Church hosts conference on Child Dignity in Digital World
Rome, October, 5th, 2017 (Vatican Radio). Child Dignity in the Digital World is the title of a world congress being held at Rome’s congress being held at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University this week. Among the key note speakers is the Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and the meeting ends with a papal audience on Friday. Ahead of the opening session, organisers held a press conference to highlight the urgency of this global challenge of protecting children from on-line abuse. The secret, scary world of children being groomed, abused and radicalized on-line was the subject of a short video shown at the press conference on Monday. It featured seven boys and girls, from toddlers to teens, talking about how easy it is to fall prey to internet paedophiles, traffickers, bullies or recruiters for extremist organisations. It was a sobering start to this World Congress, which brings together top researchers, government representatives, law enforcement officials, software specialists, NGOs andreligious leaders. Pope to meet participants The congress has been put together by a UK-based global alliance called ‘WePROTECT’ and by ‘Telefono Azzurro’, the first Italian helpline for children at risk. The goal is to come up with a joint action plan to be presented to Pope Francis, as he meets participants at the end of this four day, international encounter. Global problem of abuse On-line abuse is a global problem and the congress has drawn delegates from countries across the world, including China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. But as Fr Hans Zollner, head of Gregorian’s Centre for Child Protection pointed out, in too many countries the problem of child abuse is still a taboo that is not openly talked about. “This is everywhere, and the risks are everywhere. Although in many parts of the word, I would dare to say in 75 percent of countries, the issue of sexual abuse, physical and online abuse of children, has not reached the level of discussion, attention and awareness like in the Anglo and central European countries”. Almost six years ago, the Gregorian centre hosted the first ever global conference on sexual abuse by priests and religious, with church leaders, psychologists, sociologists and, crucially, victims of abuse, attempting to draw up some best practices to protect children and vulnerable adults. Inter-disciplinary approach Since then, Fr Hans and his team have been travelling the globe, listening, learning and training others in different aspects of prevention, protection of victims and prosecution of perpetrators. That’s why the organisers of this World Congress believe the Pontifical university offers a “unique platform” to encourage a more inter-disciplinary approach to this problem. Keep children safe on-line That’s more urgent that ever before, with over three billion internet users globally, many of them increasingly young children spending hours of their day with unrestricted internet access. Organisers hope this congress will bring new awareness and mark the start of a new global leadership, committed to keeping children safer on-line.
In talk at Facebook, Bishop Barron tackles how to debate religion
California, September, 21st, 2017 (CNA/EWTN News). People need to learn how to argue better on the internet, especially about religion, Catholic media personality and Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Robert Barron said in remarks at Facebook's headquarters. “Seek with great patience to understand your opponent’s position,” he advised, adding that it can be “very tempting just to fire back 'why you’re wrong.'” Instead of going after what’s wrong, he said, one should seek also highlight what your opponent has right. This is an “extraordinarily helpful” way to get past impasses. Bishop Barron’s Word on Fire website and media content reach millions of people each year over the internet. The bishop spoke to Facebook employees Sept. 18 at the company's Menlo Park, Calif. headquarters on the topic “How to have a religious argument.” The event was live-streamed to around 2,500 viewers. “If we don't know how to argue about religion, then we’re going to fight about religion,” he said. For Bishop Barron, argument is something positive and “a way to peace.” If one goes on social media, he said, “you'll see a lot of energy around religious issues. There will be a lot of words exchanged, often angry ones, but very little argument.” Bishop Barron praised the intellectual tradition of St. Thomas Aquinas and his time's treatment of disputed questions. A professor would gather in a public place and entertain objections and questions. Aquinas always phrases the objections “in a very pithy, and very persuasive way.” In the bishop's view, he formulates arguments against God's existence even better than modern atheists and sets them up in the most convincing manner, before providing his responses to these arguments. Further, St. Thomas Aquinas cites great Muslim and Jewish scholars, as well as pre-Christian authorities like Aristotle and Cicero, always with great respect. Bishop Barron said authentic faith is not opposed to reason; it does not accept simply anything on the basis of no evidence. He compared faith to the process of coming to know another human person. While one can begin to come to know someone by reason, or through a Google search or a background check, when a relationship deepens, other questions arise. Bishop Barron addressed several other mindsets that he said forestall intelligent argument about religion. The mentality of “mere toleration” keeps religion to oneself and treats it as a hobby. However, religion makes truth claims, like claims that Christ rose from the dead. The bishop also faulted a mindset that is “voluntarist,” which believes that the faculty of the will has precedence over the intellect. In a religious context, this holds that God could make two plus two equal five. This gives rise to a view of God as arbitrary and even oppressive. In response, some people believe humanity’s will trumps the intellect and determines truth through power. According to Bishop Barron, they see God as incompatible with human freedom and, in the words of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, see freedom as the inherent liberty to determine the meaning of one’s own concept of existence, the universe, and human life itself. Addressing the Facebook employees about their work, he said that their company’s social media network shows an “extraordinary spiritual power” in connecting all the world. “I think that it’s a spiritual thing that you’re bringing everybody together,” he said.