Conference draws experts from around the country
by Jessica Langdon
KANSAS CITY, Kan. — Sam Meier worries about the environment his young kids will face by their middle and high school years.
So naturally, it hit home when he learned that an 8-year-old child at a large archdiocesan parish not only taught other children how to find pornography online, but also how to erase the Internet history that led them to it, said Meier, consultant for the archdiocesan My House Initiative.
Pornography and other concerns pose a very real problem in today’s world, acknowledges Patrick Trueman, an attorney and president and CEO of an organization called Morality in Media.
Trueman, who played a role in successful efforts to persuade Google Play to remove pornographic apps and Google to remove sexually explicit ads, will join a panel of leading experts at a training session on Nov. 14 in Kansas City, Kansas.
“Defending Families in a Digital World” runs from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Nov. 14 at Savior Pastoral Center in Kansas City, Kansas, and will also be available online through a live stream.
“My message will be that we condition girls to be sex objects and boys to be sexual predators from an early age,” said Trueman. “Today we have a sexual assault crisis on college campuses and in the military, our prisons are filling up with sexual offenders, countless marriages are cracking under the weight of pornography addiction.”
The “pornified culture” can tear apart the moral fabric of America, he said.
“But together we can win the war on pornography,” he added, “and there are countless hopeful signs.”
Meier hopes adults — parents, clergy, ministry leaders, teachers, coaches and others — will find hope in the conference and also take away practical resources and tools to help protect children and families from pornography, he said.
The training session has been in the works for more than 18 months.
Deacon Tony Zimmerman, lead consultant for the archdiocesan office of marriage and family life, was inspired to hold such an event in Kansas City, Kansas, after hearing several renowned speakers during a National Association of Catholic Family Life Ministers conference.
Organizers are excited about the lineup of speakers and the clergy panel for the upcoming event.
Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann, who has spoken to U.S. bishops about the importance of protecting families from pornography, will share his message.
Trueman, who knows firsthand the difference efforts against pornography can make, will speak.
Google’s name had made it onto Morality in Media’s annual “Dirty Dozen” list of facilitators of pornography for a couple of years.
Despite criticism that Google was huge and wouldn’t change, a national campaign was launched and, with the work of 200 coalition partners and a meeting with senior Google staff, the Internet giant decided to make the changes, said Trueman.
“The effort against pornography, as the archdiocese knows, is a David versus Goliath affair,” said Trueman. “Google is a Goliath. And if we can have success there, where can’t we have it?”
But Trueman’s is not the only big name on the schedule. Dr. Peter Kleponis will be speaking on brain science, pornography and Internet safety, and Bruce and Jeannie Hannemann will talk about brain chemistry, pornography and rebuilding trust in relationships.
Donny Pauling, who was once a photographer for Playboy magazine, will also share from his personal experience.
Meier has heard him speak and finds that Pauling’s testimony counters comments in secular society that pornography is harmless for adults to use or married couples to use together.
“It’s not harmless,” said Meier, adding that it harms the people using it as well as the actors.
The event will cover some of the negative impacts on the brain, he said, but it will also highlight the healthy aspects of sexuality.
Finally, Dr. Todd Bowman is a professor and national speaker on brain science and sexual integrity. He will explain how oxytocin, a brain chemical produced through closeness, creates a truer experience than the dopamine that is produced through promiscuity and shallow pleasure, explained Meier.
Terry Sexton, an attorney and member of Curé of Ars Parish in Leawood, will serve as emcee.
‘Cannot sit by silently’
Protecting families from pornography is a topic that found its way into Sexton’s heart during a Christ Renews His Parish retreat a few years ago.
He heard people talking about struggles with pornography and working to live a chaste life.
“I thought we as a church really need to do something about it,” said Sexton. “We cannot sit by silently.”
He made it known he was willing to help, and Father Craig Maxim, pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Shawnee, eventually took him up on the offer, inviting Sexton to speak at weekend Masses.
“I gave people a sense of just how big the problem is,” said Sexton. “Pornography makes more money each year than every major sport combined.”
And it’s highly addictive, he said, detailing the harm it can cause.
“Pornography essentially rewires the brain the way that cocaine does,” he said.
But he also shared what he calls a “path to victory” to help people do something about it.
“Basically, we’re all born with a hole in our hearts,” he said, adding that the space is meant for a relationship with Jesus Christ.
“If you try to fill the hole with something else, it just makes the hole bigger; it makes the ache much more profound,” he said.
He encourages people to develop a serious prayer and sacramental life, emphasizing use of the sacrament of reconciliation.
He also urges real friendships among men that will provide accountability and inspiration.
As his parents used to tell him, “Find friends who will make you better,” he said.
He didn’t know how his message would be received, but the response was one of the most moving spiritual experiences he’s had.
With cellphones and tablets and laptops just about everywhere, kids can find a lot of information at their fingertips today — including material kids probably had to go out of their way to encounter in past generations, said Meier.
“Now, I think kids almost have to go out of their way to avoid it,” he said.
He looks forward to making an impact with a hope-filled training event.
“This will be one of the finest conferences ever held on this topic, and I am excited to attend,” said Trueman.