Expert warns child protection took ‘severe blow’ during pandemic


June 19, 2020

By Elise Ann Allen

Rome – In a webinar on child protection, a top Catholic expert warned that the risks of online child sexual abuse or exploitation has increased significantly during the coronavirus pandemic, yet attention to the issue has faded.

“I believe honestly that safeguarding and safeguarding minors in the Church, in the States, in the (other) countries, has suffered a severe blow in terms of public attention and in terms of public funding and other funding,” German Jesuit Father Hans Zollner said June 18.

Speaking to more than 300 people representing religious orders and Catholic institutions during a webinar on “Safeguarding online in times of lockdown,” Zollner said natural disasters, war, health crises and economic instability combined with the coronavirus pandemic might make it harder to double down on safeguarding efforts.

“It may be very difficult for society and the Church to focus on the safeguarding of minors, because there are such pressing needs, there are such heavy burdens on people that they think safeguarding minors is an extra and you cannot afford to think about that because we need to survive first,” he said.

“Yes, that is true, the need to survive is first, but there is also the need to respect and protect the dignity of all people, especially the most vulnerable,” he said, urging participants to “stick together to bring safeguarding up the ladder of priorities.”

Zollner said he believes this will be a difficult task not only because of the current pandemic and its aftermath, but also because “this is such a challenging and such a nasty topic, that people don’t want to engage or commit easily to it.”

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