BY ELIZABETH WONG BARNSTEAD, THE WESTERN KENTUCKY CATHOLIC
Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Hopkinsville recently launched a new anti-pornography program from the Diocese of Owensboro and according to parish team member Dee Dailey, “the response from parishioners has been good.”
The program is called the Clean Heart Initiative (CleanHeartInitiative.org) and based on the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ 2015 pastoral statement on combatting pornography, “Create in Me a Clean Heart.”
“I hope and pray that the information passed out has opened the door to further discussion in relationships where it’s needed,” said Dailey.
Sts. Peter and Paul’s initiative was kicked off with Safe Haven Sunday on the weekend of February 15/16, 2020. Dailey said the kickoff was preceded by several weeks of information in the bulletin.
That weekend after each Mass, Sts. Peter and Paul ushers and Clean Heart team members handed out information to all adults over 18.
“It included several brochures and links to sites that are helpful for individuals and families dealing with the issue of pornography, that we received through Danny May (diocesan director of marriage and family life), after reviewing them with him and in committee,” said Dailey.
Fr. Richard Meredith, pastor of Sts. Peter and Paul, said most adults accepted the materials they were offered after the Masses, and that the parish held follow-up information sessions for adults in the weeks after.
The sessions included watching the “Informed” videos from IntegrityRestored.com, which seeks to equip families, churches and communities in the fight against pornography.
Dailey said the Clean Heart team chose to use the videos because they were presented by experts in the field, and that the team “thought it would be much better to let experts with very different backgrounds present the information.”
Fr. Meredith said they plan to encourage the parish’s adult small groups to watch and to discuss the videos.
“The consensus is that these are valuable, well done, and very helpful,” said Fr. Meredith. “Like our safe environment commitments, this initiative will need to be on-going.”
Dee said the materials they use for their presentations are geared toward adults, but through the initiative the parish also has several age-appropriate books and materials for parents to use with their children. These can be loaned out to parents, or purchased from the diocese.
“One of those is ‘Good Pictures, Bad Pictures’ for different ages to help children know what to report to their parents and avoid,” said Dailey. “Another book is ‘Wonderfully Made’ about babies.”
“But it’s up to the parents to choose what to use with their children,” she added.
Dailey said both preparing to launch the initiative and implementing it “went even more smoothly than we may have expected,” and encouraged interested parishes to consider launching their own Clean Heart program.
“I imagine many parishes may be holding back because of unknowns,” she said, but, “it is certainly needed information.”
Dailey said the process was fairly simple to bring Clean Heart to her parish. She provided a basic overview of how it worked for them.
“Gather a committee of 5-10 people who are interested in helping; meet with Danny May; discuss and view the videos from the Informed Series; build a reasonable calendar of Safe Haven Sunday and presentation of videos to the parish; and order materials,” she said, adding that it is cheaper to order through the diocese than through the individual websites.
Dailey said the diocese’s materials include small cards to hand out.
“These cards basically help people think about what the signs of pornography use are,” said Dailey, explaining that this is basically the same as other addictions. “Change in mood or behavior; a person being indifferent to things they used to enjoy; a usually social person become more withdrawn; a preoccupation with sex, sexually-oriented pictures, talk, shows; finding porn in a child’s room, to name a few.”
The cards also include places people can go to for help and resources for porn-proofing the home.
May said the concept of Safe Haven Sunday was developed by the Archdiocese of New Orleans in partnership with Covenant Eyes, a software company which monitors and works to filter out pornography in the home.
While the Diocese of Owensboro has not officially partnered with Covenant Eyes for their own program, May said they are ordering the “Equipped” books for parents from Covenant Eyes “and following the model created by New Orleans.”
“Bishop Medley suggested we pilot the Clean Heart Initiative in parishes to start small and grow slowly,” said May.
He said as other parishes are interested, he will work with Ethan Bennett – a counselor with Abba Healing Services in Owensboro – to train parish and parish cluster teams. Most recently, May and Bennett have filmed training videos for the teams to use in order to better streamline the process.
Dailey said she looks forward to continuing outreach in small groups.
“As Fr. Meredith likes to say ‘it’s a modest beginning,’” she said. “But it is a beginning and we pray it will help.”
Editor’s note: Blessed Mother Parish in Owensboro is the other parish in the diocese currently set to pilot the Clean Heart Initiative. But as their Safe Haven Sunday was originally scheduled to take place the weekend of March 21/22, and all Masses had been suspended at that time due to the current COVID-19 situation, the kickoff has been postponed.
Originally printed in the April 2020 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.
Copyright © 2020 Diocese of Owensboro/The Western Kentucky Catholic