CWL Winter Gathering includes sobering message from guest speaker

Albert Brown is the director of the correctional and justice program at The Salvation Army Crossroads Centre in Saskatoon. He recently spoke to a diocesan CWL gathering about the harm caused by pornography and sex trafficking. (Photo by Connie McGrath - Saskatoon Diocesan council of the Catholic Women's League)

By Connie McGrath, Catholic Women’s League

Guest speaker Albert Brown delivered a sobering report on pornography and sex trafficking to a diocesan Catholic Women’s League “Winter Gathering” held Feb. 1, 2020 at the Cathedral of the Holy Family in Saskatoon.

As the director of the correctional and justice program at The Salvation Army Crossroads Centre in Saskatoon, Brown runs an “alternative measures” rehabilitation course for convicted clients of prostitutes, who are commonly known as “johns.” Since 2002, he has had more than 1,000 men complete the “johns’ school” program, which strives to help men break their sex addiction and salvage their life.

In his presentation to Catholic Women’s League (CWL) representatives from across the diocese, Brown provided sobering facts about the harm that pornography, human trafficking and prostitution inflicts on individuals, families and society.

When caught, men will often lie and say it is their first time, he reported. Over time, many “johns” will admit that all aspects of their lives have suffered because of pornography or from purchasing sex from prostitutes, and/or from sex addition. This harm includes damage to emotional health (96 per cent), to physical health (56 per cent), and to their relationship with family (over 50 per cent). Their ability to work suffers, and some 26 per cent fear that they purchased sex from a minor. Grandfathers are terrified their children will find out they buy sex and will never allow them to see the grandchildren again, he described. Some shift the guilt and choose to blame others – such as a wife or girlfriend –rather than be honest and take responsibility for their choices, he added.

“Johns” can range in age from 17 to 87 years and come from all walks of life, Brown said. Some 75 per cent have high school education; 46 per cent have a post-secondary education, and 25 per cent make over $100,000 a year. About 50 per cent of the “johns” are fathers with kids at home; 25 per cent are single.

Some 72 per cent started viewing pornography before the age of 19, and 13 per cent started before the age of 13 years.

In his presentation, Brown strongly urged parents to be extremely vigilant in being aware of what their children – boys and girls –are viewing. There are hundreds of porn sites online, but much of regular TV programming also includes offensive sexual images.

Pornography does not depict a tender loving bond between man and woman, he stressed. There is only emptiness and physicality — and often violence, abuse and degradation.

As with an addiction to drugs or gambling, the temporary dopamine surge from pornography negatively affects the brain. First a little satisfies, and then more is needed “to get a buzz.” Desensitization occurs. One cannot “unsee” what one has seen. Viewing pornography is a catalyst to becoming a sex consumer. All sex offenders and pedophiles begin by viewing pornography, he said.

The average age of a prostitute is 13 years, Brown reported. About 85 per cent of those involved in prostitution suffered sexual abuse in childhood; 70 per cent are victims of incest; and 75 per cent have been raped.

Brown apologized for presenting an ugly side of life, but added that it must be exposed. He also warned that the depths of depravity to which a person can sink is not yet known. Organized crime in human trafficking world-wide is a billion-dollar business. Runaways are often picked up by traffickers within 24 hours. Some who are trafficked as prostitutes have been taken to trailers in work camps and violated repeatedly. Most have some form of communicable disease and sexually-transmitted infections.

Some 18 per cent of child porn images online are produced by parents, with 25 per cent produced by a neighbor or someone else known to the family, he added.

Brown said that he is looking for allies and “prayer warriors” to pray for all the people hurt by pornography, prostitution, and human trafficking. With awareness and intervention, there is hope and freedom from sex addiction, he said. “If porn gets through on your computer, turn away, rebuke it!”

CWL members who were present at the event thanked Brown for the work he does and sang a blessing over the guest speaker.

CWL event includes celebration of the Eucharist

The “Winter Gathering” opened earlier that day with celebration of Mass by associate pastor Fr. Deyre Azcuna in the cathedral’s Queen of Peace Chapel. Many of the 60 women present for the CWL gathering were grateful for the opportunity to see the beautiful chapel for the first time.

Fr. Deyre Azcuna, associate pastor at the Cathedral of the Holy Family, presided at Mass in the Queen of Peace Chapel to open the Feb. 1 CWL event. (Photo by Connie McGrath – Saskatoon Diocesan council of the Catholic Women’s League)

The Gospel proclaimed at Mass from Luke 8:24 described how the disciples in the boat woke Jesus in fear and panic during a turbulent storm. Jesus reprimanded the disciples for their lack of faith. The homily was a call to remain faithful and to trust in God. “Having God in your boat does not mean that you will not face any storms. It means that no storm can sink your boat.”

Saskatoon Diocesan CWL President Ingrid Eggerman of Watson welcomed the representatives of 15 of the 43 CWL councils in the diocese who attended the Winter Gathering.

Ingrid Eggerman, Saskatoon Diocesan CWL president, welcomed 60 women from 15 councils to the Winter Gathering meeting, Feb. 1 at the Cathedral of the Holy Family. (Photo by Connie McGrath – Saskatoon Diocesan council of the Catholic Women’s League)

Catholic Women’s Leadership Foundation highlighted

Two Catholic Women’s Leadership Foundation participants from Saskatoon were introduced during the gathering. Rachele Ng and Shannon Granger are concluding the one-year course this spring. The Catholic Women’s Leadership Foundation was established in 2012, and incorporated in 2014, with the intent to educate and train capable women to serve in leadership roles in churches, communities, and the work world.

Rachelle Ng of Greater Saskatoon Catholic Schools and Shannon Granger of St. Angela Merici Residence are two Saskatoon participants undertaking the Catholic Women’s Leadership Foundation certificate program this year. (Photo by Connie McGrath – Saskatoon Diocesan council of the Catholic Women’s League)

The Catholic Women’s Leadership Foundation leadership certificate program is women-centred, with networking opportunities and a mentorship plan to help women improve leadership skills. The one-year program consists of an in-person residency program at Saint Paul University in Ottawa, and online modules guided by trained facilitators.

CWL members heard how interested women of all ages are encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity to develop stronger leadership skills. Visit the website for more details.