The content you read here may include religious language from other denominations. Please don’t let this distract from the overall message. Covenant Eyes frequently writes from a Christian perspective (both Catholic and Protestant), but we work with those of various religious beliefs and those with no religious beliefs in the fight for human dignity. Thank you.
The consequences of pornography on the Internet generation are being discussed with more and more frequency at every level in the Catholic Church. Pope Francis has addressed pornography more times than any other Pope in the history of the Catholic Church, including in his letter The Joy of Love.
Most recently, Pope Francis called attention to the dangers of the Internet at the “Child Dignity in the Digital World” world congress, held October 3-6, 2017, in Rome, Italy. His address was given to leading government representatives, researchers in public health, Interpol, and the U.N., as well as executives from Facebook and Microsoft.
In his remarks, the Pope honors the great work that has been done by so many to protect both children and adults from the dangers of the Internet. Dangers which include:
- The spread of ever more extreme pornography, since habitual use raises the threshold of stimulation
- The increasing phenomenon of sexting between young men and women who use social media
- The growth of online bullying, a true form of moral and physical attack on the dignity of other young people
- Sextortion; the solicitation of minors for sexual purposes, now widely reported in the news
- Crimes of online trafficking in persons, prostitution, and even the commissioning and live viewing of acts of rape and violence against minors in other parts of the world
When referencing Internet dangers (i.e., pornography), the Pope referred to it as “what is probably the most crucial challenge for the future of the human family.”
The Pope’s words encourage those who read them to do their part to create healthy environments where the Internet is present. His words remind us not to be discouraged by the overwhelming task at hand, but to work together to take the needed steps to protect the dignity of all human life, especially the dignity of children.
What Perpetuates These Internet Dangers
The Pope explained some mindsets (which follow below) that we must fight against as individuals and a society that perpetuate these Internet dangers and make them difficult to overcome.
1. Underestimating the harm done to minors by these phenomena
In his address, Pope Francis explained, “[T]he progress of neurobiology, psychology, and psychiatry have brought to light the profound impact of violent and sexual images on the impressionable minds of children, the psychological problems that emerge as they grow older, the dependent behaviors and situations, and genuine enslavement that result from a steady diet of provocative or violent images. These problems will surely have a serious and life-long effect on today’s children.”
Related: 6 Ways to Raise a Sex Addict
2. Overlooking that they are also problems for adults
“Determining the age of minority and majority is important for legal systems, but it is insufficient for dealing with other issues. The spread of ever more extreme pornography and other improper uses of the [Inter]net not only causes disorders, dependencies and grave harm among adults, but also has a real impact on the way we view love and relationship between the sexes,” Pope Francis said to the congress participants.
“We would be seriously deluding ourselves were we to think that a society where an abnormal consumption of Internet sex is rampant among adults could be capable of effectively protecting minors.”
3. Thinking that automatic technical solutions, filters, are sufficient to deal with these problems
“Certainly, such measures [filtering] are necessary. Certainly, businesses that provide millions of people with social media and increasingly powerful, speedy and pervasive software should invest in this area a fair portion of other great profits,” Pope Francis explained.
“But there is also an urgent need, as part of the process of technical growth itself, for all those involved to acknowledge and address the ethical concerns that this growth raises, in all its breadth and its various consequences.”
4. Having an ideological and mythical vision of the Internet as a realm of unlimited freedom
“The [Inter]net has opened a vast new forum for free expression and the exchange of ideas and information,” stated the Pope. “This is certainly beneficial, but, as we have seen, it has also offered new means for engaging in heinous illicit activities, and, in the area with which we are concerned, for the abuse of minors and offences against their dignity, for the corruption of their minds and violence against their bodies.”
Pope Francis continued, “This has nothing to do with the exercise of freedom; it has to do with crimes that need to be fought with intelligence and determination, through a broader cooperation among governments and law enforcement agencies on the global level, even as the net itself is now global.”
Defending the Dignity of Minors in the Digital World
Prior to the Pope’s address, congress attendees presented Pope Francis with a list of actions steps that should be taken. These steps, as the Pope explains, consist of “ways to promote concrete cooperation among all concerned parties working to combat the great challenge of defending the dignity of minors in the digital world.” Here are the steps the Pope shared in his remarks:
- Raising awareness of the gravity of the problems
- Enacting suitable legislation
- Overseeing developments in technology
- Identifying victims and prosecuting those guilty of crimes
- Assisting minors who have been affected and providing for their rehabilitation
- Assisting educators and families
- Finding creative ways to train young people how to use the Internet in healthy ways
- Fostering greater sensitivity and providing moral formation, as well as continuing scientific research in all the fields associated with this challenge
Pope Francis specifically encouraged religious leaders and communities to address Internet dangers as they promote moral and spiritual formation. He also spoke openly to the failings of the Church in regard to protecting children and stated that, for this reason, he feels especially bound to work hard for the protection of minors and their dignity.
How Can I Defend and Protect Children Online?
The Pope’s address, the congress, and so many efforts being done throughout the United States and world are inspiring. How can we join those fighting to preserve human dignity?
Here are a few places you could start:
- Form and protect your own children from the dangers of the Internet. This will be one of the greatest gifts you give them. It states and affirms your love for your children, and even holds up their great dignity! To help you know where to begin, download Equipped: Raising Godly Digital Natives.
- Get honest with yourself about how your choices contribute to the issue. Do you personally fuel the pornography industry by purchasing or viewing pornography? If so, begin the road to freedom and dignity by joining Overcome Porn: The 40 Day Challenge or praying with us through the Novena for Purity.
- Consider giving financially to the work of the National Center of Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE). NCOSE is one of the leading actors in the fight against sexual exploitation, including human trafficking and the production and sale of child and adult pornography.