A PROMINENT Catholic relationships educator has warned that Christian churches are blind to the reality of the “porn pandemic” that is affecting young Queenslanders.
Paul Ninnes, whose organisation Real Talk Australia sees more than 30,000 students in Catholic and state schools every year, said it was rare to meet teenagers who had not been exposed to pornography.
“There’s huge ignorance within the Catholic Church and Christian churches in general, ignorance on usage levels, ignorance on what young people know and see, and ignorance on what exists,” Mr Ninnes said.
“I think a lot of people have an idea of porn as the 1960s, 1970s porn, which was very different.
“We’re not talking about topless women anymore, we’re talking about graphic, violent acts of rape.”
Mr Ninnes’ commitment to changing the culture of pornography – an issue he himself struggled with as a teenager – has earned him respect from around the country.
In 2014 Mr Ninnes was named Professional Leader of the Year at the Community Leader Awards, hosted by The Catholic Leader.
The award was the culmination of nearly 10 years of work to make Real Talk a viable not-for-profit business that highlights the Catholic Church’s message on sexuality.
On Sunday The Catholic Leader will launch the 2017 Community Leader Awards and invites nominations from across the country to recognise outstanding Catholics in five categories – Community Leader of the Year, Professional Leader of the Year, Volunteer of the Year, Youth Leader of the Year and School Leader of the Year.
Mr Ninnes said it was important to recognise work that reflected the values of the Catholic Church, which the Community Leader Awards did.
“That’s something we need to encourage in all fields of work … the values of the Catholic Church (are) life-changing,” he said.
Mr Ninnes is fast becoming one of Australia’s leading presenters on the damaging effects of pornography on young people, including spearheading a national petition to introduce Internet filtering after a six-year-old girl was raped by two 12-year-old boys in Sydney last year.
He recently released a two-part DVD presentation explaining just how bad the “pandemic of porn” has become for young people.
“When we talk about this topic it’s not introducing a new topic,” Mr Ninnes said.
“For many it’s introducing a topic that they have been delving into for years, sometimes decades, if you’re talking to a 17-year-old.
“I can talk about a Catholic boarding school where all the devices were taken off the students and every single device had pornography on it.
“I can talk about a boarding school where all the girls in Year 9 made it pretty clear to our presenter that they have all seen porn in the boarding house.
“It’s pretty rare to encounter teenagers who haven’t seen porn.
“When you look at the themes and the outcomes of watching porn that’s really bad news for people, for marriages, for families and for society.”
Mr Ninnes encouraged parents to discuss issues of sexuality with their children.
“That can be as simple as talking to our kids about the existence of good pictures and bad pictures and what to do when they encounter a good picture or a bad picture that makes them feel uncomfortable,” he said.
Mr Ninnes said his work to date on reclaiming a culture of love and life was validated by his award from the Community Leader Awards.
“I’m appreciative of all the work The Catholic Leader does (in) trying to encourage people who are forging ahead in ministry and professional work with Catholic values,” he said.
The Catholic Leader managing editor Matt Emerick said the newspaper invited people around Australia to nominate outstanding Catholics for the Community Leader Awards.
“The awards have become a major event in our Catholic community, and are excited to open nominations again for this year,” Mr Emerick said.
“It is an opportunity to showcase the good work the people in our Catholic parishes, schools, organisations, ministries and charities are doing to make Australia a better place.
“We look forward to the flood of nominations that will come in and to see everyone at our awards event in November.”