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Irish bishops speak out against abortion requirement for medical jobs

March 21, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Dublin, Ireland, Mar 21, 2019 / 01:22 pm (CNA).- The Irish Bishops’ Conference has objected to job requirements mandating that certain consultant doctors be willing to participate in abortions, saying that the country’s new abortion law had promised to safeguard conscience rights for medical professionals.

“This precondition runs totally counter to a doctor’s constitutional and human right to freedom of conscience,” said the bishops, according to Irish Catholic.

“This totally undermines the whole concept of freedom of conscience which was guaranteed in the recent legislation,” they added.

In a statement following their Spring 2019 General Meeting in Maynooth, the bishops of Ireland addressed an advertisement for two consultants at the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin. As a job requirement, the candidates for the Obstetrics/Gynecology and Anesthesia positions must be willing to take part in abortions.

The bishops’ conference said these preconditions may rule out the best possible person for the job by eliminating candidates solely because they are unwilling to perform abortions.

“A doctor who is eminently qualified to work as a consultant in these fields is denied employment in these roles because of his/her conscience,” said the bishops, according to RTE.

“Doctors who are pro-life and who may have spent over a decade training in these areas and who may otherwise be the best candidate for these positions are now advised that, should they apply, they would not be eligible for consideration,” they said.

A spokesman for the National Maternity Hospital argued that the specific posts were funded by the Health Service Executive, a government agency, for the purpose of abortions.

“They are therefore for individuals willing to contribute to the provision of these services. Other past and future posts are not affected. The conscientious objection guidelines for staff in both hospitals remain unchanged,” the spokesman said, according to RTE.

Once a majority-Catholic and pro-life contingent, voters in Ireland last May voted to repeal the Eighth Amendment to their constitution, which had banned abortion. General practitioners are now allowed to perform abortions up to nine weeks and hospitals are allowed to perform the procedure up to 12 weeks of pregnancy.

The repeal has already led to concerns about freedom of conscience for medical professionals. At least 640 general practitioners in Ireland signed a petition in November objecting to the new obligation of referring patients to other doctors for abortions.

The majority of the country’s 2,500 general practitioners (GP) are unwilling to perform abortions. Only between 4 and 6 percent of GPs have said they would participate in the procedure.

The nation’s bishops recommitted themselves to helping pregnant women find the resources they need and educating those interested in apologetics defending life. To further these goals, the bishops have created a new Council for Life, led by Bishop Kevin Doran of Elphin.

“The council will give priority to exploring how best, in the current socio-cultural context, the Catholic community can offer practical support to women in crisis pregnancy, giving their unborn babies the best chance at life,” Bishop Doran said, according to Irish Catholic.

“It will also give priority to promoting an understanding of life questions among young people and to engaging them in the challenge of defending life.”
 
 

 

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On Lenten retreat, Pope Francis reflected on ‘Gaudium et spes’

March 15, 2019 CNA Daily News 1

Rome, Italy, Mar 15, 2019 / 11:15 am (CNA).- Pope Francis said Friday that he senses resistance to Gaudium et spes, a document the pope said he reflected much upon during his Lenten retreat this week.

In his concluding remarks at the Roman curia’s spiritual exercises March 15, Pope Francis said that he was struck by the retreat master’s theme of God’s presence in humanity.

“I thought a lot about a conciliar document – Gaudium et spes – perhaps it is the document that has found more resistance, even today,” Pope Francis said.

Gaudium et spes is the Second Vatican Council’s 1965 pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world.

Francis told the retreat master, Benedictine abbot Bernardo Gianni, that he saw the monk possessed “the courage of the Council Fathers when they signed that document.”

The document’s introduction states that “the Church has always had the duty of scrutinizing the signs of the times and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel.”

Gaudium et spes touches on the Church’s role in economic and social life, matters of the family, political affairs, the development of culture, and the promotion of peace in the world through the international community.

“Far from diminishing our concern to develop this earth, the expectancy of a new earth should spur us on, for it is here that the body of a new human family grows, foreshadowing in some way the age which is to come,” Gaudium et spes states.

