The Full and Fair Measuring of Adultery-by-Porn

You shall not have in your bag two kinds of weights, a large and a small. You shall not have in your house two kinds of measures, a large and a small. A full and fair weight you shall have, a full and fair measure you shall have, that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. For all who do such things, all who act dishonestly, are an abomination to the Lord your God.

In response to my post on men’s refusal to divorce women over their porn habits, George Henty wrote:

“That’s a great point, Cane. It reminds me a bit of the old saying that women can forgive an affair that’s “just physical”, while men can forgive an emotional affair as long as “nothing happened”.”

Donal Graeme echoed that point (I believe) with his comment:

Yes, and that says a lot about men and how they think. Just as how women seeing it as adultery says a lot about women and how they think.

I think that it says something about almost everyone…or rather: About no one. Men’s tolerance of women’s porn use is strong evidence that no one actually believes porn use is adultery; as does the dearth of porn-use intervention programs directed specifically at women. Yet on these grounds men are punished with divorce by their wives, pastors, churches, and courts.

Committing adultery in one’s heart is a serious thing, but it’s not grounds for real divorce performed and recognized by human authority any more than thinking someone’s a fool is worthy of a real murder sentence from a court. The consequence of not making the distinction is to become an abomination.

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43 thoughts on “The Full and Fair Measuring of Adultery-by-Porn

  1. “real divorce recognized by human authority”

    I don’t understand what you mean by these words. Recognition by human authority doesn’t make a divorce real.

  2. Which is easier to say, your sins are forgiven, or rise, take up your pallet and walk? Which is real? Temporal doesn’t mean not real. Saying it’s not real isn’t spiritual but delusional.

    When a man is made into an outcast, denied the produce of his own hands and loins, and crushed by the courts, church, and society through divorce, whether right or wrong, it is real.

  3. @Bruce

    I changed “recognized by” to “performed and recognized by” to be clearer.

    Recognition does not make something real, but one of the ways we recognize what is real is by our authorities recognition of it.

    @Caspar

    To whom is your comment addressed?

  4. Hey Cane, the church now has an update to that: According to the link below, porn use by the husband apparently now qualifies not only as adultery, but also as “sexual abuse. . . ”

    You can see it here.

    . . . And if I’m following the article right, I guess I’d also have to also note the neat little innovation that allows the husband’s abuse to “worsen” when he’s not even around anymore.

    [CC: Fixed]

  5. @DA

    Welcome. I’ll read it later. It’s bound to be fodder for something. If nothing else, the desire for a larger glass of scotch.

    You have the astonishingly minute honor of having wrote the funniest quip I ever read at Dalrock’s: “Hurts so good!”

  6. I don’t know the history of usage but divorce in modern usage is a legal term that implies the marriage is dissolved and a new marriage is licit and recognized. The “law” involved may be civil law or some sort of church canon law. “Separation” is generally recognized as the reality where there is no practical relationship but remarriage is illicit. My great-grandmother divorced her first husband, my great grandfather. The State of Florida document said something like “holy matrimony forever dissolved” but declared by the authority of the State.
    Assuming this definition of divorce, saying it’s not real is recognizing that marriage is a covenantal, sacramental bond that may not be broken by any human authority.

  7. @Bruce

    You might be imputing to the words meanings that I did not intend.

    Assuming this definition of divorce, saying it’s not real is recognizing that marriage is a covenantal, sacramental bond that may not be broken by any human authority.

    That is one option. Another is that it is a covenantal, sacramental bond that should not be broken. Another would be that it a covenantal, sacramental bond that should not be broken except for a few clear reasons.

    I understand divorce to be something like killing. It is sometimes necessary and moral, but those times are strictly limited within a few circumstances. And saying someone isn’t divorced is like saying someone wasn’t killed, or isn’t a killer.

  8. To apply equal weights and measures to a husband’s porn use, a wife’s looking at another man’s home with desire is equally a cause for a divorce. To covet what is in the jeans whether a fine ass or fat wallet is to covet what belongs to another.

    Coveting is the point of Matt 5:28, not to be heavy artillery in the war against men.

  9. A sacrament can’t be undone. There isn’t such thing as an anti-sacrament.

    As the term’s used, it means separated where remarriage is licit. Christians should specify “civilly divorced” or something like that.

  10. @Bruce

    A sacrament can’t be undone. There isn’t such thing as an anti-sacrament.

    1. Who says?

    2. “Undone” is a loaded word.

