Question: Is it a sin to willfully look at persons or things that one are sexually attracted to and that arouse one’s sexual desire? Is it permitted to seek directly the proximate occasion for sinning for a spiritual or temporal good of our own or of a neighbor?
Answer: Yes, it is a sin to willfully look at, and to continue to look at, things that arouse one’s sexual desire. In addition, the Church also condemns even putting oneself in “the proximate occasion for sinning for a spiritual or temporal good of our own or of a neighbor” (Pope Innocent XI) which shows us that one is not even allowed to watch or listen to things like dangerous and worldly media or remain in situations where one can become tempted to commit a sin. This, of course, proves that the Church abhors every act of the will where we unnecessarily allow ourselves to be tempted, or to be in a place or situation where we know that there is a great chance that something will tempt us, or be against God.
Custody of the eyes is always necessary for obtaining salvation, and so it is clearly sinful to fix one’s eyes on a person or an object that one knows will arouse sinful thoughts and desires. “Brother Roger, a Franciscan of singular purity, being once asked why he was so reserved in his intercourse with women, replied, that when men avoid the occasions of sin, God preserves them; but when they expose themselves to danger, they are justly abandoned by the Lord, and easily fall into some grievous transgressions.” (St. Alphonsus Liguori, The True Spouse of Jesus Christ, Mortification of the Eyes, p. 221)
Our enemy, the Devil, first and foremost comes to us and enter our hearts through our eyes. No other sense is more potent in tempting man. Learning to control what you look at is absolutely crucial in order to be saved, for every time you look willfully with lust in your heart at an unchaste, enticing or unsuitable object, or any object at all for that matter, even if modest, you have most assuredly committed a mortal sin! Therefore, whenever you come across something sinful with your eyes (or even something licit but which is very beautiful) you must make a habit to look down or away – for the sin of lust will not be far away – making the sign of the cross and saying 1 or 3 Hail Mary’s, which is highly recommended since it helps against impurities.
Countless of Saints have rebuked people for the great error of failing to control their eyes. St. Ignatius of Loyola for example rebuked a brother for looking at his face for more than a brief moment. St. Bridget made a specific confession for every single face she saw during each day! This is true wisdom, but the world and current custom and habit tells you to always watch the person you are with, or looking at, in the face, even if they are on the Television! This is a bad custom or habit to say the least. This will many times lead to sins and impure thoughts and temptations of the Devil. Modesty and purity requires us to not stare people in the face, and especially the eyes, even at all, or only for a very short moment, even when we talk to them directly. In former times, this was common knowledge.
St. Alphonsus Liguori writes the following concerning this: “But I do not see how looks at young persons of a different sex can be excused from the guilt of a venial fault, or even from mortal sin, when there is proximate danger of criminal consent. "It is not lawful," says [Pope] St. Gregory, "to behold what it is not lawful to covet." The evil thought which proceeds from looks, though it should be rejected, never fails to leave a stain upon the soul.” (The True Spouse of Jesus Christ, Mortification of the Eyes, p. 221)
This virtue may indeed be hard to put into practice for many in the beginning, but overtime and with practice, it will become easier.
The above quote from St. Alphonsus also shows why most of the things broadcasted on the media are totally unsuitable to watch or read. News in itself isn’t evil or contrary to God or morals but most newspapers or news-channels today have totally unacceptable pictures or immodestly dressed or very beautiful tv-hosts, which make them extremely unsuitable to read or watch, or at least to fix one’s eye on. Remember, "It is not lawful," says St. Gregory, "to behold what it is not lawful to covet." To read newspapers which you know will contain many unchaste, immodest and sexual pictures and useless stories about sex, etc., is complete idiocy and will lead to sins of the flesh if you cannot guard yourself. Therefore, if you care for your salvation, you must not read any newspaper or magazine or watch any show or film that contains immodesty of people tempting you.