It continues, “When we have spread on earth the fruits of our nature and our enterprise—human dignity, brotherly communion, and freedom—according to the command of the Lord and in his Spirit, we will find them once again, cleansed this time from the stain of sin, illuminated and transfigured, when Christ presents to his Father an eternal and universal kingdom … Here on earth the kingdom is mysteriously present.”

Reflecting on the incarnate Word, the pastoral constitution says: “Christ … fully reveals man to man himself and makes his supreme calling clear.”

Pope Francis returned to Rome after his Lenten retreat at the Casa Divin Maestro in Ariccia March 15. It is the sixth consecutive year the pope and members of the Curia have held their spiritual exercises at the house in Ariccia.

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Scientists call for global moratorium on genetically modified babies

March 15, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

London, England, Mar 15, 2019 / 10:03 am (CNA).- A group of 18 scientists and bioethicists from seven countries has called for a global moratorium on the practice of editing human DNA to create genetically modified babies until the international community can develop a “framework” for how to proceed in an ethical manner.

The group of scientists, in a March 13 editorial in the journal Nature, acknowledged that many people of religious belief find “the idea of redesigning the fundamental biology of humans morally troubling,” and that the practice could have serious societal consequences.

This practice of changing “heritable DNA” – found in human sperm, eggs, or embryos – is known as “germline editing.”

“By ‘global moratorium’, we do not mean a permanent ban,” the group of scientists wrote.

“Rather, we call for the establishment of an international framework in which nations, while retaining the right to make their own decisions, voluntarily commit to not approve any use of clinical germline editing unless certain conditions are met.”

The conditions for a nation to meet, the scientists say, should include giving public notice of its intention to engage in germline editing and consulting with other nations about “the wisdom of doing so,” as well as taking a suggested two years to ascertain whether there is “broad societal consensus” about whether germline editing is appropriate.

In addition, a coordinating body to provide information and reports about germline editing should be established, they say, possibly under the purview of the World Health Organization.

The call for a moratorium comes amid ethical questions surrounding a Chinese biophysicist who claims he created the first genetically modified babies late last year.

He Jiankui says his goal was to edit embryos to give them the ability to resist HIV infection by disabling the CCR5 gene, which allows HIV to enter a cell.

He says he used a technology known as CRISPR to edit sections of the human genome, performing the procedure on embryonic humans. The technology, which selectively “snips” and trims areas of the genome and replaces it with strands of desired DNA, has previously been used on adult humans and other species. CRISPR technology has only recently been used to treat deadly diseases in adults, and limited experiments have been performed on animals.

In a letter signed by 120 Chinese scientists, He was condemned for ignoring ethical guidelines. The letter called the gene manipulation a “Pandora’s box,” and said, “The biomedical ethics review for this so-called research exists in name only. Conducting direct human experiments can only be described as crazy.”

At least three of the authors of the Nature article have connections to CRISPR-based gene-editing technologies.

The Nature scientists did not rule out germline editing for research purposes, as long as the study did not involve the transfer of an embryo to woman’s uterus; nor did their call for a ban apply to gene editing in non-reproductive cells in order to treat diseases, because modifications done on those cells can be done with the informed consent of adults providing the cells, and the modifications are not heritable, i.e. they cannot be passed on to offspring.

Around 30 nations worldwide, including the United States, already have laws to directly or indirectly ban the clinical use of germline editing. CRISPR research on embryos is currently banned from receiving federal funding, but can be conducted using private funding. The Food and Drug Administration prohibits gene modification on viable human embryos, which means any genetically modified human embryos must be destroyed, rather than brought to term.

The scientists called for a fixed period – perhaps five years – when no clinical uses of germline editing are allowed worldwide.

“As well as allowing for discussions about the technical, scientific, medical, societal, ethical and moral issues that must be considered before germline editing is permitted, this period would provide time to establish an international framework,” they wrote.

