SEXUAL EXPLOITATION OF CHILDREN RESULTS FROM EROSION OF VALUES
Monsignor Piero Monni
Given by Monsignor Piero Monni, the Holy See's Permanent Observer at the World Tourist Organization, on August 28, 1996 at the World Congress against the Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children Stockholm, Sweden

Your Excellencies,
Ladies and Gentlemen,

The continual increase regarding the sexual exploitation of children is truly a disturbing phenomenon of our times. With the approach of the third millennium, this World Congress offers the opportunity to assess what has brought this crime to such levels. Further, this Congress is an expression of concern for our future, our children. These factors, along with others, give cause to gather in search of an end to this most heinous of crimes.

The Holy See is pleased to participate in this World Congress and at this time would like to express its gratitude for the kind invitation to attend and its appreciation to the organizers and the host committee, and at the same time the Government of Sweden, UNICEF and ECPAT for this initiative.

The whole world is now gazing at the horrible events unfolding in Belgium. All the delegates have mentioned them with indignation and shame, but also with astonishment because they have happened so recently, and in many cases, so near to home. It could be said that these crimes come to disturb a certain passivity in front of such wretchedness. These facts rightly provoke great repugnance and emotion, but we cannot let such feelings stop there. Neither can we allow such noble reactions to dissipate our time, energy and determination to affront the causes of this phenomenon, which is assuming such proportions that it would be considered by some a crime against humanity. Urgent action is needed, both in prevention and prosecution. On the one hand, laws need to be passed and enforced in order to achieve due punishment for such misdeeds, especially for organized crime and for all those who benefit from such a depraved business or share in its profits. An appropriate response should be implemented in order to secure international involvement in curbing abuses by a particular group.

But on the other hand, the delegates must bear in mind that the problem ought to be faced at its deepest origins, which are social and cultural. Remedies will require consideration and action at the level of the family, the community, as well as national and international arenas, with acknowledgement of responsibilities among all concerned parties.

The prepared Draft Declaration and Agenda for Action identify many components of the issue and provide a strong starting point. The clear structure of the documents serves well in supporting the aims set forth in the text. The emphasis given to human rights with the inclusion of concepts from human rights documents, while selective at times, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child are among the strengths of the draft text. Still even the best of texts can be improved by changes and additions.

A stronger consideration of the moral and spiritual dimensions of the human person would be desirable. In fact, it could be said that the ultimate source of these problems are a lack of spiritual values and the reduction of society, and of human life itself, merely to the interaction of economic forces.

The importance of education is highlighted, and rightfully so, as a means of prevention. It is precisely in this context that the responsibilities, rights and duties of parents and the positive role of the family should be found. Even before children enter school, the values which form, unite and are later evidenced in a society, have begun to be passed from parents to children in the family.

A stronger commitment to the family is needed in responding to this ill. A family in which children grow in love and security in the context of a stable parental relationship is the ultimate remedy to the problem. Moreover, parents have a moral responsibility to foster, ensure, and protect the well-being of their children and in this task they have the right to expect assistance from the State, when needed and requested.

The growing level of poverty among a large strata of the population involved in this plague cannot be ignored in the context of a comprehensive response. The absurd myth that the wealth of a country may be improved by allowing this infamous trade must be firmly repudiated.

The sexual exploitation of children is, undeniably, the result of profound distortion and the breakdown of values. In a sense, this typifies and reveals the imbalance and conflicts of the modern world. A significant part of humanity lives below the level of subsistence, and is constrained to do whatever it can to survive. Meanwhile, in some other parts of the world, schools fail or choose not to teach students to distinguish what has traditionally been termed "right from wrong", leading to an individualized and relativized approach to life, with no definition or indication of public morality and responsibilities, resulting often in confusion, even as to the common dignity of all human beings.

Most forms of pornography need to be recognized as contributing to an atmosphere of sexual exploitation, including that of children. We cannot speak about freedom of expression in those cases in which the media are used in ways which promote this terrible form of slavery, and help to transform children into a commodity.

In conclusion, the Holy See Delegation joins the other states here present in this endeavour to awaken the consciences of all human beings to join in every possible effort to put an end to the sexual exploitation of children. Through solidarity and cooperation, concrete and realistic actions can be undertaken in the face of this pressing challenge.


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