What to do about a sexual addiction?


#1

Hello everyone,

I'm a recent convert to Catholicism, and having had to move away from my home parish where I was comfortable, I'm turning to the anonymity of the internet for a little bit of help. My wife and I moved to a new city three months ago, and we only just found a parish we like enough to join. I've only just become comfortable enough there to start going to confession. So I need some solid advice, preferably backed by some solid Catholic teaching.

The Problem:

I am addicted to sex. I started struggling with pornography (mostly internet) and masturbation when I was about 13 or 14 years old, and it has remained an issue for me off and on to this day. I'm now 28. I've been married for coming up on two years now, and my wife has been very patient with me on this problem, but it's getting worse (again) instead of better. Back when I first started dating my wife, I managed to stall the addiction. I kept off the internet and stayed away from porn for well over a year. However, after only three months of being clean, my not-then wife and I started having sex, and so in retrospect, I see myself only haven traded off one problem for another. About six months into our marriage, the frustrations and anger of our first year of marriage made me weak enough to start in on the internet porn and masturbation again. It's been a constant struggle the last year and a half. Due to very prolonged exposure to objectified women, my sexual relationship with my wife has always been strained by my skewed views on sex. I've had to work very hard to start coming around to a "normal" outlook on sex in a marriage, but it hasn't been easy.

Earlier this summer, we had to move to a new city. My wife's a doctor, and with having a new baby, we agreed it would be best both for the family and for our finances if I became a stay-at-home dad. Idle hands are the devil's workshop, I believe the saying goes. Although I've been keeping somewhat active with managing our small apartment and taking care of our baby, the mass amounts of down-time are really exacerbating the issue. Along with becoming Catholic, we've also taken up NFP as part of our attempts to be better in line with God's views on life, which has become another factor compounding the problem.

I've become distracted from my new duties as a father and a homemaker, and I don't know what to do. I went to reconciliation last weekend, and my priest was encouraging to keep working on improving myself and to turn to God, but I know I need more help than just a weekly confession can offer (though I intend to try to continue to go for my own spiritual health).

Solutions?

I've considered a lot of different options. For one thing, I've tried several times to convince my wife that we should cancel our internet subscription. However, she's a very "connected" young woman, and uses the internet to keep up with her out of state family. It took almost a year to convince her we didn't need cable tv, as she was never home to watch it, and I don't actually watch tv (just an occasional show on DVD). In fact, my father-in-law just bought us a brand new Macbook laptop so that we can do video chatting a couple of times a week with the in-laws and the new baby. Canceling the internet doesn't seem to be on the table as an option, much to my chagrin.

I've considered trying to find a therapist. I suffered from depression in high-school and into college, and have spent a number of years in counseling. My wife and I even picked it up last year to help deal with our newly-wed issues. However, I have a hard time sitting in counseling sessions because, after having had several different therapists, I've really run the gamut of what there is to hear. Also, I'm a bit of a brain, and I think I just get bored very easily, even with my own problems. I don't know if that sounds weird, but it's true.

I've considered trying some kind of group therapy, like Sexaholics Anonymous. I just don't know if I'm at a level where that's appropriate or not. My addiction bounces between willful stubbornness and blind compulsion, but I'm honestly perfectly normal 80% of the day, with no feelings of compunction to fulfill a lustful urge. I even go days or weeks without issues, but then fall flat on my face again. I know I have a problem, but I think I'm just hesitant/fearful to start going to an AA-type setting. I don't want to admit to needing that level of help.

Lastly, I've considered trying to start a kind-of devoted life. Daily mass, daily prayer, and spending a good deal of time focusing on others. Tricky part is, I'm really undisciplined. It took me six years to get through college and earn a bachelors, and I have a hard time even getting myself to get to bed at a reasonable time every night. If I had enough willpower to follow such a routine, I'd likely have enough willpower to stop my addiction to pornography and masturbation. It's also difficult because of the randomness that caring for a baby brings.

I'd love to hear any thoughts or ideas that anyone has. Thank you for your time in reading my plight.


#2

Welcome, Epiclotus to the Catholic church, and to these forums.

:slight_smile:

I think that you are well on the way to a solution yourself, in your title: “What to do about a sexual addiction?”. That is a clear acknowledgement of the problem. It’s an admission that it’s not going to go away, and that it’s likely to get worse.