The scientists noted that here is broad scientific consensus that germline editing is not yet safe or effective enough to be considered for clinical use. They also highlighted the distinction between “genetic correction,” which involves working to edit out rare mutations, and “genetic enhancement,” or the attempt to improve human individuals and the species.

The Nature scientists noted that even efforts at genetic correction, when undertaken in order to cure a disease, can have unintended consequences. For example, a common variant of the gene SLC39A8 decreases a person’s risk of developing hypertension and Parkinson’s disease, but increases their risk of developing schizophrenia, Crohn’s disease, and obesity.

This is also true for the genes that He worked with in his research, as altering those genes could make the genetically modified babies more susceptible to certain viral infections.

“Its influence on many other diseases – and its interactions with other genes and with the environment – remains unknown,” the scientists wrote.

“It will be much harder to predict the effects of completely new genetic instructions – let alone how multiple modifications will interact when they co-occur in future generations. Attempting to reshape the species on the basis of our current state of knowledge would be hubris.”

In Dignitas personae, its 2008 instruction on certain bioethical questions, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said that while somatic cell gene therapy is in principle morally licit, “because the risks connected to [germ line cell therapy] are considerable and as yet not fully controllable, in the present state of research, it is not morally permissible to act in a way that may cause possible harm to the resulting progeny.”

The instruction also warned against a “eugenic mentality” that aims to improve the gene pool, adding that there could be social stigmas and privileges applied to people with certain genetic qualities, when “such qualities do not constitute what is specifically human.”

CNA spoke to John DiCamillo, an ethicist at the National Catholic Bioethics Center, in early 2017. He explained that somatic cell gene editing may be morally legitimate when used for “a directly therapeutic purpose for a particular patient in question, and if we’re sure we’re going to limit whatever changes to this person.” He pointed to gene therapy trials for disorders such as sickle cell disease and cancer that show promise for treating difficult disorders.

Editing sperm, eggs, or early embryos, however, presents serious concerns, he said. Manipulating sperm and ova requires removing them from a person’s body; if conception is achieved with these cells, it is nearly always through in vitro methods. This practice of in vitro fertilization is held by the Church to be ethically unacceptable because it dissociates procreation from the integrally personal context of the conjugal act.

Scientists at the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research and education arm of Susan B. Anthony List, reacted to the Nature scientists’ proposal by saying their suggested moratorium does not go far enough.

“This proposal for a temporary moratorium on implanting and gestating gene-edited embryos is disappointingly short-sighted,” said Dr. David Prentice, CLI’s vice president and research director.

“Scientifically unsound and ethically problematic experiments on human embryos, including creating gene-edited embryos in the lab and then destroying them, would still be allowed and even encouraged. We call instead for the full prohibition of gene-editing experiments on embryos or germ cells – not just a speed bump.”

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Northern Ireland anti-abortion law has saved 100,000 lives, pro-lifers say

March 13, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Belfast, Northern Ireland, Mar 13, 2019 / 05:02 pm (CNA).- Efforts to protect the unborn from legal abortion in Northern Ireland continue despite efforts to bypass self-governance and go directly through the U.K. Parliament—efforts backed by a U.N. committee and pro-abortion rights politicians and groups.

Last month pro-life advocates marched on the U.K. Parliament in Westminster opposing any imposition of legal abortion on Northern Ireland. Ten women marchers each held a box symbolizing 10,000 people they say have been born because of laws that protect the unborn from abortion.

“100,000 people in Northern Ireland are alive today because Northern Ireland did not accept the same abortion law that was introduced into Britain in 1967,” Dawn McEvoy, co-founder of the Belfast-based group Both Lives Matter, said Feb. 26. “These people are our mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, daughters and sons. Abortion pressure groups have no mandate from us the people of Northern Ireland to impose abortion on Northern Ireland from Westminster. We urge the British Government to respect the people of Northern Ireland and our elected representatives.”