St. Alphonsus, On Avoiding the Occasion of Sin: “Now, no one can receive absolution unless he purpose firmly to avoid the occasion of sin; because to expose himself to such occasions, though sometimes he should not fall into sin, is for him a grievous sin. And when the occasion is voluntary and is actually existing at the present time, the penitent cannot be absolved until he has actually removed the occasion of sin. For penitents find it very difficult to remove the occasion; and if they do not take it away before they receive absolution they will scarcely remove it after they have been absolved.” (The complete ascetical works of St. Alphonsus, vol 15, pp. 543)
It is highly important for one’s salvation to block and not allow images to be shown when surfing the internet because without a doubt, almost all sites without exception will have some form or another of immodestly dressed women displayed; and, in the cases they are not immodest, they are still very beautiful or sensual looking. It’s unavoidable, even if the article may seem sound. In truth, I have seen and learned that from personal experience too many times.
Adblock or Adblock Plus extension for Firefox or Google Chrome web-browsers are also good tools to get rid of all internet ads, immoral or otherwise. And so if people don’t use a web-browser that can use extensions (or if they don’t have an Adblock installed) they must change internet browser and install an Adblock by virtue of obedience to God’s law that demands modesty and the avoidance of occasions of falling into sin when it is possible to do so.
That one must avoid the proximate occasion of sin in order to be Saved and receive Forgiveness of one’s sins from God is a certain fact of the Natural and Divine law that has always been taught by the Church and Her Saints. For instance, Blessed Pope Innocent XI during his papacy, condemned three propositions that denied this truth:
Pope Innocent XI, Various Errors on Moral Matters #61, March 4, 1679: “He can sometimes be absolved, who remains in a proximate occasion of sinning, which he can and does not wish to omit, but rather directly and professedly seeks or enters into.” – Condemned statement by Pope Innocent XI.
Pope Innocent XI, Various Errors on Moral Matters #62, March 4, 1679: “The proximate occasion for sinning is not to be shunned when some useful and honorable cause for not shunning it occurs.” – Condemned statement by Pope Innocent XI.
Pope Innocent XI, Various Errors on Moral Matters #63, March 4, 1679: “It is permitted to seek directly the proximate occasion for sinning for a spiritual or temporal good of our own or of a neighbor.” – Condemned statement by Pope Innocent XI.
Here we see that the Church confirms that the opinion that “It is permitted to seek directly the proximate occasion for sinning for a spiritual or temporal good of our own or of a neighbor” is directly condemned. And this condemnation is about those who “seek directly the proximate occasion for sinning” for a good cause, rather than for a selfish cause. But most people in this world do not even watch or listen to evil and ungodly media for a good cause but rather for the sake of pleasure or for other unnecessary reasons, and it is certainly not necessary “for a spiritual or temporal good of our own or of a neighbor.” This shows us that the Church and the Natural Law absolutely abhors and condemns the opinion that one can watch or listen to media that can tempt a person to sin. Indeed, not only the occasions of sin, like evil, worldly and ungodly media, but also the “the proximate occasion for sinning for a spiritual or temporal good of our own or of a neighbor” must be totally rejected and shunned if one wants to attain salvation.