Although the addictive behaviour is serious, as you acknowledge, the most damaging aspect is the guilt, shame, frustration and helplessness which comes from it. This will damage your energy levels, self esteem, marriage, and fatherhood.

In general, priests in the confessional give consolation and tips, but do not address serious psychological issues and addictions. It is up to us to manage these ourselves.

The internet connection at your house will bring you down every time. I understand that you would get rid of it, if you could, but you can’t. There are a number of ISP’s that provide content filtering. Do a search for “ISP content filtering”. It will take some effort, and you will have to distinguish between ISP’s that provide a filtering program you manage yourself, such as NetNanny, and ones which actually filter at the ISP. Obviously, you want the filtering at the ISP. (if you have trouble with this, then message me with your location, and I’ll be happy to help).

You say that you have gone days, weeks, even months without slipping. Well done! That shows that you are determined to overcome this. On the other hand, it is also the classic pattern for addiction. I have been to several 12 step meetings, and I have heard this story (“I do OK for a while, and then I bust”) from almost everyone, including myself. That’s the story from the newcomers, anyway. For the old timers, it’s past tense - they have been completely sober for years, and have wonderful stories to tell.

I recommend that you attend a 12 step meeting (whether AA, or SA, or whatever you can find) to find out what actually happens at these meetings, and to see whether it might be what you are looking for.

Best wishes,

Edmundus


#3

If you wish to develop discipline regarding a particular thing, attempt to develop discipline in most things, beginning with those which are harmless. For example, if it is your habit to drink coffee every morning because you enjoy it, refuse to drink coffee and drink orange juice instead until your stubborness in refusing to succumb to your desires becomes a tool to your benefit. You must learn to deny yourself those things which give you immediate satisfaction so that you can control your passions. Small victories will lead to bigger victories. When you gain control, you can return to enjoying harmless things.

Some suggestions:

1) I suspect you feel anxiety and are attempting to relieve it. Try to find a way to get physical exercise. I enjoy running and often see other runners pushing some sort of baby cart contraption with large wheels. Seems to work for them. You might need a Bowflex or some other piece of equipment if you can't leave your apartment.

2) When you feel yourself drawn toward a near occasion of sin, immediately turn your attention to something you want to learn, but do not know how to to. For example, learn to cook, or learn to cook something difficult your wife would appreciate. Learn to make jams or something else that will keep you from being bored. If necessary, pack up your kid and go for a walk outside.

3) When you feel compelled to surf inappropriately, instead spend your energy building a simple kneeler from wood like this: bearswoodshop.net/id33.html
or like this: youtube.com/watch?v=W8USbwiWoHk When you are finished, turn to the rosary to defeat your temptations.

4) I doubt that you would surf porn in front of your mother. Remember that you are never alone, and that the eyes of heaven are upon you. Also consider your child. I have many memories from as young as two years old. Never permit yourself to think that you are not harming your child by engaging in this behavior. Sooner or later you are going to inadvertently create an unerasable and scarring memory in your young one.

5) I believe there is a group here on CAF that deals with this sort of addicition. Check in and stay in touch. Your desire to succeed is evident, and I believe you will.

A final point regarding schedule and goals: Pick a time and go to bed each night at that time. I'll bet your porno surfing drops by half. Get up each morning at the same time and write a reasonable list of what you will accomplish that day with respect to your obligations. Include regular exercise and weekly confession. Daily mass is usually at 0600, so work that in if you can. Your apartment probably needs painting or wallpaper, so get those projects going. You wife would enjoy coming home to a hot meal, so figure that out. Have you memorized all the usual prayers, and are you walking around your apartment saying them? Have you figured out how to play piano or guitar yet? What!? You don't have a piano or guitar? How are you going to teach that kid music? Did you accomplish most of what is on your list? Good, roll it over and do it again. Keep busy with what is constructive and you will avoid what is destructive. Good luck!