    3. So excommunications are pageantry?

  11. Pornography is not even close to adultury as far as categories of sin and, more pertinantly, to the validity of one’s marriage. If a wife doesn’t like her husband’s porn habit, she shouldn’t be thinking of an alternative by ways of escaping to re-marry somebody else and a court or a church that doesn’t steadfastly forbid this line of thinking is doing the Devil’s work. If a wife doesn’t want to chance this kind of “buyer’s remorse”, then a better screening process would be in order…

  12. CC,

    The Catholic Church, the Orthodox Church, the historic Church. I can’t think of an example of an anti-sacrament. A sacrament infuses the grace that it signifies. You don’t unbaptized people, unconsecrate the host, etc.

    Excommunication is not an anti-sacrament.

  13. @Bruce

    I can’t think of an example of an anti-sacrament either; which is why I never used the term. You brought it up.

    A sacrament infuses the grace that it signifies. You don’t unbaptized people, unconsecrate the host, etc.

    Excommunication is not an anti-sacrament.

    This is what I meant by “undone” being a loaded term. Of course one cannot unmix (undo) concrete. Yet concrete can be pulverized into dust. Using words like “undone” and “anti-sacrament” are hand-waving because they are meant to distract from the fact that covenants can be broken.

    The sacraments of baptism, confirmation and ordination/holy orders can and are pulverized, stripped away, whathaveyou by ecclesial powers when such a sad thing is deemed necessary.

  14. The whole point of declaring porn use adultery is to give the wife a lever over the husband, including some semblance of justification for divorce.

    What I find interesting is that Christianity seems to render women weaker, more fragile, and less able to cope with life than women who have rejected Christ altogether. I know many non-Christian couples who openly admit to watching porn together. Men discovered watching porn doesn’t seem to cause women in the non-Christian world all that much concern. But Christian women inevitably profess to be devastated and betrayed by this. Without justifying porn use, you would think Christianity would equip a person more to expect disappointment from our fellow man, and how to resolve it. But apparently not. Or at least Churchianity doesn’t.

  15. Excommunication has been used as punishment/penalty/penance, priests can be stripped of faculties. I do not find these actions to be the destruction of sacraments.

  16. Cane, I was making a couple of points. I will try and clarify here:

    1) The first and most important point is that men and women are fundamentally different. And not simply on a physical level, but a mental/emotional level. Obvious to us here, but still. Sometimes the obvious needs repeating. Especially in this day and age.

    2) I was also hinting at the point Bruce made about what specifically “triggers” a sundering type response in both men and women.

    3) Men might not believe porn to be adultery, but they are willing to play along that it is if need be, or at least aren’t willing to agitate against the idea.

  17. Also, as for women, it may well be that women don’t see it as adultery either, but treat it as adultery… because if it is treated as adultery it gets them the divorce they want. Women are result driven, and will believe whatever they need to believe in order to get the result they want.

  18. Women are result driven, and will believe whatever they need to believe in order to get the result they want.

    I’m not sure that what I said there is quite right, but I think I was close to something there.

  19. The “porn is adultery” meme is ostensibly based on Christ’s statement that a man looking at a woman to lust after her has committed adultery in his heart. If I recall correctly, that statement occurs in the same sermon where Christ makes it clear that the Jews/Pharisees had made it entirely too easy to divorce. Anyone with a brain (or without a pro-divorce agenda) would realize that the Christ who just made divorce much more difficult to justify would not turn around minutes later and essentially decree that divorce would be justified almost universally (because we can safely assume that most if not all husbands have at some time or other committed the sin of lust in their hearts). Speaking of which (and showing my age), apparently Roslyn Carter had grounds to divorce Jimmy, by Jimmy’s own admission in his Playboy interview. But I don’t recall anyone lobbying her to take that step back in the ’70’s.

  20. Something pertinent from a cultural observation standpoint. In some old movies, such as the Grass is Greener, adultery, actual adultery, was seen as something that happened to a marriage not as a something that ended a marriage. Of course it was a terrible thing that might lead to the end of a marriage, but the institution was apparently still strong enough that even a legitimate cause for divorce may not be sufficient cause.

    The question is why are we looking to grease the skids? It’s like defaulting to pulling the plug when we don’t know if the patient has a fighting chance or not.

  21. From the Catholic perspective, porn is indisputably adultery (what is it if not looking at another woman/man with lust in your heart?), but it is not grounds for divorce, because Christ has forbidden it. I leave aside the scandal of the modern Catholic annulment mill, which is a historical anomaly we’re stuck with for the foreseeable future.

  22. @Murray

    Welcome.

    From the Catholic perspective, porn is indisputably adultery (what is it if not looking at another woman/man with lust in your heart?), but it is not grounds for divorce, because Christ has forbidden it.

    But are there grounds for anyone to accuse someone else of adultery? Can anyone accuse someone of actionable adultery-by-porn; in good faith; keeping in mind the full and fair measure by one weight and not two?