On March 9, several hundred pro-abortion rights protesters paraded to Belfast’s City Hall, calling for legal abortion in Northern Ireland. Some marchers accused British Prime Minister Theresa May of violating women’s rights. The demonstration aimed to mark International Women’s Day observed the previous day, the Belfast Telegraph reports.

Abortion is legally permitted in Northern Ireland only if the mother’s life is at risk or if there is risk of permanent, serious damage to her mental or physical health. Bills to legalize abortion in cases of fatal fetal abnormality, rape, or incest failed in the Northern Ireland Assembly in 2016.

Elective abortion is legal in the rest of the U.K. up to 24 weeks.

May has said abortion should remain a devolved issue for Northern Ireland, which has self-governing powers.

However, the Northern Ireland Assembly at Stormont is currently suspended due to disagreements between the two major governing parties: the anti-abortion Democratic Unionist Party, which has traditionally drawn support from Protestants, and Sinn Fein, which has traditionally drawn support from Catholics but has taken a strong turn towards permissive abortion laws in recent years.

The DUP is a member of May’s coalition government in Westminster at a critical time in British politics, amid much controversy over the U.K.’s exit from the European Union.

Amnesty International is backing changes to Northern Ireland abortion law.

Grainne Teggart, Amnesty’s campaigns manager in Northern Ireland, called on the U.K. government to introduce “abortion reform” legislation in Westminster without delay. In a March 11 statement, she said devolution “does not relieve the U.K. government of their responsibility to uphold human rights in Northern Ireland.”

The group welcomed the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women report published March 11.

The U.N. committee charged there were “grave and systematic violations of women’s rights” in the region and criticized the failure of the U.K. to “ensure women’s access to abortion services,” including decriminalization of abortion, on the grounds that it is a matter for Northern Ireland authorities. The committee cited the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, which requires the Westminster Parliament to legislate as necessary to ensure that the U.K.’s international obligations are met with respect to Northern Ireland.

Northern Ireland’s abortion law has been under increased pressure in recent years. Since abortion became legal after strong voter support in the Republic, abortion advocates have said “the North is next,” while pro-life advocates have said “The North Protects.”

Labour Party MP Stella Creasy had intended to propose an amendment to a draft domestic abuse bill to change abortion laws in Ireland, but the ruling Conservative government restricted the bill to England and Wales.

Creasy has joined MPs from multiple parties and more than 70 groups calling on the government to remove the restriction, the Belfast Telegraph reports.

“The Government has restricted the extent of this bill to try and avoid upsetting the DUP,” she said.

A DUP spokesperson said any attempt to change the law without approval of the Assembly would breach the devolution settlement allowing self-government in Northern Ireland.

“The government should respect the right of the Assembly to legislate on abortion,” said the spokesperson.

Fiona Bruce, a Conservative MP representing Congleton in Cheshire, England, joined Both Lives Matter in urging the government to reject any effort to expand legal abortion.

“Abortion pressure groups are trying to undermine devolution and impose change to abortion law for Northern Ireland,” she said Feb. 26. “This is bad for devolution everywhere and contrary to Government policy.”

“These extreme proposals are out of touch with the will of the Northern Irish people, and in particular women,” she said. “It is clear that a strong majority of Northern Irish women reject interference from Westminster and believe that this is a decision for Northern Ireland.”

Both Lives Matter cited the polling group ComRes’ online poll in October 2018 of 1,013 Northern Ireland adults. It found 64 percent said abortion law should be decided by the people of Northern Ireland and their representatives, not MPs from other parts of the U.K.

A Belfast woman plans to bring forward a personal challenge to Northern Ireland’s abortion law to court this week.

In June 2018 the U.K. Supreme Court threw out a previous challenge to Northern Ireland’s abortion law, saying the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission, which brought the case, did not have standing to do so. However, a majority of the judges said that the Northern Ireland abortion law framework is incompatible with human rights laws insofar as it bars abortion in cases of pregnancy by rape or incest or in cases of fetal abnormality. The U.K. government has so far not legislated any change.

Northern Irish women have been able to procure free National Health Service abortions in England, Scotland, and Wales since November 2017.