#4

[quote="epiclotus, post:1, topic:252628"]
Hello everyone,

... I started struggling with pornography (mostly internet) and masturbation when I was about 13 or 14 years old, and it has remained an issue for me off and on to this day. I'm now 28. I've been married for coming up on two years now, and my wife has been very patient with me on this problem, but it's getting worse (again) instead of better. Back when I first started dating my wife, I managed to stall the addiction. I kept off the internet and stayed away from porn for well over a year. However, after only three months of being clean, my not-then wife and I started having sex, and so in retrospect, I see myself only haven traded off one problem for another. About six months into our marriage, the frustrations and anger of our first year of marriage made me weak enough to start in on the internet porn and masturbation again. It's been a constant struggle the last year and a half. Due to very prolonged exposure to objectified women, my sexual relationship with my wife has always been strained by my skewed views on sex. I've had to work very hard to start coming around to a "normal" outlook on sex in a marriage, but it hasn't been easy.

Earlier this summer, we had to move to a new city. My wife's a doctor, and with having a new baby, we agreed it would be best both for the family and for our finances if I became a stay-at-home dad. Idle hands are the devil's workshop, I believe the saying goes. Although I've been keeping somewhat active with managing our small apartment and taking care of our baby, the mass amounts of down-time are really exacerbating the issue. Along with becoming Catholic, we've also taken up NFP as part of our attempts to be better in line with God's views on life, which has become another factor compounding the problem.

I've become distracted from my new duties as a father and a homemaker, and I don't know what to do. I went to reconciliation last weekend, and my priest was encouraging to keep working on improving myself and to turn to God, but I know I need more help than just a weekly confession can offer (though I intend to try to continue to go for my own spiritual health).

Solutions?

I've considered a lot of different options. For one thing, I've tried several times to convince my wife that we should cancel our internet subscription. However, she's a very "connected" young woman, and uses the internet to keep up with her out of state family. It took almost a year to convince her we didn't need cable tv, as she was never home to watch it, and I don't actually watch tv (just an occasional show on DVD). In fact, my father-in-law just bought us a brand new Macbook laptop so that we can do video chatting a couple of times a week with the in-laws and the new baby. Canceling the internet doesn't seem to be on the table as an option, much to my chagrin.

I've considered trying to find a therapist. I suffered from depression in high-school and into college, and have spent a number of years in counseling. My wife and I even picked it up last year to help deal with our newly-wed issues. However, I have a hard time sitting in counseling sessions because, after having had several different therapists, I've really run the gamut of what there is to hear. Also, I'm a bit of a brain, and I think I just get bored very easily, even with my own problems. I don't know if that sounds weird, but it's true.

I've considered trying some kind of group therapy, like Sexaholics Anonymous. I just don't know if I'm at a level where that's appropriate or not. My addiction bounces between willful stubbornness and blind compulsion, but I'm honestly perfectly normal 80% of the day, with no feelings of compunction to fulfill a lustful urge. I even go days or weeks without issues, but then fall flat on my face again. I know I have a problem, but I think I'm just hesitant/fearful to start going to an AA-type setting. I don't want to admit to needing that level of help.

Lastly, I've considered trying to start a kind-of devoted life. Daily mass, daily prayer, and spending a good deal of time focusing on others. Tricky part is, I'm really undisciplined. It took me six years to get through college and earn a bachelors, and I have a hard time even getting myself to get to bed at a reasonable time every night. If I had enough willpower to follow such a routine, I'd likely have enough willpower to stop my addiction to pornography and masturbation. It's also difficult because of the randomness that caring for a baby brings.

I'd love to hear any thoughts or ideas that anyone has. Thank you for your time in reading my plight.

[/quote]

There is a group here at CAF called "Impurity Addiction Support Group" which might be very helpful for you. It has many members going through (or who have gone through) the same thing you are, and you can remain anonymous. I've heard very good things about the group.

May God be with you as you continue to try to rid your life of satan's tools and tricks. He's a powerful fallen angel, but God is much, much stronger!


#5

If your truly addicted to sex, do what many of us who are addicted to drugs have done. Go to a rehab place. They can do wonders.

Don’t mistake the words “addicted” and “bad habit”.


#6

You mention canceling the internet as a possible solution, but as a computer guy I can tell you, there is an easier way.:thumbsup:

If you know what websites you frequent, you can simple block them through your network router’s administration page, which can most often be found by going to 192.168.1.1 in your web browser. If you don’t know the login info, you can find the defaul passwords to most routers online.

Most routers also allow you to block by keyword, so perhaps putting the words “porn” “nude” and any other words you might be abe to think of into the block list might help.


