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Priests and Nuns Watch Pornography, Pope Says

pope francis
Pope Francis. Credit: Catholic Church England and Wales / Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Pornography is a “vice” and a “permanent attack” on human “dignity,” Pope Francis said recently. Yet, the Vatican is aware that priests and nuns watch pornography. The Pope, however, now wishes to actively discourage this practice.

His Holiness, who has had friendly relations with Greece, recently made the surprising statement. His remarks were directed at what ways the new generation of priests, nuns, and seminarians can responsibly use digital media to spread the Christian message. The Pope, it seems, is gravely concerned about the unwise use of internet technology. Nevertheless, as Pope Francis often does, he made the remark in an impromptu informal way.

An Informal Remark About Pornography

Even priests and nuns watch online pornography. The Pope explained that both the clergy and laity, women and men, give into temptation. Many from all walks of life struggle with this turpitude. One way “the devil enters” our lives, he stated, is through pornography.

At a gathering of seminarians in Rome, in the question and answer period, the Holy Father decided to address the matter as part of a larger discussion of reconciling science, technology, and faith. During his speech he said that it was difficult for humans to live virtuously, since we have shortcomings that impede us.

The Pope explained how pornography was a “permanent attack” on the dignity of humanity and a “threat to public health.” The Vicar of Christ said he wasn’t referring only to “criminal pornography” that depicts child abuse, or “live cases of degeneracy.” He pointed out that he was worried about “normal pornography” as well.

Pope Francis urges prospective priests to delete such apps from their smartphones. He said it “weakens the soul,” especially the aspiring “priestly heart.”

An Awkward Moment With the Pope’s Official Instagram Account

Natalia Gariboto instagram like by Pope
Natalia Garibotto, Brazilian Model “Liked” By Pope Francis/Credit: Natalia Garibotto/ Instagram

In 2020, there was an awkward moment when the Pope’s official Instagram account “liked” a photo of Brazilian model Natalia Garibotto. Apparently, it was someone at the Vatican and their rather unwise use of technology.

Garibotto joked she was going to heaven after the Pope’s endorsement. She claimed to get six hundred thousand followers as a result. Garibotto has over two million followers in total. The Vatican organized an inquiry as to how the mistake unfolded. The next day, her photo was “unliked.” Yet whether the photo was liked or not was not the issue.

The Pope insisted people need to learn how to use the internet better instead of experiencing constant distractions from news and music. Of course, he didn’t have in mind research on foreign affairs, science, and technology, or listening to Beethoven. Clearly, priests and nuns consume pornography. Whether they are doing moral and ethical studies or enjoying themselves, we cannot know for sure.

The Pope and Mobile Phones

The Pope encouraged the seminarians to delete pornography from their phones so they don’t carry around “temptation in [their] hands.” The “pure heart” or “consecrated souls” — those who claim to represent Jesus Christ — cannot process these images and information. The Pope strongly underscored “it weakens the spirit.”

The 85-year-old leader of the Catholic Church admitted he did not own a mobile phone. Pope Francis clarifies that he has never used one except once thirty years ago when it was “the size of a shoe.” The Pope borrowed the phone, called his sister, and returned the gadget.

How Church Teachings See Pornography

Two weeks ago, the Holy See, the government of the Catholic Church, sent representatives of the Pope to the United Nations in New York City. They raised concerns about practices that reduce the human person to an object. Further, where society permits “an abnormal consumption” by adults of internet sex, it is unfathomable that such could substantially “protect minors.” The Holy See argued where pornography devalues life, it must contribute to the crisis of abortion and the degrading of children. For the Vatican, child pornography and normal pornography must equally be condemned. Sex without love and family makes children “a mere object” that is “discardable.”

Church teachings see pornography as an offense against chastity. Chastity is defined as self-restraint, modesty, innocence, morality, and celibacy (abstinence before marriage). The next question at the gathering was about matters of mercy.

Many inside and outside Pope Francis’s Catholic Church admire his candid addressing of the challenges of modernity even where they may disagree. However, some of the faithful are also threatened by the frank conversations he often starts. It is difficult to maintain innocence and modesty in the Age of the Internet where even for youth there are few secrets anymore. The Pope’s folksy message of love and responsibility in a world where even the Vatican makes mistakes and is compelled to be more transparent like never before resonates with multitudes.


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