Some members of the House of Lords are attempting to require that same-sex marriage be legally recognized in Northern Ireland, the Belfast Telegraph reported March 1.

“In the absence of devolved government in Northern Ireland, there are members on all sides and in both Houses of Parliament who want to get this matter resolved,” said Conservative peer Lord Hayward, who with Labour peer Lord Collins of Highbury is backing such an amendment to the Civil Partnerships, Marriages and Deaths Bill.

“Westminster has already passed Northern Ireland legislation in the absence of Stormont, so we know that we can and should address the issue of marriage equality,” Lord Hayward said.

The amendment would allow the Assembly six months to overturn the provision after the bill becomes law.

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Pope begins Lenten spiritual exercises reflecting on Christ’s gaze

March 11, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Rome, Italy, Mar 11, 2019 / 10:24 am (CNA).- A Benedictine abbot is leading Pope Francis and the Roman curia in Lenten spiritual exercises this week, with the theme of Christ’s gaze and gestures in the life of the world.

“Let us allow ourselves to be looked at by Him. Jesus is our humanism,” the Italian monk Bernardo Francesco Maria Gianni said in the first of his spiritual reflections March 10.

Gianni, the abbot of San Miniato al Monte Abbey in Florence, will provide two meditations each day of this week’s papal retreat, which also includes daily Eucharistic adoration and Mass.

“Look at how He looked. Looking at the rich young man, He loved him; the meeting of eyes with Zacchaeus, who climbs up a tree to see the Lord Jesus, who looks up to meet him,” the Gianni said.

The monk told the Roman curia, “Our pastoral action, our taking care of the people entrusted to us … of the humanity that is entrusted to us by the Lord, can really be a new flame of ardent desire, and a return to being a garden of beauty, peace, justice, measure, harmony.”

Citing the Italian poet Mario Luzi and Venerable Giorgio La Pira, a mayor of Florence in the 1950s and ’60s, the abbot said that the Benedictine tradition “prolongs the gaze of the monk from the cloister to the city in front of the monastery.”

“The perspective of the monastery is not an alternative to the city, but an exemplary, paradigmatic, authentic testimony, in which the city could rediscover the reasons for its vocation, its mystery, present and future,” he continued.

The pope’s spiritual exercises are taking place at the Casa Divin Maestro in Ariccia, a town just 16 miles outside of Rome. Located on Lake Albano, the retreat house is just a short way from the papal summer residence in Castel Gandolfo. It will be the sixth consecutive year the pope and members of the Curia have held their Lenten retreat at the house in Ariccia.

While the practice of the Bishop of Rome going on retreat with the heads of Vatican dicasteries each Lent began some 80 years ago, it had been customary for them to follow the spiritual exercises on Vatican ground. Beginning in Lent 2014, Francis chose to hold the retreat outside Rome.

All of the pope’s activities are suspended this week until he returns from his Lenten retreat March 15.

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Bishop Barron: Proclaim the Gospel more boldly in times of crisis

March 7, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

Rome, Italy, Mar 7, 2019 / 01:41 pm (CNA).- Bishop Robert Barron said Thursday that rather than becoming hesitant in sharing the Gospel, the Catholic Church should proclaim the truth even more boldly “during these times of crisis.”

“Wounds have got to be addressed and healed. If we just turn the other way or cover that up, that is not going to help the project,” Barron told CNA March 7.

“It is a precarious time. It is a time when a lot of us feel threatened in a way. It has affected me … but my sense has always been during these times of crisis, we bring the Gospel forward more boldly,” he said.

Barron, an auxiliary bishop of Los Angeles, is known for his Catholicism video series and online YouTube video apostolate, which he said began at a time when the American Church was beginning to grapple with clerical sex abuse. In response, his ministry, Word on Fire, leads with the beauty and the intellectual depth of the Catholic faith.

“This is the moment for novelty and creativity and simplicity in the best sense, the return to the Gospel basics,” Barron said.

