FIRST an explanation–I am sharing this difficult post because I know I am not the only one out there who has gone where “no man should go” on the Internet. Actually that includes the women too, but it is even more a men’s problem and so I address it as such.
In the last months I have “discovered” a different kind of chat room online. In the past, when I have visited sexual sites, which I have from time to time even as a Catholic Christian, it has primarily been to view pictures or videos, or, at times, as the name indicates, just “chat,” usually through text or instant messaging. But recently I have stumbled upon sites that are actual live cameras. You can speak to the performers as well as watch them. And here is what I have discovered:
1) Most of those who perform are from incredibly poor nations.
2) Many of them are doing this, not because they wish to but because they have sick or needy family members or are desperate for money or work in order to support themselves.
3) A lot of them are really nice people. A number aren’t.
4) The site owners sponsoring such sites take generally 2/3 or more of any money the performer earns, even if it is done from their own camera and home. Many of those owners are rich and getting richer in the process. And the entertainers remain sometimes near penniless.
5) It is far more addicting to speak to “real” humans than to look at even the most well-filmed videos who cannot interact with those of us who struggle in such areas.
Now none of that should come as a surprise to us who, from this affluent nation, think we are living in “poverty” when we do not have the money to order our favorite pizza or have our weekly steak dinner and wine on occasion. Desperate people, such as the performers above mentioned, do desperate things, and then doing those things simply makes them more desperate. One, a young man from Russia who I befriended offsite for a bit, once told me he had no reason to live. Pretty sad for a person who has enviable good looks and a boatload of charm when needed.
My latest excursions into this world have, ironically, come at a time when it seems God has been the most real to me and given me new and greater opportunities to share my conversion story. That too should not be a surprise, as satan would like nothing more than to derail us or cause our words for God to seem as lies.
And that brings me the reason for this post–there is a particular person of late who I have spoken with online, one I met in one such room, who is also a Catholic Christian from the Philippines and who I have corresponded with outside of the chat room on a friendship level. Tonight, after a very good Confession this morning, I wrote him the following (slightly edited for length and detail) just to let him know that those chats cannot continue. It was not easy for me to do. I have been celibate, at least on a face to face ‘real time” basis, for the last 16 years, and realized around a decade ago that this was God’s calling for me on a lifetime level, although I have at times and on occasion admittedly questioned that. But I remain convinced that it is, and I am okay with that. Usually. Celibacy does not mean blindness or lack of need for companionship though. And sometimes we go for that comradeship in the wrong places or at the wrong times, even as Christians. I will just speak for myself and say I do anyway. Now you know.
I do not yet know what his reaction will be when he reads what I wrote–I hope it will be positive and understanding. But it may not be. And, if not, I want to be sure in either case that I have done all I can for his soul and mine too. We are, after all, our brother’s keepers, and I have not done so well in this case, as well as in a few others. So once, for all, I would simply say I am very sorry–and having received God’s forgiveness, I ask for the same from any who I have hurt by my incredible weakness which I allow to rule me from time to time. Please read on, and when you are done, say a prayer for him, and one for me too. Thanks and God bless. Here is the message I sent to him:
Well here is the reason I have been needing to talk with you. Here goes: As you pointed out, I am a “real” Catholic. When I do into rooms such as online flirting rooms, I do not act like it. You said I do not need to apologize. But I do. I was, for a very long time, 35 years in fact, away from the Church. I did many things during those years that I am ashamed of. And I will not deny I have been tempted much lately. Using our Lord’s name in vain, using his gifts to us of body and soul for our own sake and not His, all of these things are wrong.
This is not meant as an excuse but I tend to do these things when I am tired, angry, under much pressure, not feeling good, and the like. My dad passed away 2 months ago and it has been a very tough time for me financially too. So it is easy during such times to want to escape, to go into a world of beautiful men (or women) or lustfulness, just in order to feel better for a short time. But I find it never works. In the end I am always sorry.
I went to a beautiful Confession today and a huge burden was lifted. But it left me with a problem too. I have a new friend, and that is you. I wish to talk to you, remain your friend, and get to know you as a person. But I want to do it in a pure and holy way and not in a sinful way. Can we do that? I hope so. But it will mean not talking when you are online taking off your clothes for me or for others. I will never judge you or your heart for your actions, that is not it at all. I am just trying to protect myself. So if we can limit our talks to email for now, and be good friends, but not sexual, I will gladly remain your friend and hope that you will also do so.
The bottom line is this, I like you very much. But I love God even more so. Even though I have acted like I did not. For that I do owe you this one last apology, and a commitment that it will not happen again. But being a genuine friend and brother to you, that I can do! And would like to if you would also. I hope to hear from you soon. And I thank you for being a kind and good person.
There you have it. And now the challenge–do you too need to go to a potentially embarrassing Confession? If you do, I can only suggest to go for it without further delay or excuse. And, if in the process, you find there are some you need to mend fences with along the way, do that as well. Whether they respect you or not afterwards, you will be at peace. Totally. And no one can ever “blackmail” you either, whether emotionally or otherwise. And that too is a great feeling.