Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
This weekend (Feb. 29 – March 1) the Diocese of Davenport will celebrate its first Safe Haven Sunday. This awareness day is inspired by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ formal statement “Create in Me a Clean Heart: A Pastoral Response to Pornography,” in which the bishops state, “The use of pornography by anyone in the home deprives the home of its role as a safe haven and has negative effects throughout a family’s life and across generations.”
As your bishop, I care deeply about the domestic church and desire to do all in my power to guide and equip parents and others in forming children to live virtuous and holy lives. I understand that pornography is not a topic most adults are comfortable speaking about, especially when it comes to parents discussing it with their children. However, in our present digital age, it is a topic that we can no longer afford to ignore. We all want to believe that internet-based pornography is beyond the reach or interest of our own children. Yet the statistics tell us otherwise.
First exposure to internet pornography usually occurs during the elementary school years, often by accident. Your child types in the wrong word on social media, your niece clicks on the wrong YouTube video, or your godchild’s friend shows him his first sexually explicit image on Instagram. Unless parents and guardians create an environment where it is safe and welcome to talk about uncomfortable topics, children usually will attempt to hide such experiences out of shame or embarrassment.
Pornography use and addiction prevent one from experiencing genuine, intimate and lasting relationships with others and with God. It is a mockery of the true and holy intimacy that is celebrated through the sacramental life of the Church. By engaging in this Safe Haven Sunday awareness day, we as a community are affirming our commitment to create holy, healthy and secure environments, free of pornography and other online threats that deprive the home of its role as a safe haven.
To this end, parishes in the diocese have been encouraged to provide instruction and materials that will support and protect individuals, marriages and families from the harms of pornography. It is my hope that these resources offered will both encourage and teach individuals and families dealing with the effects of pornography that loving support is available.
For anyone struggling with pornography use or the effects of this addiction within their household, I want you to know that the Church is here to help and support you. Christ offers mercy, hope and forgiveness to anyone who wants to be free from pornography’s harmful effects. Please talk with your parish clergy or contact the diocesan Marriage & Family Office for support.
I encourage you to take advantage of these resources and ask that you be intentional about taking the steps suggested to ensure safety and joy for you, your loved ones and the greater community.
Bishop Thomas Zinkula
Bishop of Davenport