The American bishop was in Rome to receive an honorary doctorate from the Angelicum, the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas, on the 745th anniversary of Aquinas’ death.

“Among the saints, [Aquinas] is the greatest and the most intimate of my spiritual friends, and he has followed me all of my life long,” Barron said in his homily at the Angelicum’s Church of St. Dominic and Sixtus.

The bishop reflected that St. Thomas Aquinas taught him that “the person of wisdom is one who sees the world from the standpoint of the highest cause.”

“What happens to all of us sinners is that we see the world from the standpoint of all kinds of proximate causes,” he explained.

“We start seeing our life in terms of power and honor and wealth, privilege and worldly success, and then we fret and we worry and we spend hours and hours of our lives preoccupied with secondary and relatively unimportant things.”

“But when we see our lives and our world from the standpoint of the highest cause, from God’s point of view, that same kind of peace and serenity … invades our souls,” he said.

This high viewpoint, he added, is ultimately “the hilltop of Calvary” from which we “see the whole world from the standpoint of self-emptying love.”

Bishop Barron’s lecture at the Angelicum University offered a Thomistic response to a postmodern critique that a person’s gift-giving can never be completely altruistic.

“What makes all the difference in the particular Christian claim … is that divine manner can through grace become our being and action,” he explained. This occurs through the divine “indwelling of the one whose proper name is donum, gift,” he said, referring to the Holy Spirit.

Barron told CNA that this is just one of the ways Aquinas can help to bring truth and clarity to our culture permeated by postmodern ideas, like today’s “culture of self-invention.”

“Most young people in America would believe that that there’s your truth, my truth, but there is no real objective truth, and so I make it up. I think that is the form of postmodernism that is really dangerous,” he said.

“If there is no real truth, there is no real goodness, there is no objective value … Aquinas would stand with the great classical tradition, the Biblical tradition in affirming the objectivity of truth and value, and the idea is not to make it up on my own, but to learn to love it,” he continued.

“When you fall in love with objective value, that is when life gets very wonderful. You get outside of the narrow range of your own preoccupations and you fall in love with something that calls to you from beyond your ego,” Barron said.

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French cardinal convicted for failing to report abuse

March 7, 2019 CNA Daily News 1

Lyon, France, Mar 7, 2019 / 03:50 am (CNA).- French Cardinal Philippe Barbarin, archbishop of Lyon, was found guilty Thursday of failing to report to authorities the alleged sexual abuse of a priest in his diocese. He was given a six-month suspended prison sentence.

French tribunal president Brigitte Vernay declared Barbarin guilty March 7 “of non-denunciation of ill-treatment” of a minor, according to AFP. Barbarin was not present in court for the verdict.

Five other archdiocesan officials on trial with Barbarin were acquitted March 7. Barbarin was also expected to be acquitted after even the prosecutor of the case argued there was no proof of the cardinal’s legal wrongdoing and therefore no grounds for conviction, the Associated Press reports.

The cardinal will appeal the verdict, according to AP. Barbarin’s lawyer, Jean-Felix Luciani, said Thursday about the conviction that “this is a decision that is not fair at the juridical level.” Implying hope in the success of an appeal, he stated: “We hope that at the next step, justice will be done.”

The trial against Barbarin began in January on charges he did not report facts of abuse to judicial authorities between July 2014 and June 2015, in a case involving Fr. Bernard Preynat, who has been accused of abusing dozens of minors in the 1980s and early ’90s.

In 2017, the cardinal told Le Monde that he did not conceal allegations against Preynat, but said that his response to the allegations had been “inadequate.” He said he opened an investigation against Preynat after becoming aware of the allegations against him.

Allegations against Preynat became public in 2015. Prosecutors dropped the case the following year after an initial investigation, but a victims’ group with more than 80 members who say they were abused by Preynat led to a reopening of the case, the Guardian reports.

Preynat was banned from leading boy scout groups in the early 1990s, but remained in ministry until being removed by Cardinal Barbarin in 2015.

The priest has acknowledged abusing minors, according to the Guardian, and will face trial later this year.

