Bishop Ricken

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The Most Rev. David L. Ricken is the 12th bishop of the Diocese of Green Bay.

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Reclaiming sexual health

By | October 19, 2011

North American statistics indicate that porn makes more money than Hollywood at the box office; more than the sum of NBC’s, CBS’s and ABC’s revenues; more than the music industry generates from record sales; and more than all major professional sports in the United States combined. It is estimated that 60 percent of Christian men and 30 percent of Christian women are addicted to pornography.

In 56 percent of divorces in the United States “an obsessive interest in Internet pornography” was a significant factor. A survey conducted among U.S. Christians revealed that 50 percent of men and 20 percent of women struggled with pornography use. Fifty-one percent of pastors say Internet porn is a temptation and 37 percent say it is a current struggle. Every year, millions of Christians are caught off guard and become hopelessly addicted.

Pornography undermines human dignity. It goes against God’s plan for the body and the intimacy of sexual union in marriage. We must learn more about this scourge and its effects on families and offer concrete ways to offer hope and healing.

It’s very important to understand that those who become trapped in pornography addiction and other unwanted sexual behaviors are not evil, broken or a lost cause. In fact, the profile of an Internet pornography addict is intelligent, sensitive and spiritual. There’s a logical brain-science explanation behind their struggles. Pornography viewing triggers the brain into releasing a tidal wave of internal chemicals, including dopamine, endorphins, norepinephrine and more. The effect on the brain is very similar to street drug use, and can quickly create a literal “chemical dependency.”

In reality, Internet pornography is electronic cocaine. These are good, valuable human beings who have developed a dependency on an extremely powerful brain-chemical-releasing activity for escape, self-medication and pleasure. This is not unlike an addiction to alcohol, drugs, food or any other personal “drug of choice.”

One of the great challenges in helping people break out of pornography and other unwanted sexual behaviors is the extreme fear, shame and embarrassment they feel. Because of this, many keep their struggles a secret and suffer alone. I have long wrestled with the challenge of how to reach these suffering souls.

As St. Paul said in his letter to the Romans:

“Do not conform yourselves to this age but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, so you may judge what is God’s will, what is good, pleasing and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

I am writing to the people of the Diocese of Green Bay asking for help in bringing a shame-based topic out into the light of the Holy Spirit where the hope of reclaiming sexual health can be brought to others. Under my direction, Bruce and Jeannie Hannemann of Elizabeth Ministry International have been instrumental in creating a private, anonymous, online, recovery program for overcoming pornography and other unhealthy sexual behavior.

I am very pleased to make you aware of this wonderful resource for hope, help and healing. As with any addiction or unhealthy behavior, there is a logical, achievable path to breaking free. Reclaim Sexual Health is a professional and science-based Catholic online program created to help individuals move forward on their personal path to freedom from unwanted sexual behaviors.

Because Reclaim is completely private and anonymous, struggling individuals can safely go online and receive the education, tools, resources and support they so desperately need. I am very impressed with the way in which Reclaim has combined research-based brain science and recovery methods with the theology of the body and other important Catholic doctrines and teachings. Science and spirituality work in harmony to help individuals break free.

In addition to helping those who are addicted, we must also reach out to their spouses, parents and other family members. These individuals often need to experience their own healing process. Reclaim provides free resources, training and support for family members, as well as clergy and counselors.

We need to get the word out to those who may be struggling, and to the families currently affected by this affliction. Join me in praying for these efforts and those who need to reclaim their sexual health! To learn more or get involved, contact Elizabeth Ministry International Retreat and Resource Center, (920)766-9380; email: [email protected]; website:

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