Workshop for ministers, parents to help youth break free of pornography

December 12, 2017

Father Sean Kilcawley of the Diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, and director of “Integrity Restored,” talks with high school students about the program that provides education, training, encouragement and resources to break free from pornography. Photo courtesy of Diocese of Lincoln.

HOUSTON — When Father Sean Kilcawley gave his first homily on pornography to his parishioners, he never used the p-word.

He plans to share his guidance on the sensitive topic of the vice of pornography as a growing addiction in society in an upcoming Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston workshop called “Pornography: How To Handle This Reality In My Ministry And My Family.”

The workshop is set for Tuesday, Feb. 13, 2018 from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the St. Dominic Center Auditorium, 2403 Holcombe Blvd., and is open to clergy, school staff, youth ministers, lay ministers and anyone else interested.
The Scripture of Luke 11:11 on Jesus’ words, “which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead?” led to Father Kilcawley’s homily about how an iPhone or any smart phone can be a fish or snake.

“As a ‘fish,’ the smart phone is a tool to call our relatives, read the Bible, download prayers and devotions, keep our calendars, and it even helps us find our way when we get lost,” Kilcawley said. “However, with a couple of clicks, it becomes a snake. It robs us of time and community, and it provides access to the ‘dark side of the Internet.’ This was a great opportunity to remind parents of their role to safeguard their children online. I received positive feedback from both parents and their children. It was a great homily on pornography — but it never mentioned pornography,” he concluded.

The workshop is being organized by the Office of Young Adult and Campus Ministry of the Archdiocese.
“It’s the newest addiction. It’s an epidemic in society that affects so many,” said Gabriela Karaszewski, director of the office.

With the rise of social media and more youths focusing on relationships online rather than personal relationships with friends and God, the problem of pornography is growing, she said.

“When smoking became so popular and cool in the 1900s, we didn’t realize until afterward the correlation of smoking with cancer. Recent studies show a large percentage of our middle schoolers and even elementary school students have been exposed at some point to pornography. How will that impact them in life?” she said.

As the main workshop speaker, Father Kilcawley is director for “Integrity Restored,” a program providing education, training, encouragement and resources to break free from pornography. The workshop can also help heal relationships and assist parents in preventing and responding to pornography exposure that can be devastating. The priest currently serves as diocesan director of the Office of Family Life for the Diocese of Lincoln in Nebraska.

In Father Kilcawley’s resource website he talks about the understandable fear of addressing pornography from the pulpit and helps guide the need for pastoral courage and preventing any shock to the innocent.
He writes in his blog, “Sometimes we can even fail to teach the truth because we fear teaching people to sin. However, we also must acknowledge the fact that we live in a pornified culture, and our young people are often not as innocent as we wish they were. When offering Mass for teens and young adults, most of them will be grateful that you are acknowledging this problem and providing insight and resources to those who need help.”

But he does warn that the Sunday homily, where small children are present, is a different matter.

He discusses how to approach the topic as a distortion of authentic love and to proclaim the truth about what love is. Parents are thankful for information and practical tools to protect their families.

Outreach for people with pornography issues may be very difficult, but accountability groups are effective for helping to achieve and maintain sobriety from pornography.

Kilcawley said, “The difficulty is getting started. A bulletin announcement that says, ‘Meeting for men who are addicted to porn this Wednesday’ will not draw anyone. I have found, however, that a strong exhortation and invitation that begins in the confessional is quite effective.”

He added, “Our goal should be to move men from the confessional to the office for pastoral counseling and then to a therapist or group. Once you have two or three men who are willing to ‘take the next step’ and come to your office to talk, you can then ask if they are willing to meet in a group setting with other men. The purpose of this group would be accountability and spiritual nourishment. You might even already have a man in your parish who is experienced with these accountability groups and may be willing to help you get things off the ground.”

Knowing where to refer is of utmost importance. Many people who struggle with sexual addiction also have deep wounds in their past. Many were victims of sexual abuse, or they were exposed to hard core pornography at such a young age that they have similar symptoms to a sexual abuse victim. He recommends starting with Catholic counselors in the area and find out if they have experience with sexual addiction and betrayal trauma for wives.

Sex Addict (SA) groups are also great resources for referrals, he said. There are many strong SA communities around the country that provide accountability and support as individuals work toward sobriety.

Karaszewski agreed, “The fact is that pornography affects many of our friends, parishioners and coworkers, but there’s not always a safe place to openly talk about it.”

The workshop goals are for those attending to become more aware of the reality and statistics of the problem of pornography and obtain resources to help those served through ministries to live free from this plague that can be present in families.

The cost of the workshop, which includes lunch, is $30. Those interested can register online at or call 713-741-8778.