The Bishop of Chester quoted novelist DH Lawrence during a debate on pornography in the House of Lords with a description of it as ‘ugly, squalid, dirty sex’.
Rt Rev Dr Peter Forster opened the 2.5 hour debate on the impact of pornography on society after his subject was drawn out in a ballot.
Bishop Peter, who has long-held concerns about modern attitudes towards sexuality, condemned the now defunct Chester lap dancing club Platinum Lounge when it moved to full nudity.
He began by telling his peers: “I can say that my first-hand knowledge of pornography is very limited. Of the range of vices available to me, I have been tempted by most, but not in any significant way by pornography. If the statistics are to be believed, that makes me a rather unusual, if not exotic, creature.”
Bishop Peter said clergy in his own Chester Diocese had even been prosecuted for looking at illegal images.
He explained: “Pornography is a very widespread feature of western society, especially since the advent of the internet age. In my ministry I have come across addiction to pornography as a factor in individual marriage breakdown. As a Bishop, I have had two of my clergy prosecuted for downloading child sexual abuse images, usually called child pornography. Both these priests were given custodial sentences and both are unlikely ever again to exercise the Christian ministry for which they were trained.”
Offering an insight into his core beliefs, he commented: “The underlying problem with pornography is that in particularly significant and sensitive areas of human life it encourages people to view other people simply or primarily as objects to be used and discarded.“
And while society had recognised the need to have vigorous procedures to protect children from abuse and harm, young people were ‘still exposed to much damaging material which presents them with distorted images of life’.
Bishop Peter, who asked what the government was doing to engage with public policy challenges emanating from pornography addiction, questioned in a statement afterwards whether it was right for the Government to strike a position of ‘neutrality’ in the face of the ‘obvious damage and dangers of adult use of pornography’.
“There is growing evidence of a direct and potentially permanent impact upon the brain itself, which provides a biological aspect to the phenomenon of addiction to pornography,” he told The Lords.
“The brain is affected biologically and a ‘new normal’ emerges. There is then (exactly as with drugs) often a quest for increased exposure, for increased stimulation and for more extreme images to arouse interest and retain attention.”