People who reject this advice and continue to put themselves in a proximate or near occasion of sin will undoubtedly lose their souls, since God will allow the devil to fool them in some way since they rejected the Word of God, and chose to put themselves in the way of temptation. Many there are, indeed, who presumptuously claim that they won’t get tempted by watching or listening to worldly media, or that they will be able to control it, but here we see in the condemnations of Blessed Pope Innocent XI that one may not even put oneself in “the proximate occasion for sinning for a spiritual or temporal good of our own or of a neighbor”. God will undoubtedly leave a person who is presumptuous and prideful, and the Church and Her Saints have always condemned such individuals that trusts in their own strength. As a matter of fact, one can even understand from the light of natural reason that one is not allowed to put oneself in the occasion of sin, so those who do this act will have no excuse whatsoever on the day of judgment. In addition, a person who watches bad, worldly or ungodly media, tempts his fellow man to watch these evil things also, and thus, by his bad example, puts both himself and others in the way of damnation by his selfishness and presumption. So in addition to damning himself if he obstinately continues in such a course of life, such a person also actually tries to damn others by his bad example, trying to drag others with him into the eternal darkness and fire of hell. This is a kind of evil that is breathtaking to behold! It is thus a fact “that when men avoid the occasions of sin, God preserves them; but when they expose themselves to danger, they are justly abandoned by the Lord, and easily fall into some grievous transgressions.” (St. Alphonsus Liguori, The True Spouse of Jesus Christ, Mortification of the Eyes, p. 221)
The pitiful and unreasonable addiction to media by so many “Catholics” or “Christians” today is something new, and almost no one before the 20th century was so miserably addicted to it as the weak and bad willed population of our own times! The amount of pitiful and pathetic excuses that we have had to hear from bad willed people who try to excuse their act of putting themselves in the proximate or near occasion of sin is, simply said, almost endless. Even though they understand that they are not allowed to endanger their souls, they just couldn’t care since they are hooked on the media, just like a drug addict, who need his daily “fix” to endure the day. For about a hundred years ago, almost no media existed as compared to today, and people thrived and the crime rates was as nothing when compared to today. So the unreasonable addiction to media cannot be excused, for man does not need media at all to survive, and putting oneself in the near or “the proximate occasion for sinning for a spiritual or temporal good of our own or of a neighbor” is directly condemned by the Church.
Concerning music, it is just a fact that all kinds of popular music are mortally sinful trash that is made by the Devil for the sole reason to drag your soul to an eternal hell fire. There will be countless of impure suggestions toward sin along with a rejection of any kind of morality and decency. Popular music praises sin, and oftentimes speak against God and morality. In short, it contains the same errors and sins that worldly media have, such as: immodest clothing, adultery, blasphemy, foul language and cursing, greed, fornication, make-up, vanity, gloating, magic, occultism, acceptance of false religions, idol-making of mortal humans etc... and are many times even worse. Popular songs that doesn’t praise the idolatry and worship of man is hard to find today, and it’s even harder today to find popular songs which does not praise or worship sin and worldliness as norm. But worse still are the music-videos. A person cannot even listen to these songs without grave sin, but how much more then does a person sin when watching these sinful music-videos with half naked women/men worshiping sin and the occult by deed and example? This is sadly what many of your children are watching daily on the TV you have given them! You must reject this evil music entirely and not accept this to be played in your home.
Not all music are bad or sinful, you can, for example, listen to religious music, instrumental music, classical music or other music in line with decency and morals. But the highest good is of course not to listen to music at all. Giving up one’s own will is always the highest good.
The best music which one may listen to is of course religious music, since it draws your mind and heart toward our Lord Jesus Christ, Mary, the joy of Heaven, etc.
The next best music which one may listen to is classical music and instrumental music where no singing is involved, for this will not affect your mind toward worldly things as worldly songs always otherwise do.
The worst kind of music one could listen to is music which sings about worldly affairs. A person that listens much to music should avoid listening to worldly songs, otherwise he or she will be drawn toward these worldly things and affairs which are sung about. It is also very necessary to test yourself if you are addicted to music in any way, even totally acceptable music. This is easily done by going a few days without music so that you can test if some withdrawal symptoms effect you. All addictions of earthly things are evil and effect the soul in a harmful way. Just because you don’t see or understand the effect doesn’t mean that it isn’t happening. Spiritual sloth and depression among other things are common attributes of an addiction to media or music.
The effects from the wrong kind of music, and secular songs are very dangerous. There are numerous quotes from the secular world that can be brought forth to prove this point.
"Music directly represents the passions of states of the soul-gentleness, anger, courage, temperance... if one listens to the wrong kind of music he will become the wrong kind of person..." (Quote from Aristotle)
Brain specialists, Dr. Richard Pellegrino declared that music has the uncanny power to "...trigger a flood of human emotions and images that have the ability to instantaneously produce very powerful changes in emotional states." He went on to say: "Take it from a brain guy. In 25 years of working with the brain, I still cannot affect a person's state of mind the way that one simple song can."
