forming force for these children.

Q: What do you say to a parent who tries to monitor what their child consumes and is exposed to?

Trueman: The parents who are trying hard to protect their kids by giving them a good spiritual life, blocking imagery on the computer, etc., still, of course, have to let their kids go out into the world.

We need a new paradigm for parenting. It is true that parents have to teach their kids about the culture at earlier ages than they previously did. We know that many kids are getting exposed to sexual imagery at an early age — imagery that they don’t even understand.

Parents have to teach their kids about pornography and what’s right and wrong at a very early age. Parents have to understand that it isn’t enough to lock up their own home from pornography, for example. They have to know that their neighbor’s home, or the place where their kids are spending time, is locked up as well.

Q: Certainly, parents need to be doing things, but what should churches and parishes be doing?

Trueman: Every Catholic school in America ought to teach about pornography. When you initially bring that up to parents, they might say, “Oh, I don’t want them taught about that.” The alternative is to let the culture teach your kids about pornography. Who would you rather have? The Catholic school community teach your kids that pornography and the sexual culture is the wrong path or would you like the culture to teach them? Catholic schools need to have this as part of the curriculum.

Also, priests don’t like to hear it when people say, “How come Father never mentioned this on Sunday?” But Father should mention that on Sunday and speak about it a few times a year, about the culture, about pornography.

Priests tell me that the most frequent sin mentioned in confession deals with pornography, at least for men. Yet, most churches in America don’t have one resource to hand out to a penitent, one brochure, one bit of direction on what they can do if they’re involved with pornography.

We know pornography is addictive. Men and women need help. If you’re struggling with pornography, the place that you should be able to find a way out of that is at the church. It’s not enough just to give a penance in confession. The priest should direct the penitent to resources. Churches that do that are getting good results.

Q: Is there a resource you could recommend?

We have church brochures on our website (