    If you got word that city police were rounding up name-callers and executing them, would your response be: “From the Catholic perspective, name-calling is indisputably murder (what is it if not anger at his brother?), but it is not grounds for execution because Christ has forbidden it.”?

    I leave aside the scandal of the modern Catholic annulment mill, which is a historical anomaly we’re stuck with for the foreseeable future.

    It should not be left aside too long. I am an only an amateur observer of the RCC, but I do not think the annulment mill is an anomaly. I understand that on Pope Francis’ watch the process has been further streamlined; less voices to get in the way of a speedy solution. The desire for speedy solution says it all. The speediest “solution” is always going to be to annul.

  23. The sin is lust (adulterous-lust if you prefer) which is a mortal sin in-and-of itself and also a near-occasion of sin for the mortal sin of adultery. Adultery is the action of having sex with someone who isn’t your spouse. If I am wrong then I will accept correction from Murray.

    “I do not think the annulment mill is an anomaly.”

    Catholics have a long view of things (2000 years). From that view, it is an anomaly. The anomaly is largely (though not exclusively) an American thing since about 4/5 of annulments occur here. It won’t go on forever because the Church is a 2000 year old institution whose doctrine can’t change.

  24. @Cane Caldo

    I understand divorce to be something like killing. It is sometimes necessary and moral, but those times are strictly limited within a few circumstances. And saying someone isn’t divorced is like saying someone wasn’t killed, or isn’t a killer.

    Extremely well put. I read some time back a Catholic critique of the Annulment process in the US. One of his criticism was that the RCC requires that the person who wants out of the marriage get a civil divorce first, and then they can start the annulment process. He argued that the reason was the RCC didn’t want to have the church process subject to discovery in a divorce proceeding. Either way, your description of civil divorce shows the problem with this. Q: Should I kill my neighbor? A: Go ahead and kill him and we’ll let you know after the fact if it was justified.

    On the link above regarding sexual abuse, that is truly disturbing. The man is in prison in Iran for preaching the word, and being beaten by his jailers. His wife in the states meanwhile suspends her campaign to get him free, and sends out a mass email claiming he is abusing her from his jail cell. It is even worse than that, because one of her complaints is that he “sexually abused” her by viewing pornography, and she claims the abuse got worse after he was arrested. Surely he isn’t being provided with porn in an Iranian jail; her only possible reason for writing about his porn use was to discredit him. Can you imagine how his tormentors will use this to make him even more miserable. The betrayal is profound, and her meek attempt to walk it back is only a first step at repentance.

  25. I found the piece I was referring to: Defending Families Against Forced No-fault Divorce: American Annulment Mills

    A worse problem for the Church is complicity in promoting divorce. A conscientious petitioner (the party seeking the annulment) would first seek an annulment to be assured that no valid sacramental marriage existed, prior to seeking a civil divorce. However, faced with this request, tribunal officials respond that a divorce is required prior to accepting an application for annulment, allegedly to assure that the marriage is irreconcilable. But Jesus clearly condemned divorce even without remarriage, “Therefore, what God has joined together let no man put asunder” (Mk 10:9), and canon 1060 stipulates, “in doubt the validity of a marriage must be upheld until the contrary is proven.” Therefore, a tribunal must prejudge the marriage to be invalid prior to judging its validity, in order to justify a divorce preceding an annulment. Assurances of obtaining an easy annulment, given by the pro-annulment pastoral tribunals to perplexed petitioners (little or no effort is made toward reconciling the couple), actually precipitates the divorce. Once divorce is granted, which is a given with no-fault divorce laws, the tribunal is programmed to grant an annulment.

    Link: http://www.sanctepater.com/2010/09/defending-families-against-forced-no.html

  26. From the “Men jailed; women hardest hit” department:

    “Man imprisoned for abuse, continues abuse from jail cell”

    Dudes, what power we have over our women. Hold your head up with pride, and feel the male privilege! Saeed is only eight-and-out, though, right? Maybe he got AMOG’ed by a death-row inmate.

  27. Adultery requires a married person as the target. How is it possible to have adulterous thoughts or intentions for fictional characters or even single people in pics?

    Adultery is to steal or abuse another man’s wife.

  28. @Bruce

    The sin is lust (adulterous-lust if you prefer) which is a mortal sin in-and-of itself and also a near-occasion of sin for the mortal sin of adultery.

    Lust is sin. We agree.

    Adultery is the action of having sex with someone who isn’t your spouse.

    Adultery is the action of having sex with a wife that is not your wife. Either way: It’s a digression from the topic of whether or not Christians judge with two (or more) different weights; one regarding adultery of the heart, and another regarding murder of the heart; one regarding men, and one regarding women; one regarding themselves, and one regarding another.

