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Pope Francis: Governments must act urgently against child pornography

November 12, 2021 Catholic News Agency 0
Pope Francis greets pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square after the Wednesday general audience, June 1, 2016. / Daniel Ibáñez/CNA.

Vatican City, Nov 12, 2021 / 13:00 pm (CNA).

Pope Francis has called on governments to take urgent action against the production of child pornography in an interview with the French magazine Paris Match.

“I believe that governments should act against this delinquency as soon as possible. The groups responsible behave like mafias who hide and defend themselves,” the pope said.

“Their victims are children and minors who are used for filming; so many people, so many young people, sometimes even minors, watch these things.”

The publication of the pope’s condemnation of pornography on Nov. 11 came days after a Catholic priest in the Diocese of Cleveland, Ohio, was sentenced to life in prison on convictions of sex trafficking of youths under 18, child pornography, and sexual exploitation of children.

In the interview with the French publication, the pope also responded to a landmark report published last month which estimated that hundreds of thousands of children were abused in the Catholic Church in France over the past 70 years.

Pope Francis underlined his sense of “shame” in response to the report — a word he also used when he spoke the day after its publication at a general audience.

“To the victims, I wish to express my sadness and my pain for the traumas they have endured and my shame, our shame, my shame that for so long the Church has been incapable of putting this at the center of its concerns, assuring them of my prayers,” he said Oct. 6.

The pope said that when speaking of this shame, he recalled “the Prophet’s words, ‘To Thee, O Lord, be the glory, to me be the shame.’”

Pope Francis has repeatedly called this year for the legal protection of human dignity online.

In an audience with the International Catholic Legislators Network, the pope urged the use of public policy to combat child pornography, data breaches, and cyber attacks.

“In our age particularly, one of the greatest challenges confronting us is the administration of technology for the common good,” the pope said on Aug. 27.

“By means of policies and regulations, lawmakers can protect human dignity from whatever may threaten it. I think, for example, of the scourge of child pornography, the misuse of personal data, attacks on critical infrastructures such as hospitals, and the spread of false information on social media and so on,” he said.

The full interview with the pope will be published in a book in French, “Pourquoi eux: Ils ont fait notre époque” (“Why them: They made our epoch”), by Caroline Pigozzi on Nov. 18.

When asked in the interview about his health after the pope’s colon surgery last July, Francis responded: “I am doing well. I lead a normal life and can work at the same pace as before.”


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North Dakota lawmaker withdraws bill requiring violation of seal of confession

February 2, 2021 CNA Daily News 0

Washington D.C., Feb 2, 2021 / 11:05 am (CNA).- A North Dakota bill that would have required priests to violate the seal of confession has been withdrawn by its co-sponsor. 


The bill, SB 2180, required priests or other religious figures to report cases of child abuse or neglect to the authorities if they learned about the abuse in a confession or private conversation. 


State Sen. Judy Lee (R-West Fargo), who co-sponsored the bill, requested on Jan. 29 that it be withdrawn from consideration. Lee said the controversial bill had become “a distraction” and cited a “lack of understanding about the goal and the circumstances.”


Current state law provides a religious exception for mandatory reporting of confirmed or suspected child abuse. Cases when “the knowledge or suspicion [of abuse] is derived from information received in the capacity of spiritual adviser,” such as in the confessional, do not require reporting the abuse to authorities. The bill sponsored by Lee and other senators would have revoked that exception.


The North Dakota Catholic Conference published a statement on Friday agreeing with Lee’s goals of fighting child abuse, but disagreeing over her legislation. 


“We share in Senator’s Lee call to do more to prevent child abuse.  We simply disagreed about the bill,” said a statement from the North Dakota Catholic Conference on its Facebook page on Friday. 


“The North Dakota Catholic Conference looks forward to working with her and all legislators for the protection of the weakest among us and the common good,” the conference said, thanking all who contacted their state senators in opposition to the legislation. 


Lee said that the conversation regarding child abuse “has to continue.” 


“We all need to do what we can to protect these little ones by intervening,” she said. 


According to the Code of Canon Law, the seal of confession is “inviolable.” A priest cannot reveal the contents of a confession, nor can he say if the confession took place; for violating the seal, a priest can incur a latae sententiae excommunication.


Both of North Dakota’s bishops had previously written letters to Catholics saying that the state’s bill violated religious freedom.


Bishop David Kagan of Bismarck on Jan. 20 described the bill as one that would “[m]ake the State and not our beloved Catholic Church the moderator of our faith and our sacramental life.” 


“If this bill passes it will have a direct impact on every Catholic in the State,” he said. “If this bill passes it will impede directly our free exercise of our religious beliefs and practices.”


The Bishop of Fargo said the bill was “inherently biased against religion.” 


“The Church condemns the abuse of minors by any person. Priests and deacons are already mandated reporters of any suspected abuse of a minor,” Bishop John Folda of Fargo stated on Jan. 22. “Up until now, spiritual advising has been exempted from this mandate, but SB 2180 would end this exemption.”


Folda stated that the bill, if it became law, would “violate the rights of all people of faith to practice their religion without government interference.”


Furthermore, he warned that “for centuries, tyrants have attempted to infiltrate the sanctity of the confessional for their own ends, and this is yet another attempt to violate the sacred confidentiality of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.”