— a Catholic’s  guide addressing porn addiction

By Becky Aubut, Anchor Staff

WEST CONSHOHOCKEN, Penn. — It is a multi-billion dollar industry, but the revenue from pornography doesn’t benefit needy families, it just tends to rip families apart.

“God wants us to have healthy relationships and pornography is not going to teach us that,” said Dr. Peter Kleponis, a licensed clinical therapist and assistant director of Comprehensive Counseling Services in West Conshohocken, Penn.

After spending years concentrating on marriage and family therapy, pastoral counseling and other specialties, Kleponis honed in on creating a comprehensive treatment program to counter porn-addiction after “the number of men coming to me who are struggling with pornography use grew exponentially. I realized this is a huge issue that needs to be addressed,” he said. “I started really working with a lot of men, really studying and learning about this addiction and its treatment. I looked at so many different programs and what would work best.”

Kleponis launched, a website that educates spouses, families and priests. He has also traveled throughout the country by hosting conferences through his “Fighting Porn in our Culture … and Winning!” program.

“What I do is focus on the problem of pornography in America, what’s really going on out there, and talk about the addiction. I talk about the path of recovery and how a person can recover from this, and then I talk about how to protect families and how to talk to teens, because they’re going to find this stuff,” said Kleponis. 

You can’t do it on your own, added Kleponis, who offers a seven-point plan of recovery that can be found in his website:

“Self-knowledge and commitment,” where you admit you have a problem and you are ready to receive help; “purifying your environment,” which sees those in recovery getting rid of anything and everything that reminds them of porn; “support and accountability” is seeking out others who are also in recovery; “counseling” is a must to help not just the addict heal, but also those around him or her; a “Spiritual plan” that includes daily prayer to continue to nurture the individual’s faith; “education” is power, and Kleponis has reading materials that showcase pornography’s true addictive nature; and the last is “virtue,” where Kleponis offers a list of 28 virtues and character strengths, having those in recovery pick two to work on each day.

Kleponis has produced helpful guidelines for priests to help sway those confessing to look for professional help. 

“You are not alone. People struggle with this. You need help and you need God’s grace,” said Kleponis, of some of the suggested responses priests can offer to those looking for redemption. Having a ready-made card listing local professional services is a tangible way to taking the next step for help. “I give them the theory but it’s also the practical application; how they can get out there and really help these people.”

According to his website, the statistics are staggering. Forty-seven percent of Christians admit that pornography is a major problem at home. Every second, 25,258 Internet users are viewing pornography, spending $3,075 in that same second when they do so; every 39 minutes a new pornographic video is being produced in the United States. There are 4.2 million pornographic websites with 68 million daily pornographic search engine requests through Google. And if you think it’s only adults putting the “ogle” in Google, think again.

“Current research tells us that the average age that a child first experiences hard core pornography is 11; that’s how young it is,” said Kleponis, who will divide children into two categories to help cater to their individual needs.

Children up to the age of 11 need to be protected, said Kleponis. Parents should be vigilant over what their children view on the computer and the types of programs they are watching on television. When a child is over the age of 11, then it’s time to switch gears from protecting to preparing.

“We need to train them and tell these kids that pornography is just the same as drugs and alcohol; it’s an addictive substance,” said Kleponis. “We need to teach them that they are not going to learn about healthy sexuality and healthy relationships through pornography. We need to teach them what is healthy.”

The Internet has played a huge role in shaping a new generation of porn-addicts; instead of finding dad’s stash of Playboy magazines under the bed, it’s finding dad’s links to porn sites on the computer.

“Right now the largest population of Internet pornography users are 12- to 17-year-olds,” said Kleponis. “Not the dirty old man late at night, it’s kids.”

Using God to help shape and nurture each young individual is vital to helping those young adolescents grow up into a mature and responsible spouse, and eventually a parent. Even those dealing with the addiction in their adulthood should turn away from trying to find “love” that is empty and meaningless, and embrace a love that is full and forgiving.

“You talk to anybody who has successfully recovered, and they’ll tell you that you can’t do it without God,” said Kleponis. “You need grace to do it; you need strength and know that you are loved. Most addicts struggle with a deep core belief that they are unlovable, and that if people really know them, they would be rejected. They really need to know that God, the Father, loves them unconditionally. That’s what helps in the recovery.”

The Church says that sex is a wonderful gift from God meant to be shared between a husband and a wife. In pornography, said Kleponis, there is no relationship, no intimacy — exactly the opposite of what God wants for His people.

“John Paul II wrote that the opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s using people. This is what men are doing when they look at pornography. They may see it as adult entertainment, not hurting anybody, it’s just on the computer and it’s not real,” said Kleponis. “But, they’re looking at these women and images and not thinking that the woman is a person, that she’s somebody child or the terrible circumstances that led her to the porn industry. I don’t know of any healthy young woman who wants to grow up to be a porn star.”

If a loved one is isolating themselves with their computer, iPad or cell phone, spending hours online while others are living life to the fullest; if a spouse is making jokes about pornography or expressing deviant forms of sexuality — these are just some of the key warning signs, said Kleponis. 

“The important thing to realize is that there is hope,” he said. “Pornography use and pornography addiction is a serious problem in America. It is an epidemic that we have to address and take seriously. There is hope for healing and recovery, and it does take a while. Recovery is not easy but it can happen. There are people who have been successful at recovery and are living happy lives.” 

© 2014 The Anchor and Anchor Publishing, Fall River, Mass.