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From Pornography and Betrayal to Beauty and Union

By Sam M.

Over the past four years, Beth and I have been transformed through the beautiful teachings of Theology of the Body. We are a couple whose marriage barely survived my addiction to pornography. Through God’s grace, we found Dr. Douglas Weiss’s counseling center for pornography addiction in 2004, which brought us out of the crisis and helped me to experience sobriety. After several years of couple’s counseling and 12-step groups, I was rebuilding trust with Beth, but I lacked a Catholic vision of the beauty and sacredness of marital sexuality. In 2006, we attended a presentation by Christopher West, and I began to study Theology of the Body resources. As I spent more time with Pope John Paul II’s amazing insights, my vision of sexuality was transformed, and my respect and tenderness for Beth was greatly deepened.

I went back to school for an MA in Counseling, and I was blessed to work for several years with Dr. Weiss, who is one of the most well-known authors in the field of sexual addiction. We began to hear about the My House Program, which Archbishop Naumann and his staff in the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas were completing to provide practical ways to protect families from pornography. The program involved a video that was shown during Mass, which contained themes from Theology of the Body and several alarming statistics along with an emotional testimony from a man who had struggled with pornography. The archdiocese had coordinated several trainings for parish-based Theology of the Body groups, and had set up workshops on pornography and sexual addiction for counselors at Catholic Charities.

Beth and I knew that a Catholic program with practical resources to protect families from pornography was desperately needed, and we felt God calling us to move from Colorado to Kansas. I was hired to help with the My House Program in 2007, and Beth was hired to work in the Family Life Office in 2008. Beth had the opportunity to attend Catholic Sexual Ethics with Dr. Janet Smith at the TOB Institute in July of 2008. For several months after returning, Beth continued telling stories of insightful lectures, enthusiastic participants, and the deep impact that the course had on her faith. I had planned to attend a course at the TOB Institute for years, but seeing the impact it had on Beth’s life made it a priority. Thanks to a contribution from a generous friend, Beth and I were able to attend TOB1 in January of 2009.

I vividly recall being filled with many emotions throughout the course including inspiration, joy, peace, and hope. I was deeply impacted by Christopher West’s lectures, the amazing people that attended the course, and the encouraging homilies at daily Mass. The lectures provided a thorough study and integration of Theology of the Body, and I especially found myself drawn to John Paul II’s discussion of the true, the good, and the beautiful (TOB 48). I felt very hopeful for our Church as I heard inspiring thoughts and stories from fellow classmates during breaks and meal times. Many of us became sleep deprived towards the end of the week after late-night conversations with classmates, and Beth and I recall how hard it was to return home after being surrounded by nearly 100 other people who were so excited about TOB! I have kept in touch with quite a few people that I met at TOB1, and I actually wrote this article while visiting a priest that we met at the Sexual Healing and Redemption class.

The experiences from the courses at the Theology of the Body Institute continue to transform our lives, and gave me more boldness to talk to my family about the Church’s beautiful teachings. Several months after TOB1, Beth and I were able to attend a TOB conference with my parents and three of my siblings. I saw my dad cry several times throughout the weekend, which began a process of healing in our relationship. My mom said that the conference was one of the best family weekends that she can remember. My sister recently attended TOB1, and I have to admit that she is probably more enthusiastic about Theology of the Body than we are.

Beth and I are seeing that Theology of the Body is one of the most important antidotes to pornography, and in the last three years, over 30 dioceses have contacted our diocese for more resources to protect their parishes from pornography. We recently updated the program’s website, http://www.loveisfaithful.com/ with practical resources, emotional testimonies, pictures of several freedom from pornography billboards, and pictures of monthly rosary services outside of a local pornography store. There is a guide we have written for Catholic men’s support groups that combines the practical wisdom of 12-step groups with Theology of the Body, which is being used in several parts of the country. Beth leads a weekly spousal support group for women, and is developing a Catholic guide for these groups while starting an M.A. in Theology from the Maryvale Institute.

There was a time recently that I became much more focused on helping others through ministry and counseling than on integrating TOB in my daily life, and I slowly became disconnected and unbalanced. I remember Christopher West’s encouragement to prioritize both receiving and living the message of TOB before spreading it to others, which is a life-long journey of humility. Overall, TOB has helped me to go deeper in my walk with God, my relationship with Beth, and my journey of sexual integrity. I pray that many others will experience the transforming courses at the Theology of the Body Institute. I also pray that someday soon, the vast majority of Catholic families will be studying and living the messages from TOB and experiencing the corresponding joy, peace, hope, and integrity!