Archive of April 24, 2010

New Orleans media campaign urges parents to stay informed

New Orleans, La., Apr 24, 2010 (CNA) - The stories of teens and young students being harassed on the Internet continue to dominate the news. In fact, the Crimes against Children Research Center Youth Internet Safety Survey (YISS) cites a 50 percent increase in online harassment.

To help parents keep their children safe from these threats and more, the Office of Safe Environment for the Archdiocese of New Orleans has created a “Stay Informed, Stay Involved” multi-media campaign involving radio and television commercials and talks at schools. The campaign runs this month during Prevent Child Abuse Awareness Month.

“We are experiencing the children having difficulties with their relationships with each other in ‘sexting’ and texting, cyber-bullying,” said Sister of Mount Carmel Mary Ellen Wheelahan, safe environment coordinator for the archdiocese. “So we want to get the word out not only to the child but the parents. The parents have to get involved and check the social networking sites, their children’s iPhones, and the log of the calls so they know who the children are talking to and what they are saying.”

Partnering to spread info

Sister Mary Ellen also has teamed up with the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office Cyber Crime Unit to give a Powerpoint presentation about texting, sexting and cyberbullying to parents and students in elementary and high schools and at parishes.

“They drive the point very clear that who you think you’re speaking to online isn’t necessarily who you are speaking to,” she said. “Students’ eyes get real big when they see the photos (Net Smarts from the Center for Missing and Exploited Children).

We tell them how to protect their identity online, to take care when they are taking pictures of themselves and make sure they are aware of what’s behind them – the background – so they are not giving away information of who they are or where they are and to check their privacy setting on Internet.”

TV and radio spots

Sister Mary Ellen said the locally produced commercial features Archbishop Gregory Aymond and high school students. It airs on Cox television channels in Louisiana, Lifetime, and on KYRK (104.1 FM); WQUE (93.3 FM) and WNOE (101.1) radio.

She said because social media is changing so rapidly and serious crimes against children are occurring, the importance of getting this message out prompted spending approximately $25,000 on this campaign. She mentioned a recent incident in Shreveport where a young teen sent a cab driver to pick up who he thought was a 13-year-old girl he was communicating online with, when in fact it was the adult cab driver who then abducted and killed him.

“The children just aren’t paying attention to what they are doing and to whom they are speaking,” she said. “They think they are safe because nobody is seeing them.”

Parents must stay vigilant

She said parents must be vigilant and check what their children are doing on the Internet and cell phones.

“We just have to try to keep up with what’s going on so we can protect the children,” she said. “They think nobody can see them, so they are safe. I love the quote from Pope Benedict: ‘We have to see the eyes of Christ.’ Even if we use electronic means, we have to know that the person on the other end is a child of God and deserves respect. There is so much we can do to protect the children, but parents have to get involved and commit themselves to checking on a regular basis to know what’s going on with their children.”

A 2008 study performed by The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy and said that 20 percent of teens have electronically sent nude or seminude pictures or videos of themselves, Sister Wheelahan said. Through the public service announcements the archdiocese aims to warn parents about these actions and the consequences of sending and receiving these pictures – the most serious of which is jail time.

In observance of “Prevent Child Abuse Awareness Month,” Archbishop Aymond celebrated a special Mass at St. Louis Cathedral April 18 at 11 a.m. “It’s our responsibility at the archdiocese to give parents the appropriate tools and to educate their children in safe, nurturing environments,” Sister Mary Ellen said.

View the TV spots:

Printed with permission from the Clarion Herald, newspaper for the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

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Robert Peters: SEC pornography scandal shows harms of obscene material

New York City, N.Y., Apr 24, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The exposure of workplace pornography use at the Securities and Exchange Commission while the 2008 financial crisis was unfolding shows the harmful consequences of such material, Morality in Media president Robert Peters has said. Calling for open condemnation of the vice, he said existing anti-obscenity laws should be enforced.

“Addiction to this material in the adult population is contributing to sexual exploitation of children, to the breakup of marriages, to sexual violence against women, to the demand for women trafficked into prostitution, to on-the-job sexual harassment, and to a decline in worker productivity,” Peters told CNA on Friday.

His comments came in response to news that an internal investigation of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), conducted at the request of Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), found 31 serious offenders involved with pornography during the past two and a half years, ABC News reports.

While the SEC has about 3,500 employees, 17 of the alleged offenders were senior SEC officers whose salaries ranged from $100,000 to $222,000 per year.