Cardinal Luis Francisco Ladaria Ferrer, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, was also ordered to testify in the case. In October, the Vatican invoked diplomatic immunity in refusing to deliver a French court summons to Ladaria, saying that as a minister of Vatican City State, he is protected under international law.

The court summons had involved a letter Ladaria sent to Barbarin, advising him to take disciplinary action against Preynat, “while avoiding public scandal.”

The plaintiffs’ lawyers wanted Ladaria to testify as to whether the direction to prevent scandal was intended as an injunction to avoid going to court, in which case they accuse the CDF prefect of being complicit in failing to report the allegedly abusive priest to authorities.

Barbarin’s trial comes as revelations of clerical sex abuse and cover up continue to send shock waves through the Catholic Church. The United States, Ireland, Australia, Chile, Argentina and Germany are among the countries that have seen recent abuse scandals uncovered.

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Age verification to access online porn arriving in UK next month

March 7, 2019 CNA Daily News 0

London, England, Mar 7, 2019 / 03:36 am (CNA).- Next month, the United Kingdom will roll out new online restrictions in an attempt to protect children under the age of 18 from accessing pornography.

Digital Minister Matt Hancock signed a commencement order for the Digital Economy Act in 2017. After two years of development, the program will be released on April 1.

To view online pornography, internet users will need to confirm their age by entering information from a driver’s license, credit card, or passport. If users do not wish to input their personal information, they may purchase a special ID card, available at thousands of retail shops across the nation for under £10.

Websites that fail to follow the age verification rules may face a nearly $330,000 fine or be blocked by the country’s internet service providers.

Matt Fradd, author of The Porn Myth and creator of the new 21-day porn detox STRIVE, voiced support for increased restrictions surrounding pornography.

“If it’s something as simple as age verification, I’m all for it,” he told CNA. “It just sounds like we are expecting the same thing of people online that we already expect of them offline.”

The most popular verification service is called AgeID and was built by MindGeek, which operates and owns several common pornographic sites.

Some critics of the new UK policy say it violates the privacy and safety of pornography users. Others argue that it does not go far enough to protect minors.

“It may make it harder for children to stumble across pornography, especially in the younger age range, but it will do nothing to stop determined teenagers,” said Dr. Victoria Nash, deputy director of the Oxford Internet Institute, according to BirminghamLive.

Dr. Joss Wright, senior research fellow at the institute, added that the new policy raises “privacy issues – you’re requiring people to effectively announce the fact they are looking at this material to the credit card authorities. And there’s serious security issues from requiring people to enter their credit card details into untrusted sites.”

The UK’s National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) said the age verification is a valuable first step, but that other measures need to be taken alongside it.

“The NSPCC is calling for social networks to be required by law to give under-18s safe accounts with extra protections built in, so that children are kept as safe online as they are in the real world,” read a statement from the organization, according to BirminghamLive.

Fradd said the restrictions are enforcing age requirements that are already established offline. He said there is often confusion among parents about the seriousness of material viewed online compared to explicit material accessed in stores or movie theaters.

“Imagine a 17-year-old going to watch 50 Shades of [Grey] and being turned away and within five minutes looking at something a hundred times worse on their phone. So either allow children to watch 50 Shades of Grey and buy pornography from stores, or be consistent and require age verification,” he said.

Children’s access to online pornography has been identified as a significant problem: A 2016 study by internet security company Bitdefender found that about 1 in 10 visitors to porn video sites is under age 10.

Fight the New Drug, an organization that works to fight pornography addiction, has highlighted numerous studies showing negative effects of pornography on underage users, including the creation of addictions, changes in sexual taste, and physical impact on the brain.

“Just more broadly, I would say pornography perverts a child’s understanding of human intimacy and sexual life, which is a very beautiful thing,” Fradd stressed.

“It’s as pernicious as sex is beautiful and human intimacy is worthwhile. Since those two things are beautiful and worthwhile, the corruption of it [in regards to] a child is all together something despicable and horrid.”

 

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