“Ask a Priest: What If Old Photos of Me Still Cause Others to Sin?”

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Q: Around age 13 I had started to discover the Internet. I started to use social media and enter chat rooms and such. As I got older, I became obsessed with the attention I was receiving from a lot of boys (looking back, I realize that not all of them were “boys”) and I started talking sexually with many of them, such as sending inappropriate messages and photos of myself. I know that I have done this more than 100 times. At one point my private photos got leaked onto a prostitution site along with my number and I started receiving messages from older men. One claimed to have reported it for me and said it got taken down, but I fail to believe that. Even if those photos are still up, and I have confessed that sin to the priest, am I still in sin because other men are sinning by looking at my photos? – B.

Answered by Fr. Edward McIlmail, LC

A: What is done is done. You can only confess your sins. At this point you can’t likely stop others from sinning by looking at those old pictures.

You could pray that the pictures somehow are taken off the Internet. You could even pray for those who might fall into sin by seeing those photos. But those other people are ultimately responsible for their own sins.

What is important for you is that you have encountered God’s mercy. It’s when we discover his mercy awaiting us after serious sins that we more deeply appreciate his love for us.

Like the prodigal son, we are given back a sense of our dignity and our identity as children of God.

A bane of the modern world is how easy it is for people to be treated like objects of pleasure. The Internet didn’t invent this kind of exploitation, but it has certainly fed the fires.

The memories of what you have done might come back, perhaps many times. The devil will try to get you discouraged. In those moment it will be crucial to believe in God’s mercy and to stay the course of walking in his ways.

It would be good to cultivate a desire for purity, knowing that it is way to safeguard your dignity as a woman and to give glory to God.

You might want to consider ways to encourage young people to guard their own purity, to help them avoid the kind of mistake you made. The Chastity Project page on “How to Stay Pure” might help.

In that way Our Lord can help you bring something good out of bad. And stay close to Mary, Mother most chaste.

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One Comment
  1. Thank you Father Edward for giving hope and not scolding her. This was sound advice for other young people caught up in this sort of thing. your comments about discouragement being the devils and God’s forgiveness helped me. And although the subject matter was not related to my situation it did help me see things different . God bless you and thank you for the wonderful work you do in saving souls.

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