Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties.
It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world.
The moral status of pornography is clear: producing or using pornography is gravely wrong. It is a grave matter by its object. It is a mortal sin if it is committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.
Unintentional ignorance and factors that compromise the voluntary and free character of the act can diminish a person’s moral culpability. This sin needs the Lord’s forgiveness and should be confessed within the Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation. The damage it causes to oneself, one’s relationships, society and the Body of Christ needs healing.
Pornography can never be justified and is always wrong.
It does not consist only in visual images (which can be real or virtual, including computer-generated) but can also be in written or audio forms (e.g., certain romance novels, erotic literature, phone conversations, social media, online video chats, etc.). It encompasses what is sometimes distinguished as “soft-” and “hard-core” pornography.
This is an artificial divide; all pornography is harmful and wrong, while the effects on a person may vary depending on the intensity of the content. Pornography is not art.
This article is an extract from the US Bishops’ Conference document on pornography, which you can view here.