The pandemic triggered a sharp rise in child pornography in 2020. (Image: Pixabay)
Pope Francis has made an urgent appeal to families and educational and public institutions to tackle the scourge of the sexual abuse of children, deploring pedophilia and child pornography as a kind of “psychological murder.”
“Continue your work without hesitation, paying particular attention to the educational aspect, in order to form a firm conscience in people and eradicate the culture of abuse and exploitation,” the pope said during an audience with 50 members of the Meter Association on May 15.
Founded in Sicily, Italy, in 1989 by Father Fortunato Di Noto, the group has defended child rights and battled abuses including child pornography and pedophilia.
The pope thanked all those supporting the group in defending abused children and applauded the members who have “contributed to making visible the Church's love for the smallest and most defenseless.”
He said they have reached out to children with respect, closeness, compassion and tenderness to welcome, console and protect them, binding up their “spiritual wounds” like the Good Samaritan.
Pope Francis described the Meter Association as a home, a place of welcome, shelter and care in times of distress and pain.
Even today, we note that the first reaction of many families is to cover up everything
“You have been and are home for so many children whose innocence has been violated or enslaved by the selfishness of adults,” the pope said.
The mission and services of the association are more necessary today and renewed determination and greater awareness from families, educators and public institutions are vital as child abuses go unchecked, especially child pornography on the Internet and social media.
“Even today, we note that the first reaction of many families is to cover up everything. It is always there in other institutions, even in the Church,” he said, adding that “we must fight this old habit of covering up”.
Describing child abuse as a kind of "psychological murder", the Holy Father said that in many cases it is a "cancellation of childhood.” The protection of children against sexual exploitation is a duty of all states, which must identify both traffickers and abusers. He said it is a duty to denounce and prevent child abuse in the various spheres of society, such as in schools, sporting, recreational and cultural institutions, religious communities and by individuals.
The Covid-19 pandemic triggered a sharp rise in child pornography online globally in 2020, according to a report by the Meter Association.
“Pedophilia and child pornography are not afraid of Covid and do not need a vaccine, quite the contrary,” said the report released on March 18.
“If in 2020 it was everyone’s turn to stay at home, this meant a golden business for those who rape children and exploit the material produced with these little slaves of modern times. And for now, there seems to be no vaccine against child abuse.”
The Meter Association noted that child pornography in video format more than doubled from 992,300 cases in 2019 to 2,032,556 in 2020.
“Evidently ‘simple’ photos are no longer enough. Pedophiles search and produce more videos to satisfy their unhealthy desires. Their perversion finds greater satisfaction in movies,” the group noted.