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Archbishop Aquila: Protect God’s gift of children

Time Magazine’s April 10 cover story raised a topic that is rarely discussed – how pornography is biologically and psychologically damaging a generation of young men and women. Science, interestingly, is beginning to discover what God revealed thousands of years ago: that men and women have a God-given dignity that is present in the complex interconnected reality of their body and soul.

Time’s article comes at a good time, since April is National Child Abuse Prevention month, a time when people around our country bring attention to the great tragedy of child abuse and work to prevent its spread. Sadly, child abuse is a bigger issue than we often realize, especially in northern Colorado. For example, in 2015 the FBI conducted a nationwide sex trafficking sting and Denver ranked as the number one city out of 135 cities for the highest number of minors rescued.  Tragically, last year was the second year in a row that Denver claimed that spot.

Child abuse is a topic that no one likes to talk about because of how horrible it is. But we need to talk about it; we need to name it and fight it.

When people discuss child abuse they typically are talking about sexual, verbal or physical abuse. I believe that exposure to sexually explicit images should also be a part of that discussion. When children are exposed to sexually explicit images, their innocence is damaged and their minds are filled with a twisted version of sexuality that is devoid of the love and beauty God created them to know at the proper age and in a beautiful way.

But there is good news. Christ’s teaching on the beauty and dignity of the human person, when presented well (such as www.chastityproject.com), can prepare our children to recognize and turn away from these counterfeit versions of sexuality that reduce people to objects of pleasure. To summarize Pope St. John Paul II’s thoughts in his famous book “Love and Responsibility,” the problem with pornography is not that it reveals too much of the person, but that it shows far too little. I urge all parents to help prepare their children for the world we live in by sharing the Church’s beautiful understanding of sexuality with them in an age appropriate manner.

The Archdiocese of Denver is also committed to fighting child abuse on other fronts. Since 2003, we have trained over 65,000 clergy members, staff and volunteers who work with minors to spot, report, and prevent abuse. We continue to train 4,000-5,000 adults every year, as well as some 23,000 children who are re-trained every year at their current grade level. In addition, this coming May our archdiocese will join the dioceses of Cheyenne, Colorado Springs, and Pueblo in contributing to the national effort to prevent child abuse by hosting the National Safe Environment Coordinators annual conference in Denver.

The archdiocese also has a partnership with the State of Colorado, which this year includes a new state-wide phone number (1-844-CO-4-KIDS) that everyone can use to report all cases of neglect or abuse of children.

I would like to thank all those who work to prevent the abuse of children, who are one the most precious gifts God give us. From them, we learn to follow the Lord, as Jesus told his disciples, “Let the children come to me, and do not prevent them; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Mt. 19:14).  May our society and world rediscover the gift, dignity and beauty of children, and may we work to protect them and their innocence!

 

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila
The Most Rev. Samuel J. Aquila is the eighth bishop of Denver and its fifth archbishop. His episcopal motto is, "Do whatever he tells you" (Jn 2:5).
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