A senior attorney at SEC headquarters in Washington, D.C. spent up to eight hours per day accessing internet pornography, the unreleased report says. After he filled the space on his government computer with the images, he downloaded more to CDs and DVDs and stored them in boxes at his office.

One accountant with the Commission tried to access pornographic websites 1,800 times in a two-week period and had 600 images on her computer’s hard drive, ABC News said.

Another employee tried to access pornographic sites hundreds of times and was denied access, but he bypassed the network filter to visit a “significant number” of pornography sites. He resigned after being told he would lose his job.

Several of the major offenders are still at the SEC, sources told ABC News.

Most of the cases began in 2008, just as the financial system was threatened with collapse. The most recent case in the report took place four weeks ago.

"These guys in the middle of a financial crisis are spending their time looking at prurient material on the Internet," Peter Morici, a professor at the University of Maryland, told ABC News.

A former director of the Office of Economics at the U.S. International Trade Commission, Morici said the behavior was “reckless” and indicated contempt for the taxpayer’s interest in monitoring financial markets.

Robert W. Peters spoke about the problems pornography creates in a Friday e-mail interview with CNA.

Asked how pornography use could have impaired the SEC reaction to the financial crisis, he said distracted employees will neglect work whatever the nature of their distraction.

“Odds are that the misuse of time at the SEC is not the cause of our nation’s financial crisis!” Peters told CNA. “But I suspect we will never know what might have been prevented had SEC personnel been focused on their jobs instead of on computer screens filled with hardcore pornography.”

He reported that there have also been problems about misuse of government computers to view pornography at the National Science Foundation.

He cited a February 24, 2009 article in Industry News reporting that visits to pornography sites at work increased 23 percent in the previous year. Almost 25 percent of employees are visiting porn sites during the workday. A pornography industry leader has said visits to porn sites are highest during office hours.

According to Industry News, workplace pornography use poses a “major legal liability risk” for employers, who can be sued by other workers offended at being exposed to such material. It reported lost productivity is also a business problem.

Though not cited by Peters, writer Mary Eberstadt has reported that a 2007 survey by the American Management Association and the ePolicy Journal found that out of the 30 percent of bosses who reported firing an employee for internet misuse, 84 percent cited pornography as the reason.

Peters referred CNA to a “disturbing article” published at the Marine Corps Times and other military newspapers, titled, “Addicted to online porn: X-rated Internet explosion wreaks havoc with troops’ careers, lives.”

The article explains problems pornography poses for the military, including marital breakup and career-ending misconduct. The problem is believed to be even more serious than among the civilian population.

“Our nation’s role in polluting the world with pornography is also making the war against terrorism more difficult,” Peters added. He cited a Gallup Poll that found 36 percent of Baghdad residents believe Western culture has undermined moral standards by spreading sexually indecent influences.

Discussing other harms of pornography, Peters said that children’s exposure to hardcore adult pornography can interfere with their psychological, moral and spiritual development. It can lead to sexual misconduct, even including sexual abuse of other children.

Asked how the problem of pornography can be combated, Peters said parents, religious leaders and educators need to do a much better job of informing boys and girls about the harms of pornography.

“It would also help if religious leaders in particular would state unabashedly and often that it is morally wrong (sinful, if you will) for individuals of any age to view pornography!”

“There is also a role for government,” he continued, saying law enforcement is a “necessary part” of the response. He noted obscenity laws on the books at federal and state levels can be enforced against the distribution of hardcore pornography on the internet, television, and in local retail establishment.

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Publisher of National Catholic Register apologizes for defending Maciel

North Haven, Conn., Apr 24, 2010 (CNA) - Fr. Owen Kearns, L.C., the publisher of the National Catholic Register, has published an apology for defending the disgraced Legionaries of Christ founder Fr. Marcel Maciel. He specifically apologized to victims of Maciel’s abuse, investigative journalists who helped expose the crimes and to readers of the Register.

“I’m sorry for adding to your burden with my own defense of him and my accusations against you. I’m sorry for being unable to believe you earlier. I’m sorry this apology has taken so long,” he told victims.

In a publisher’s note dated April 20 and published in the Register, Fr. Kearns said he had intended not to comment until the Holy See issued its findings after its apostolic visitation of the Legionaries of Christ.

However, he realized even if he was not ready his readers were.

