A reader writes:

Please don’t use my name if you quote this. I don’t know where to start with all of this, but I feel I must weigh in on what is happening.

I was an abuser. The simplest way I can sum up everything is this: if anyone cares about the ultimate destination of another’s soul, the only way forward is truth.

I was never abused or neglected by my family, but terribly bullied. My parents have told me about terrible incidents that I honestly don’t remember, so it must have been bad. Long story short, I found porn when we got the Internet in the mid 90’s and I was in high school. I had seen magazines, but they seemed boring and creepy for some reason. The internet, though slow at the time, was faster, cheaper, and anonymous. My parents caught me several times but never addressed it. They may never have known how addictive porn is.

Eventually porn wasn’t enough and I went into chatrooms to connect with women. It was tenuous at best, but I was desperately lonely and believed I was disgusting and undesirable to women, so whatever scraps of attention I could get were what I sought. Finally, I progressed to meeting women (really girls, since I was in high school) from chatrooms to try and get sexual contact any way I could. Being an extremely awkward and terrified teen, I was unable to attain my goal of sexual release.

In my senior year, I experienced a conversion in front of the Blessed Sacrament and discerned a call to seminary. I went to the local college seminary and was a model of piety and studiousness, and for a year and a half was clean. Problem was, on a human level, I had no close friends and still despised myself. I tried to use work and piety to fill the void, but I never allowed God into the darkest parts of my life so that I could retain a bit of control.

Eventually, my loneliness grew and grew. I started to look at porn again, but over Christmas my sophomore year, my grandfather died, and I really ramped up the porn use to medicate that pain. It was exactly on week after he died that I met with, and sexually acted out with, the first girl anonymously. I was 20 and she was 16.

Over the next 9 months, I acted out as much as I could with girls as young as 14 and women as old as 27. I didn’t care. All I wanted to do was get the thrill of the hunt and the climax that hid the pain, loneliness, and shame for a bit longer. I became detached from reality and felt like I was watching my life from outside my body like a movie.

Lies and my double life became part of my daily existence. I made innumerable excuses of being sick for missing class and events, I spent up to 14 hours a day online or meeting people, I had sex in public places, in homes where parents were home, and was almost caught by police sneaking into an underage girl’s house. All this is to say I was a desperate and depraved sinner who felt like he could hear demonic laughter beckoning him into a pit and jumped in with both feet.

Many of the women and girls who I deceived for sex were abuse victims before me and cried about it in front of me. I knew that they were only willing because they were broken, but I decided that was my in.That was the way I could get what I wanted.

Because of all this, of course I got caught. Nothing on the internet is anonymous, of course, and when a 14 year old girl told her parents, the police got involved and they tried to come pick me up at the seminary. Fortunately for me I wasn’t there at the time. I didn’t know the specific reason when I was told by the rector, but I knew it was for one of my escapades. I considered killing myself that night, jumping off the roof of the seminary to my death, but I decided to make a final confession and get everything off my chest. The priest I chose was a godsend and accepted my sins and forgave them, but told me to face my consequences.

In the next few days, I got kicked out of seminary, got a lawyer, and told my parents what I had done. I swore I would never do it again. And for a bit more than a month, I didn’t.

However, five weeks later, an 18 year old woman I had acted out with before called me up for a hook up and I had no resistance. I didn’t even stop to think for a second. I just went to her. She was especially broken and abused and I knew I wouldn’t stop.

I got into a 12 step program for sex addiction and faced my charges of sexual assault of a child under 16. Eventually, my charges were reduced to a misdemeanor and I got a plea bargain. The only reason I got the bargain was that the father of the girl I had abused worked in the prison system and knew it was my first offense. He had seen people go into the system like me and come out worse, and hoped I would change my life. He said all this in court and invoked his Christian faith as a reason for forgiving me. I don’t know if he was right to do what he did, but he did it.

I was angry. I wanted to be punished and destroyed. I was still too self centered to accept that forgiveness. Over the next three years I went to jail, did outpatient treatment, was on probation, and tried to rebuild my life. I met many men who believed they shouldn’t be punished and were innocent because the girls (or boys) they had abused had “seduced” them, or consented or because of a legal technicality. The capacity for self-deception is truly unbelievable.

I tried, by the grace of God, to accept everything that happened to me as penance for my sins. I prayed that those women I had harmed may somehow be helped by the graces of any suffering I experienced.

Many years on, I still struggle with pornography once every few months, but the hold of sexual perversion on my life is greatly diminished. I am married with a son on the way, and I still work my 12 step program to stay sober and be a good human. I am not asking for pity or forgiveness or anything like that.

Why then would I send this? I hope that my story might (on the off chance you decide to share it) encourage people to tell on offenders and reject pornography and its lifestyle, because the cost on the victims, the families, communities, churches, and even the abusers themselves will only increase as it goes on. Please, if an abuser is caught you may save many souls and families unbelievable pain. If I hadn’t been caught I might have been ordained and become a predator at worst, or a Roy Moore or Donald Trump at best. AT BEST.

One of the true cliches we use in our 12 step group is that the only way out is through. Go through the difficulty if you love the Lord and want His kingdom to reign. Only repentance and honesty and truth can save us. Help people get caught. Help victims be safe. Help Christ’s kingdom to spread. Getting caught is the best thing that ever happened to me because the entirety of my life would be impossible without that one event.

It is also worth mentioning that older standards like those which we have derided as puritanical regarding relations between the sexes and spending time alone together might have been in place for a reason. This is especially true considering the existence of those such as Jonathan Ryan of Sick Pilgrim. These standards, which seem onerous to some, might really be because humanity is fallen. We encounter people who are manipulators and we may not know it. If this makes us weird, retrograde, or outcasts, so be it. Victims of abuse and lost souls are worth it.