#7

Not trying to sound rude, but your list of possible solutions sounds to me like a list of excuses also.

If you truly want to change your behavior, you will.

It's easy to put a filter on your computer. Your wife can be the only one who knows the password to disable it when necessary. As someone else said, you can go to bed at an earlier time. Just do it. And for the idle times during the day, start a hobby. Learn to do something you have always wanted to do. Read books you have always wanted to read. Take the baby and go for walks. There are a multitude of non-sexual things you can choose to do to occupy your time.

You should combine all of your solutions, but I think the last one you mentioned is the most important and will help you to be the most successful. Start praying the Rosary daily. Go to weekly (or more often) Confession. Go to daily Mass. Stay close to the Sacraments.

If you choose to do nothing about your problem, and think it will "just go away", it won't. I speak from personal experience when I say it will only destroy your marriage and as a result, your family.

You can overcome your problem... but only if you really want to. So stop making excuses and just make changes. And pray, pray, pray!


#8

You could do what I did for Lent this year and read Theology of the Body. When your child is napping, read a chapter or two and then spend time reflecting on what you read. It is very dense and sometimes I had to read the same passage over and over again before I understood it, but trust me, it is well worth it.

Follow the advice of others. Paint a room, put up wallpaper, learn to cook, learn to play the piano or guitar. Pray the rosary daily and never lose trust in Our Lady to help you.


#9

[quote="texgirl, post:7, topic:252628"]
Not trying to sound rude, but your list of possible solutions sounds to me like a list of excuses also.

If you truly want to change your behavior, you will.
!

[/quote]

YES! 100 percent agree with you!

While I'm sure "sex addiction" is real, you probably don't have it. It's extremely rare. I'm talking someone who would spend the majority of their time looking at porn, can't hold a job, engages in "self gratification" hourly (I mean that literally, as disgusting as it sounds).

When most drug addicts use, they live from hit to hit, can't hold a job, maintain a releationship, steal to support your habit, etc.

If you do any of that to support your sexual "additction" then maybe you might have it. But you probably don't have a real addiction.


#10

I have heard before that it is a sin of violence...maybe looking at it that way will help you overcome it.


#11

[quote="Rascalking, post:9, topic:252628"]
YES! 100 percent agree with you!

While I'm sure "sex addiction" is real, you probably don't have it. It's extremely rare. I'm talking someone who would spend the majority of their time looking at porn, can't hold a job, engages in "self gratification" hourly (I mean that literally, as disgusting as it sounds).

When most drug addicts use, they live from hit to hit, can't hold a job, maintain a releationship, steal to support your habit, etc.

If you do any of that to support your sexual "additction" then maybe you might have it. But you probably don't have a real addiction.

[/quote]

As I said in my post, if you attend any 12 step meeting you will find that most of the "addicts" come to the program because they have accepted that all their efforts to overcome addiction have failed, and will always fail. They usually realise this when they have repeatedly gone weeks or months without using, but always relapse. This is the first step. It's the people who use all the time (eg. drink all the time, for alcoholics), who are unaware that they are addicts, and think they can stop.

I myself don't understand how this is consistent with Catholic moral theology, and free choice, but I do know that the Church accepts 12 step programs, such as AA, and even some clergy attend them.


#12

Actually the 12 steps are based on Ignatian examination of conscience. That’s why Catholics feel, for the most part, right at home in 12 step groups, especially when it’s time for the 4th and 5th steps (examen of conscience and confession).


#13

[quote="TheRealJuliane, post:12, topic:252628"]
Actually the 12 steps are based on Ignatian examination of conscience. That's why Catholics feel, for the most part, right at home in 12 step groups, especially when it's time for the 4th and 5th steps (examen of conscience and confession).

[/quote]

Thanks Juliane. Agreed, but with a minor correction. The 12 steps started with AA, as is well known, and were derived by Bill Wilson from the principles of the (Protestant) Oxford Groups and from is own experience in recovering from alcoholism. It was a Jesuit priest who discerned the similarity with Ignatius' Spiritual Exercises, and was among the first Catholics to endorse AA.

