By Richard Meek

The Catholic Commentator

Pornography continues to spread its venom at an alarming rate, infiltrating homes, tearing apart families and fueling a burgeoning human trafficking industry targeting young girls.

National averages show that children are first exposed to pornography at the age of 11, and some mental health professionals are referring to porn as the new drug.

Recognizing the need to provide guidance not only to families but also clergy members to the dangers of what has become a multi-billion dollar industry, the Office of Marriage and Family Life for the Diocese of Baton Rouge has declared the weekend of March 7-8 as Safe Haven Sunday. During weekend Masses, clergy members will be delivering a homily touching on the dangers of pornography, and the Prayers of the Faithful will include petitions around that issue, said Darryl Ducote, director of the Office of Marriage and Family Life.

Booklets will also be distributed to families with children as they leave church. The booklet, titled “Equipped,” is designed to help parents keep their children from becoming addicted to pornography.

Bulletin announcements are being published in advance alerting parishioners as to what will be presented that particular weekend.

“The goal is to empower parents to address this issue in the home,” Ducote said. “I think many parents are afraid to go near it or try and ignore it as even an issue. What I think parents don’t realize is their kids will be exposed to it even if they are not seeking it because of their access to technology.

“Parents need to be aware and be equipped.”

The diocese formed a task force and members addressed clergy members during deanery meetings. Ducote said the response was “mostly positive” because it’s an issue priests deal with every week in confession.

“It’s a constant theme so they are looking for help as well as how to deal with this,” he said. “We’ve had a few pastors who are a little uneasy talking about this from the pulpit but even they realize the need and how to figure how to say it or present it in such a way it doesn’t offend people or create issues for parents who are concerned about how they are going to address it.”

He said his office alerted parishes to available resources and that 20,000 copies of “Equipped” were ordered.  Ducote said nearly every parish responded and some ordered the booklets to be distributed at Mass and at schools, where applicable.

“On that booklet there is a code parents can go to and receive daily emails for seven days with additional suggestions on how to address this issue in the home,” Ducote said, adding that a link to the diocesan website (diobr.org) will also be included for additional resources for parents, ministers and even those struggling with pornography.

A video promoting Safe Haven Sunday will also be posted on the diocesan website.

Ducote said Bishop Michael G. Duca has asked clergy to preach on the issue on Safe Haven Sunday, making parents aware of available resources and also encouraging parents to trust that God will help guide them to address the issue based on the Scripture readings.

Clergy members have been sent suggested homilies, and the Office of Marriage and Family Life has also distributed homily hints to priests. 

Ducote said the three readings for the Second Sunday in Lent that weekend focus on trusting God to lead people, that “we are being called to a holy life and God will assist us and Jesus’s reassurance there is a life for us beyond whatever we are struggling with.”

Ducote said this is the first year of a three-year campaign, with new booklets being distributed each year. He added the Second Sunday of Lent will likely be designated Safe Haven Sunday.

Ducote recommended visiting cleanheart.online, click on partnering dioceses and click on Baton Rouge for additional resources.

“What is available on this website is tremendous,” he said.

For additional resources, visit covenanteyes.com/resources/parish-resources-year-1/.