SSPX news & events

Internet: The Church Helps the Weakest

October 17, 2017

From October 3 to 6, 2017, the Pontifical Gregorian University welcomed over 140 experts in Rome for a congress on “Child Dignity in the Digital World”. The Church wishes to encourage political leaders to “regain control” of the digital world in order to protect its weakest users.

Online abuse of minors has reached “levels of shocking gravity,” declared Cardinal Pietro Parolin, Secretary of State for the Holy See, in his opening speech at the congress on child protection and dignity on the internet organized at the Pontifical University of St. Gregory the Great.

New Technologies, New Risks

As Fr. Hans Zollner, one of the organizers of the congress, recalled, new technologies have become ubiquitous in every country in the world, exposing 800 million young people to risks that they have neither the ability nor the means to evaluate.

The German Jesuit also recalled that last year, no less than 57,000 cases of abuse of minors were brought to the attention of the courts in Europe alone. Interpol even stated that in 2016, every single day, 5 children were abused with the intent of selling gravely immoral pictures online.

The Secretary of State insisted that the digital world “is not, in fact, a separate part of the world: it is an integral part of the unique reality of the world”. He added that “minors who grow up in it are exposed to new risks, or rather, to old risks manifested in new ways; and the culture of the protection of minors that we want to spread must be sufficiently able to address today’s problems”.

In his speech, Cardinal Parolin underlined the responsibility of every individual, but more particularly of the companies that promote the development of electronic networks. They are responsible for the “hundreds of millions of children and young people are growing up in a digital world within a context that is still largely undeveloped”, with parents and teachers who “may not, perhaps, be culturally equipped”; these companies do not guarantee sufficient protection.

Lastly, the Cardinal recalled one of the congress’ goals: “we must work to regain control of the development of the digital world….For the minors of today are the entirety of tomorrow’s human race.”

Francis Speaks Out Against Online Abuse

Three days later, on October 6, 2017, it was Pope Francis’s turn to receive those who had participated in the congress for an audience; he took the opportunity to point out what he considers to be the three “mistaken approaches” to the digital world: the first is underestimating the impact of harmful images on the conscience of a minor.

The second is “to think that automatic technical solutions, filters devised by ever more refined algorithms in order to identify and block the spread of abusive and harmful images, are sufficient to deal with these problems.”

The third mistaken approach consists in what the pope calls “an ideological and mythical vision of the net as a realm of unlimited freedom”.

The Holy Father concluded by recalling the Church’s special vocation to work for the protection of the weakest, and especially of minors.