Dr. Allan Bloom is quite correct when he asserts that "popular music has one appeal only, a barbaric appeal, to sexual desire... but sexual desire undeveloped and untutored... popular music gives children, on a silver plate, with all the public authority of the entertainment industry, everything their parents always used to tell them they had to wait for until they grew up... Young people know that rock and popular music has the beat of sexual intercourse... Never was there such an art form directed so exclusively to children... [Every Catholic must of course understand that masturbation is a clear mortal sin!] The words implicitly and explicitly describe bodily acts that satisfy sexual desire and treat them as its only natural and routine culmination for children who do not yet have the slightest imagination of marriage or family." (Dr. Allan Bloom, Closing of the American Mind, pp. 73-74).
Dr. Allan Bloom: "Today, a very large proportion of young people between the ages of 10 and 20 live for music. It is their passion; nothing else excites them as it does; they cannot take seriously anything alien to music. When they are in school and with their families, they are longing to plug themselves back into their music. Nothing surrounding them - school, family, church - has anything to do with their musical world. At best that ordinary life is neutral, but mostly it is an impediment, drained of vital..."
Dr. Paul King, medical director of the adolescent program at Charter Lakeside Hospital, in Memphis, TN, says more than 80% of his teen patients are there because of rock music. Dr. King says, "the lyrics become a philosophy of life, a religion."
To allow yourself or your children to have any kind of evil or ungodly music like rock, pop, rap, techno, trance, or any kind of music that is even remotely similar to this is mortally sinful and really idiotic when presented with these facts. Billions of souls are burning now as we speak in the excruciating fire of hell since they refused to stop listening to bad and sinful music! You will have your children eating your heart out for all eternity in hell because of the violent hatred they will have against you, since you could have hindered them in their sin, but refused to do so. In short, just like with all bad or worldly media, God will abandon a person who listens to such worldly music since they chose to put themselves in the proximate occasion for sinning.
In conclusion: We advice all people to use the internet in this safe way as described above, and always have images blocked. And we want to warn people not be deceived by the Devil or their evil attachment to images on this point. Again, remember what St. Alphonsus says: “when men avoid the occasions of sin, God preserves them; but when they expose themselves to danger, they are justly abandoned by the Lord, and easily fall into some grievous transgressions.”
Attachment to images made me delay using the internet in this safe way for way too long. If there are images you want to view, then you can always open another web-browser (with an ad-block installed!) where images are enabled, or enable them quickly on the web-browser you’re currently on. (Or you can just right click on the image and press “view image” on Firefox so that the image can be seen.) Most of the time there are no real reason or necessity to see any images anyway. Only curiosity makes us want to see them. Of course, when images are necessary or needed, then it is lawful to surf with them on for as long as it is necessary, provided it is not a danger to one’s soul and the site is not bad. But how often do we need to see images at all times? Never. Only at a particular time or occasion, such as for a work, or for curiosity when reading some article, but other than that we have no reason or necessity to have them on, and therefore, they must be off.
The best and easiest user experience in using the internet in this safe way is using Google Chrome or Firefox web-browser with an add-on or extension installed that manually blocks and unblocks all images easily with just one click of a button, which means that you will not have to enter settings all the time to do this. By using extension to block images, you can just click on the icon visible on the top-right side of the web-browser, thus manually blocking and unblocking all images.
For an ad-block for Google Chrome web-browser, visit these links:
Also, on Firefox, the images displayed by Google is not blocked by image blockers. I don’t know why this is. On Chrome however all images get’s blocked. (That is why we recommend users to use Google chrome instead of Firefox.) So when you search for something on this browser, you will not risk seeing something bad being displayed by Google against your will. The only option for Firefox is to block these images manually through adblock filters. If anyone want help with this, just contact us and we can give you the information and code needed.
Always surf without images on. Don’t be a fool by rejecting this advice of the Popes and Saints of the Church concerning the unlawfulness of putting oneself in the proximate occasion for sinning and of looking on things that are unlawful to covet or behold and that are a danger to one’s salvation. If you want to see images on some site, then allow the images only temporarily and afterwards block it again so that you do not continue surfing the internet with images on.