WASHINGTON — In a letter to members of the U.S. Congress, four bishops who serve as chairmen of committees in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) encouraged lawmakers to address the growing problem of the exploitation of children over the Internet and through mobile technology. The bishops lead committees that include among their purview the issues of protecting children and the vulnerable and upholding healthy individuals and families.
“As pastors, we have seen the destructive effects of the reprehensible offenses of child exploitation firsthand,” the bishops wrote. “And as leaders of an institution that, for many years, failed to meet its responsibility to protect all children, we know all too well the consequences of a culture that fails to give adequate attention to the problem of child sexual exploitation.” The bishops noted that the exploitation of children has always been a problem but has increased exponentially over the last several years in large part due to the Internet and mobile technology.
“Online child exploitation threatens the safety and well-being of our young people and destroys families and communities. The ability of a child to grow into adulthood in peace and security is both a human right and a demand of the common good: the dignity of the human person requires protections for our young people so that they may flourish as they mature,” they said. They encouraged lawmakers to consider three longstanding moral principles in discerning legislation that addresses the protection of children online:
- Respect for life and dignity
- The call to family
- The call to community and participation
The signatories of the letter are Bishop James V. Johnston, Jr. of Kansas City-St. Joseph, chairman of the Committee on Protection of Children & Young People; Archbishop Borys Gudziak of the Ukrainian Archeparchy of Philadelphia, chairman of the Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development; Bishop Robert P. Reed, auxiliary bishop of Boston, and chairman of the Committee on Communications; and Bishop Robert E. Barron of Winona-Rochester, and chairman of the Committee on Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth.
A copy of the bishops’ letter to Congress may be found here.