The Spiritual Exercises and the 12 Steps

:)

Thanks


#14

I attended Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous and Sexaholics Anonymous meetings for years. Attending actually brought me back to the Catholic faith! Finding things to occupy your time will help, for a while. In my experience, however, I needed to work the steps in order to recover. I am 4 years clean. I disagree with one of the posters that felt your problem wasn't a real addiction, but that's a matter of opinion. Please, please, please get to a meeting! You can find the "Big Book" of AA online, while reading it you just substitute alcohol and porn/masturbation, etc. There is so much information out there that absolutely CAN help you! And don't be afraid that you're not far enough addicted to feel that you need help - 12 Step meetings are for "all kinds" and you'll find that some members have lost everything, while others asked for help while in the earlier stages.


#15

the best thing you can do is go to confession every single time you commit this sin, even if that means going every day. and try to go to the same priest each time (or to as few priests as possible). and face the priest in confession. don't hide behind the barrier.

and pray the rosary daily.

and go to mass often.


#16

[quote="captainmike, post:15, topic:252628"]
the best thing you can do is go to confession every single time you commit this sin, even if that means going every day. and try to go to the same priest each time (or to as few priests as possible). and face the priest in confession. don't hide behind the barrier.

and pray the rosary daily.

and go to mass often.

[/quote]

That's all good advice for living a holy life, but it is no more a prescription for recovering from sexual addiction, than it is a recipe for getting out of poverty, or living with asthma. It's part of the solution, but should (in general) be combined with known remedies. 12 step groups such as Sexaholics Anonymous have been proven to be effective.

Of particular relevance here is Alcoholics Anonymous, as the known solution to alcoholism. If prayer and the sacraments were guarenteed to work, then there wouldn't be any priests in AA. But there are. If I was to say in confession: "I've been an alcoholic for 20 years. I've been drunk in public, and done 3 DUI's. I could go to AA, but I won't, because I'm going to trust in prayer and the sacraments", I would probably get a stern lecture from the priest. If I made this confession every month for a year, any normal priest would run out of patience with me, especially if he's in AA himself.

Only the individual can decide if a 12 step program is for himself, or herself. But, if one believes oneself to be an addict, then one should seriously consider it - and the best way to "consider" it is to attend several meetings, if at all possible.

On a more positive note, I would certainly endorse the rosary and sacraments as a prescription for AVOIDING addiction in the first place. :)


#17

There are many good tips in this thread.

I think the key is to:

  1. Never miss Mass (Sundays / day of obligation), and do regular confession
  2. Develop a "daily devotion" (prayer, Rosary, Scripture). "Daily", is critical. If you fall into temptation, then strengthen your devotion. Don't miss even one day, or you will be vulnerable.
  3. Stay away from sources of temptation. People who never learn to stay out of dangerous situations are doomed to fall.

It is good that you recognize that this is a problem and are willing to ask for help. Thus, if you can't over come this on your own, get help. If it continues, it will wreck your marriage and family. It can wreck a career.

Also, consider some sort of athletic training to help with self discipline. If you are not in shape, get in shape. The environment we choose to place ourselves in has a major effect on us. If you associate with people in some sort of sport, it will pay dividends.


#18

I see this problem a lot on these boards and it is honestly one I do not understand very well. Every time I have seen porn I always feel disgusted or sad. Why do I feel that way because I do not view the actors as separate form their humanity. View them as a complete human beings, with feelings dreams and aspirations. For instance when you see the actress, imagine her life story, the pain of dreams lost and how empty she must feel. Ask yourself a million questions, did she want to be a movie star, was she seduced by a sleaze ball director, was she rapped, was she drugged, was she unloved and abused as a child, does she think she has nothing else to offer the world, even if she is just doing it for the money she is reducing herself to an object for money. Maybe she is also like you, How shallow the act of making love without love, do you ever feel fulfilled now just imagine that emptiness in the other and the attraction should fade.


#19

Strongly endorse the internet content filtering and physical exercise. Especially if you do the filtering through your ISP (a little harder to circumvent). Not perfect, but it will help.

In a difficult marriage myself, so temptation is sometimes a problem. For me physical exercise is great therapy. Helps with for all kinds of physical or emotional stress, builds confidence and self esteem. Whatever you like to do–running, biking, weightlifting, swimming, etc.


