The campus ministry at the University of Dallas has recently developed a support group called Fight Club which is headed by Dcn. Ryan Sales, retreats minister. Fight Club is focused on assisting young men who struggle with sins against chastity.
Fr. Joseph Paul Albin, chaplain and rector, said: “We should be willing to use any tools available to us to work against the evil of pornography. Fight Club is the kind of tool that uses accountability and friendship to help. Sin festers in the dark, [but] brought into the light of fraternity it can be overcome.”
Sales realized that such a club would be helpful on campus. He said, “The need for some sort of ministry here on the campus, specifically for students that are struggling with sins pertaining to chastity was apparent just through my own discussions with students — whether it be in spiritual direction or whether it be students letting me know that it was something they were repeatedly going to confession for.”
This past May, Sales and the campus ministry staff went to the Catholic Campus Ministry Association, where Sales met CCMA member Matt Aujero, the founder of Fight Club Catholic. Sales was very impressed with the program.
He said: “What I liked about Fight Club, the way he had set it up, is that it provides a framework that focuses on what I believe are important areas when dealing with sins pertaining to chastity. For example, prayer, the rosary, accountability. It’s done within the context of small group fraternity and then looking at the triggers and circumstances that provide the near occasion for sin or the commission of the sin.”
Fight Club is for men only and is structured around communal fraternity and brotherly accountability.
Fr. Albin said: “Compulsive behaviors often require a number of approaches to be overcome. When we recognize we are not alone in a battle, we can fight with greater fortitude and fervor.”
Fight Club consists of weekly meetings no longer than an hour. The meetings involve opportunities for prayer, for sharing successes and failures of the previous week and for building fraternity. The meeting is composed of a facilitator and six club members.
Sales said, “Other organizations can be quite large and so Fight Club is by design a small group of men who develop friendship and journey with each other beyond just the hour that we meet each week.”
Each member has an accountability partner, in similar fashion to AA or Weight Watchers, but with a slight twist. The two partners agree upon a penance and any time one of them falls, both do the penance.
Sales said: “It’s a bit more challenging, there’s a little bit of an Exodus 90 vibe to it. But the penances are mutually agreed upon and they’re not meant to be severe. They’re meant to call our attention to the sin, to provide some form of negative reinforcement, but ideally to also assist in fostering the virtues which we need to exercise to counteract those particular vices that we are susceptible to.”
The locations and times of the meetings are strictly confidential. Any member of the club is perfectly free to tell others that he is in Fight Club or that he is struggling with chastity. However, all members of the club are required to maintain the anonymity of their fellow members.
The current culture is on a mission to normalize pornography and masturbation, which is yet another reason why something like Fight Club is so needed for today’s youth.
Fr. Albin said: “There is a great need for such a group precisely because of the accessibility of pornography. What was once taboo has become mainstream, easily accessible, and deeply ingrained. We can’t normalize pornography.”
Sales said: “Consumption of pornography and the act of masturbation are sins. We can’t normalize that, we can’t rationalize that. It’s a sin. It’s bad. A lot of my spiritual direction practice involves pornography and masturbation that’s not just among university students. So it’s a big problem, but the attention that it’s getting and the freedom that men are feeling to put their hand up and say, ‘I need help,’ is very encouraging.”
As of now, the club is exclusive to men, but Sales is also hopeful to start up a similar program for young women in the future.
Sales said: “It’s in my heart and in my plans to be able to journey with female students who we know statistically are vastly underrepresented. We know that a lot of women struggle with pornography and masturbation, yet have not reached the same place of understanding that men have, such that there are programs available. Roles have blurred sufficiently to the point now where lots of girls will be like: ‘yeah, I want to be part of Fight Club,’ but I think we do need a particular club that addresses the female genius.”
Sales is considering asking permission from Matt Aujero to use the Fight Club Catholic program as a framework to create a version of the group for women. In the meantime, there are always support and counseling services available at the campus ministry office.
Campus Ministry is dedicated to assisting students in their struggles and successes, and Fight Club is another way for students to find help.
Sales said: “The big thing is here at Campus Ministry we’re trying to connect what we do with the real lived experience and needs of the students and this was one of those needs. I would just ask that whether people are struggling with this particular sin or not that they pray for their brothers and sisters who are.”