“To be honest, they have probably been ready for some time,” he continued.

Fr. Kearns explained that he had publicly defended Maciel as a spokesman for the Legion of Christ in early 1997 and as publisher in the National Catholic Register in November 2001 and again in May 2006.

“On each of these occasions I believed completely that the allegations against Father Maciel were false. I trusted him and his profession of innocence. I know now that I was wrong,” he wrote.

The allegations that Maciel perpetrated sexual abuse were a “complete shock” to the Legion, he said.

“We couldn’t believe that the allegations against our founder were true, because they were so incompatible with our experience of him. We tended to interpret them as one more attack — something normal in the life of many founders.”

Even the Vatican’s invitation of Fr. Maciel to a retired life of prayer and penance gave Fr. Kearns hope that he was innocent because of the absence of a public explanation.

“The conclusive evidence that he had done things incompatible with religious and priestly life made me rethink everything,” he wrote.

As other “shameful and reprehensible” facts have emerged, the Register recused itself from further reporting and used reliable news reports from independent sources.

He expressed regret that he “took to task” journalists Gerald Renner and Jason Berry and their Hartford Courant editors.

“They didn’t get everything about the Legion right but they were fundamentally correct about Father Maciel’s sexual abuse and I ask forgiveness — too late for Gerald Renner, who is deceased.”

He prayed that Maciel’s victims can accept his words and he expressed hope for a journey towards healing and reconciliation.

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Argentina’s bishops defend marriage against moves to recognize homosexual unions

Buenos Aires, Argentina, Apr 24, 2010 (CNA/EWTN News) - The bishops of Argentina issued a statement during their 99th plenary assembly this week which rejects current political pressure to equate homosexual unions with marriage, and explains why the bill currently under discussion should not be approved.

In their statement, “On the unalterable good of Marriage and the Family," the prelates explain that dialogue does not seek to "imply contempt nor discrimination," but only seeks to clarify the position of the Church. They explain that humans are created “in the image of God,” an image that “reflects not only the individual person, but also the reciprocity and complimentary nature of a union between a man and a woman." They go on to note that marriage is understood as "the common dignity, and the indissoluble unity of a man and a woman."

"Marriage is the state of life which creates a unique communion of two people who accept and respect the full exercise of the human sexual function. Marriage is understood as two people who are naturally distinct, complimentary, and reciprocal of each other. In such a union, people will be able to appreciate the wonderful gift of the communion’s fruitfulness."

Marriage, they continue, "is a gift of creation. People of the same sex cannot appreciate this reality. It is not just any union between people; it has specific and unforfeitable characteristics. These characteristics allow marriage to be a solid base for the family and society in general. This fact has been recognized historically by the great cultures of the world. And it is now found in international treaties that exist in our constitution and is understood by our people today."

Therefore, they explain, "Public authorities have a responsibility to protect marriage between men and women through laws which secure and promote marriage as a unique aspect of society and recognize the irreplaceable contribution marriage has in the common good."

"If legal recognition is given to unions between people of the same sex, or such unions are put on a legal plane identical to that of marriage and family, the State would be acting wrongly. It would be contradicting its duties by altering the principles of the natural law and the public order of Argentinean society," warn the bishops.

They continue by recalling that "the union of people of the same sex lacks the biological elements and the proper anthropology needed for marriage and family. These unions do not exist in the conjugal dimension and do not have an openness to the transmission of life. In contrast, marriages, and the families which come from them, become the home for new generations of mankind."

"From their conception, children have the inalienable right to develop inside their mothers, to be born and to grow up within the natural environment of marriage. In family life and in the different relationships with their father or mother, children will discover their own identity, and with time, maturity."

The bishops stress that, "to state a difference that is real and natural cannot be considered discriminatory. Nature does not discriminate when it makes us male or female. Similarly, our Civil Code does not discriminate when it requires a marriage to be between a man and a woman, it is simply recognizing a natural reality. Legal situations regarding the things of mutual interest between persons of the same sex can be sufficiently protected by the common law."

Therefore, the bishops assure, "It would be a serious discrimination against marriage and the family to give private unions between same-sex couples public legal approval."

After urging the legislators to consider "these fundamental truths, for the good of the country and its future generations," the bishops conclude with prayers asking God "to enlighten our governments, especially the legislators.”

“We ask also that you will not hesitate in expressing your defense and promotion of the great values that have forged our nation and of which we constitute the hope and future of our country.”

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