    A man, if he ever viewed porn, and who has been wrung through the courts for divorce, will be penalized for it, and told he had it coming. The woman who has hated that man in her heart and divorced him will be soothed and even rewarded.

    Some of those kind of doubly-weighted people who would do such things are in this thread.

  29. That is true but an incomplete definition. More formally, adultery is sex between a married person and an unmarried person, or between a married person and the spouse of another person.

    But as you say it’s beside the point you were making. I think I equivocated your “double-weighting” with your distinction between “adultery in the heart” and “adultery” and missed the bad double-weighting that was the entire point of the post. I can be a bit dense.

    I agree with the rest of your comment.

  30. Thanks, Cane. Perhaps I’m missing your point. I don’t think I disagree with anything you write about the real-world, on-the-ground facts of porn use as grounds for divorce. But then, I reject divorce in toto, for any reason whatsoever (apart from the disputed definition of porneia), so I would say that.

    Bruce is right, and I was imprecise. I was focusing perhaps too much on your assertion that no one actually believes porn use is adultery, since I do believe that. Christ says that anyone who lusts after a woman has already committed adultery with her in his heart. The critical determinant is that the action takes place internally; it makes no difference whether I lust after a coed in a g-string on the beach (dog walking can be tough in the summer around here!), a woman at work, or a woman engaged in sex acts on a screen. (Lust here meaning the deliberate consent to engage in sexual fantasies about a non-spouse.) If I (say) watch a woman on screen performing oral sex, chances are I am focusing on her physical features and her technique and imagining myself in place of the man on screen, whose presence and physical qualities are largely incidental.

    As for annulments, Bruce is right again. We Catholics think in terms of a history spanning almost 2,000 years, in comparison to which the scandalous practices of contemporary first-world annulment tribunals is a mere blip. A filthy, hellish blip, but a blip nonetheless. And yes, it’s about to get much worse with these new fast-track procedures.

    But I’m sorry if I derailed your point. I guess I’m that guy who arrives late to a conversation and starts holding forth on some tangential matter as if he knows better than everyone else. Note to self: Don’t be that guy.

  31. @Murray,

    Matt 5:28 is a standard for judging your own standards, not a set of tweezers for plucking specks out of eyes.

    By whatever standard you judge yourself not sinful, the standard is wrong.

    Jesus’ rebuke, “Hypocrite, take the log out of your own eye” is meant for the kind of person who is inclined to say, “You committed adultery by looking at nekkid pitchers!”

  32. Well, I’ll take the both/and on this one. I’m absolutely not able to judge someone else’s internal disposition, only my own, but as an objective matter of Catholic moral teaching, deliberate consent to sexual fantasy about a non-spouse is lust (aka “adultery in the heart”), regardless of the medium by which it comes. I don’t expect you to agree solely on that basis, but that’s the way we see it.

    But I already seem to have diverted Cane’s discussion from his original point, so I don’t want to belabor things much further.

  33. @Murray

    but as an objective matter of Catholic moral teaching, deliberate consent to sexual fantasy about a non-spouse is lust (aka “adultery in the heart”), regardless of the medium by which it comes.

    I don’t think Caspar is saying that the medium matters, nor that lust in the heart is not objectively lust. I presume that he agrees.

    Everyone sees that Prots are infested with the forces of divorce, but it is the Romans who have recently ended a bitter debate on what to do with their divorced. The developing/progressive teachings and laws of Rome are not convincing to even your Pope! So what I have written about is not an issue divided along Prot/RC lines. If there is a line, it is along the fault between orthodox/conservatives and liberals.

    We will and must judge people and circumstances (Matthew 5), but we have to be careful for our brothers’ sakes and for our own in how we apply that judgment; not just whether the law has been transgressed (we know that is the case), but whether and how to hold the lawbreaker to account (Matthew 7). I would say that we have not been faithful with the unrighteous wealth of this world; that we have not been like the dishonest manager. (Luke 16)

  34. I’m pretty sure I don’t disagree with anything you write there, and I completely agree on the overriding importance of the orthodox/liberal distinction compared to sectarian differences. I didn’t raise my Catholicism to start an argument or sound triumphalist, but to provide some background to my views on porn-as-adultery. My apologies if it came off that way.

  35. Pastor Saeed’s wife may have just killed him.

    The will to live is the single most important factor in survival. The will to live requires a reason to live. Family provides the most tangible reason to live. She just plunged the dagger hilt-deep and twisted it. God help Pastor Saeed and his family.

  36. I guess sickly sweet churchianity has revealed itself in Pastor Saeed’s wife for what it is. Underneath the saccharine sweetness and gaiety it all is a rotting corpse.

  37. Pingback: People Die | Things that We have Heard and Known

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