Text of Statement on Pornography Issued by State’s Catholic Bishops

The following is the text of a statement issued this week by the California Catholic Conference on Pornography, composed of the 26 Roman Catholic bishops of California:

Our profound belief in the inviolable dignity of the human person and the sacredness of human sexuality leads us to condemn pornography as a perverse and sometimes vicious profanation of both.

Pornography Dehumanizes

The Greek expression from which we derive pornography was originally coined to describe the sexually arousing depictions of women being displayed or used as sexual slaves. More recently, pornography has been defined as “words or acts or representations that are calculated to stimulate sexual feelings independent of the presence of another loved and chosen human being.” Both definitions suggest that pornography demeans women (and, often enough, men, too, and children of both sexes) and profanes the most sacred aspect of sex, its relationship to love and the hope of human life. Such degradation of persons and distortion of human love and sexuality undermine those beliefs and values which form the foundation of the family and are essential to the healthy survival of truly human communities. In sum, pornography threatens the innate dignity of individuals and erodes the moral fiber of society.

Findings of Psycho-Social


Recent social science studies, moreover, document the damaging psychological and social effects of pornography, providing ample evidence that it is far from “harmless” or “victimless” as some contend. For example:

- Pornography arrests personal development and interferes with interpersonal relationships.


- It creates a hunger for more violent, more deviant and more anti-social sexual materials, driving many who use it to engage in increasingly unusual and bizarre sex acts with a greater variety of partners.

- Child molesters, persons who commit incest, killers and rapists often develop a fondness for pornography and use it as preparatory stimulation before seeking out victims.

- Children are increasingly used, enslaved, abused and destroyed by the pornography industry. Hundreds of thousands of children in the United States are photographed each year engaging in sexual acts. Pornography plays a vital role in all too many of the estimated 2 million cases of American children who are sexually victimized each year.

- Pornography degrades and dehumanizes women, robs them of dignity and portrays them as if their only value consisted in their being of sexual use to males. Furthermore, the physical safety of women may be endangered by the power of pornography to induce in males a proclivity toward rape and molestation.

Pornography must be rejected, therefore, because of the damage it does to individuals and the danger that it threatens to our society.

California Connection

As religious leaders of California, we California bishops recognize our state’s involvement in this industry. Pornography is big business. It grosses as much as $10 billion annually. And 80% of all pornography in the United States is produced in California, though largely controlled by organized crime syndicates based in other states. We are convinced that this situation demands the concerted action especially of Californians. And so we commit ourselves to work with other concerned citizens to reverse the tide of pornography in this state.

Concerted Action To Stem

The Tide

We express our esteem and support for those many individuals who, in a civil and responsible manner, participate in such actions as bringing community pressure to bear on store owners to remove pornographic materials from their shelves, informing local police of violations of anti-pornography laws in their neighborhoods, and lobbying for zoning restrictions to disallow the operation of pornography stores and theaters in residential neighborhoods.

We applaud and encourage those legislators and government officials who labor to provide our society with meaningful and enforceable legal protection against the assaults and abuses of the pornography industry.

We commend the efforts of law enforcement officials to enforce obscenity laws, and we urge even more vigorous enforcement at the federal level, since federal laws are aimed at the sources of pornography. Therefore, we call on the United States Attorney General to see to the strict enforcement of such laws. And we encourage federal and local law enforcement agencies to collaborate in the detection, apprehension and prosecution of offenders against federal obscenity laws, particularly those who are behind the immense production and distribution operations carried on in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Pornography Not Protected

By First Amendment

We respect the Bill of Rights’ protection of full freedom of expression and caution against an extremist approach which would violate any legitimate exercise of that right. Nevertheless, we join Chief Justice Warren Burger in rejecting the notion that the First Amendment protects hard-core pornography. In the Supreme Court decision in Miller vs. California (1973), voicing the majority opinion, he stated: “To equate the free and robust exchange of ideas and political debate with commercial exploitation of obscene materials demeans the grand conception of the First Amendment and its high purposes in the historic struggle for freedom. It is a misuse of the great guarantees of free speech and free press.”

Family Foundation For The

Sanctity of Love

We reaffirm, finally, our respect for the dignity of every person and our commitment to maintaining the stability of the home and the family. We encourage parents to help their children acquire a healthy understanding of sexuality and to teach them by the example of their own lives and loving relationships that God’s love for each of us is contained in the beautiful gift of sexuality, and communicated creatively by its proper expressions. Together we must work to preserve the sanctity of love and sexuality whenever it is threatened and to restore it wherever it is denied.