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Religious warned against Internet sex addiction

A psychologist from the Combonian order has highlighted the relatively new phenomenon of religious priests, brothers and nuns isolating themselves from their communities to seek new friendships and stimuli in Internet chat rooms.

Fr Joseph Crea, who teaches at the Pontifical Athenaeum Salesian in Rome, described the problem as "affective dependence". His analysis is published in the latest issue of the Italian bimonthly publication Consecrated Life.

He says that the "lure of the Net", when it occurs, "becomes more urgent than that of the community" and "the reinforcement of social support that a person succeeds in getting on the Internet overcomes the need of relationships".

He said religious are most vulnerable when their interpersonal relationships are conflictual, or when there is not an inadequate climate of friendship in their own religious community.

Fr Crea said the religious drawn to the chat rooms experience "deeper contact" through "virtual sexuality" made by exchange of images or of "confessions and imaginations", and arrive at "real illegitimate and pathological behaviours."

He suggested the best response is not a surface "eradication of the evil". Instead he advocates sounding an "alarm bell of something that is not acceptable in the person's way of living, his affective and community life".

Fr Crea sees a positive outcome in the possibility of the religious rediscovering a "need of authenticity and conversion" which includes a recognition of their own "psycho-affective frailty" and a "return to the roots of his own vocation of consecration".

Internet: Fr.Crea: Even Religious Risk Sexual Dependence (Vidimus Dominum 18/3/04)

Boon and challenge of Net (Catholic Leader 21/3/04)

19 Mar 2004