Catholic Task Force Targets Porn's Grip on Society

TMC News
November 23, 2008 usubmit/2008/11/23/3808153.htm&kw=0

The Catholic Archdiocese of Omaha plans to fight Internet pornography with education and ministry.

The archdiocese announced Friday that it has formed a 17-member task force "to increase public awareness of Internet pornography and its long-lasting effects on a community."

One of the task force's first priorities is to sponsor educational workshops, scheduled for February, for clergy and other leaders in northeast Nebraska Catholic parishes and schools.

The workshops and other task force work will be aimed at protecting children from porn, helping people avoid becoming addicted and "make healing available to people who are struggling with pornography," said the Rev. Joseph Taphorn, chancellor of the archdiocese.

"This is a growing problem in our communities, not just Omaha, obviously, but everywhere," Taphorn said. "It's so prevalent, and it's just a couple of clicks away. Every priest, every principal, every youth minister has probably run into this issue in their contacts with people."

The 17-member task force includes clergy, archdiocesan staff and church members. It will be led by Mary Beth Hanus, a licensed mental health provider and a certified master social worker. As the victim assistance coordinator for the archdiocese, she is designated to help anyone who alleges sexual abuse by any member of the clergy or archdiocesan employees. Having the position of assistance coordinator is one of the requirements outlined in the U.S. bishops' Charter for Protection of Children and Young People.

Hanus also works in the archdiocese's Circle of Grace program to educate students about child sexual abuse.

She said the task force is a response to problems in people's lives -- from young people exposed to harmful sexual images, to marriages damaged by pornography addiction.

"It's just so prevalent everywhere," Hanus said. "From our young kids, to adults . . . it affects marriages, but especially the children. It affects their development and education about healthy sexuality."

She said research has shown children are exposed to pornographic images on the Internet as early as age 8, and there is heavy consumption of Internet porn by children ages 12 to 17.

"We decided that we need to stand and try to counter it," she said.

At a recent Catholic youth rally in Columbus, the archdiocese presented seminars on Internet safety and the negative effects of pornography. The February workshops, in Omaha, Norfolk and Fremont, will be for archdiocesan leaders. Further outreach will be decided from there.

The effort is aimed primarily at Catholics. But Taphorn said he hopes it also will help the wider community.

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