ROME – Pope Francis condemned the “scourge” of pornography, saying that it is a “threat to public health.”

“The scourge of pornography, now spread everywhere through the Web, should be denounced as a permanent attack on the dignity of men and women,” Francis said on Friday. “It is not only a matter of protecting children – the urgent task of the authorities and all of us – but also of declaring pornography a threat to public health.”

According to the pontiff, it is a “serious delusion” to think that a society in which “abnormal consumption of sex is rampant among adults is then capable of effectively protecting minors.”

Speaking with the Federation of Catholic Family Associations in Europe on the 25th anniversary of its foundation, Pope Francis said that families, schools, and local communities are key in preventing and combating pornography and can help heal the wounds of those “in the vortex of addiction.”

The pontiff also called on the members of the federation to continue working for the creation of “networks of families,” saying that it is urgent for local churches, both in Europe and beyond, to open themselves to the work of lay people and families that accompany other families.

These spaces, Francis said, can help combat the challenge “behind all the others” that people face today, especially those that were highlighted by the COVID-19 crisis: “The pandemic of loneliness.”

“While many families have rediscovered themselves as domestic churches, it is also true that too many families have experienced loneliness, and their relationship with the sacraments has often become merely virtual,” he said. “Family networks are an antidote to loneliness. Indeed, they are, by their very nature, called to leave no one behind, in communion with pastors and local churches.”

Francis also underlined the love between a man and a woman, saying that it is a reflection of the “absolute and unfailing love” of God for the human being, “destined to be fruitful and to be fulfilled in the common work of the social order and the custody of creation.”

The family founded on marriage, he said, is the first cell of society and must be recognized as such in its “unique and inalienable function,” and not because “it is an ideal and perfect entity, not because it is an ideological model, but because it represents the natural place of first relationships: ‘When the family welcomes and goes out to meet others, especially the poor and the abandoned, it is a symbol, a witness, a participation in the motherhood of the church.’”

Francis also addressed the idea that having fewer children is a way to promote a “sustainable development,” saying that there is no development without solidarity between generations, absent in Europe today due to its demographic winter.

A Europe that does not generate life, he said, is one that “cannot afford to talk about sustainability and is increasingly struggling to be in solidarity.” He called for states to remove obstacles to families and provide policies founded on the interests of families.

Moreover, he said, “having children should never be considered a lack of responsibility towards creation or its natural resources.”

Children, he said, cannot be part of the equation into a person’s “ecological footprint,” because they are an indispensable resource for the future. What does need to be addressed are consumerism and individualism.

Finally, speaking about surrogacy, Francis called it a threat to the dignity of both men and women: “The inhumane and increasingly widespread practice of ‘womb renting,’ in which women, almost always poor, are exploited, and children are treated as commodities.”

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