#20

[quote="epiclotus, post:1, topic:252628"]
Hello everyone,

I'm a recent convert to Catholicism, and having had to move away from my home parish where I was comfortable, I'm turning to the anonymity of the internet for a little bit of help. My wife and I moved to a new city three months ago, and we only just found a parish we like enough to join. I've only just become comfortable enough there to start going to confession. So I need some solid advice, preferably backed by some solid Catholic teaching.

The Problem:

I am addicted to sex. I started struggling with pornography (mostly internet) and masturbation when I was about 13 or 14 years old, and it has remained an issue for me off and on to this day. I'm now 28. I've been married for coming up on two years now, and my wife has been very patient with me on this problem, but it's getting worse (again) instead of better. Back when I first started dating my wife, I managed to stall the addiction. I kept off the internet and stayed away from porn for well over a year. However, after only three months of being clean, my not-then wife and I started having sex, and so in retrospect, I see myself only haven traded off one problem for another. About six months into our marriage, the frustrations and anger of our first year of marriage made me weak enough to start in on the internet porn and masturbation again. It's been a constant struggle the last year and a half. Due to very prolonged exposure to objectified women, my sexual relationship with my wife has always been strained by my skewed views on sex. I've had to work very hard to start coming around to a "normal" outlook on sex in a marriage, but it hasn't been easy.

Earlier this summer, we had to move to a new city. My wife's a doctor, and with having a new baby, we agreed it would be best both for the family and for our finances if I became a stay-at-home dad. Idle hands are the devil's workshop, I believe the saying goes. Although I've been keeping somewhat active with managing our small apartment and taking care of our baby, the mass amounts of down-time are really exacerbating the issue. Along with becoming Catholic, we've also taken up NFP as part of our attempts to be better in line with God's views on life, which has become another factor compounding the problem.

I've become distracted from my new duties as a father and a homemaker, and I don't know what to do. I went to reconciliation last weekend, and my priest was encouraging to keep working on improving myself and to turn to God, but I know I need more help than just a weekly confession can offer (though I intend to try to continue to go for my own spiritual health).

Solutions?

I've considered a lot of different options. For one thing, I've tried several times to convince my wife that we should cancel our internet subscription. However, she's a very "connected" young woman, and uses the internet to keep up with her out of state family. It took almost a year to convince her we didn't need cable tv, as she was never home to watch it, and I don't actually watch tv (just an occasional show on DVD). In fact, my father-in-law just bought us a brand new Macbook laptop so that we can do video chatting a couple of times a week with the in-laws and the new baby. Canceling the internet doesn't seem to be on the table as an option, much to my chagrin.

I've considered trying to find a therapist. I suffered from depression in high-school and into college, and have spent a number of years in counseling. My wife and I even picked it up last year to help deal with our newly-wed issues. However, I have a hard time sitting in counseling sessions because, after having had several different therapists, I've really run the gamut of what there is to hear. Also, I'm a bit of a brain, and I think I just get bored very easily, even with my own problems. I don't know if that sounds weird, but it's true.

I've considered trying some kind of group therapy, like Sexaholics Anonymous. I just don't know if I'm at a level where that's appropriate or not. My addiction bounces between willful stubbornness and blind compulsion, but I'm honestly perfectly normal 80% of the day, with no feelings of compunction to fulfill a lustful urge. I even go days or weeks without issues, but then fall flat on my face again. I know I have a problem, but I think I'm just hesitant/fearful to start going to an AA-type setting. I don't want to admit to needing that level of help.

Lastly, I've considered trying to start a kind-of devoted life. Daily mass, daily prayer, and spending a good deal of time focusing on others. Tricky part is, I'm really undisciplined. It took me six years to get through college and earn a bachelors, and I have a hard time even getting myself to get to bed at a reasonable time every night. If I had enough willpower to follow such a routine, I'd likely have enough willpower to stop my addiction to pornography and masturbation. It's also difficult because of the randomness that caring for a baby brings.

I'd love to hear any thoughts or ideas that anyone has. Thank you for your time in reading my plight.

[/quote]

I have the same problems as you. I told it to a priest in confession, and he said I am not going to overcome the problem without help from other people who struggle with it too. He suggested I search for a sex addicts support group like Sexaholics Anonymous, which uses the same twelve step program as Alcoholics Anonymous. Also, if you want to talk about this subject and ways to keep our minds occupied on more productive and mentally and spiritually healthy things to do with our time, you can talk to me too. You can private message me if you want anytime.


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