Bishop Peter Comensoli has strongly denounced the exposure of children to pornography, labelling it ‘child abuse’ and citing the Church’s own ‘shameful history of child abuse’ and its devastating effects on survivors as his motivation.
The bishop of Broken Bay was speaking in his capacity as the acting chairman of the Bishops Commission for Family, Youth and Life about its recent submission to an inquiry on the subject conducted by the Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications.
Bishop Comensoli said that children have a right to be children, away from harms that can be inflicted on them by being exposed to pornography.
“We live in a sexualised culture where pornography has been mainstreamed,” the bishop said.
“The reach of pornography through the Internet and particularly mobile devices has led to the sexualisation of our community.
“There is significant use of sexualised images in areas of advertising, music videos and computer games.
“Allowing children to be exposed to pornography is a form of abuse. The Church has its own shameful history of child abuse and, particularly because of that terrible experience for victims, does not want to see other forms of abuse of children such as the harms from the increased availability of pornography.”
A 2012 Australian study said more that 40 per cent of children first saw pornography between the ages of 11 and 13.
“There is clear evidence of the harm that pornography can inflict on children, with those kids who have seen it more likely to regard women as sex objects, agree with sex before marriage, have sex before their peers do, adopt risky sexual behaviour that may lead to pregnancy or a sexually transmitted disease and molest other children.
Adolescents exposed to pornographic material are more likely to be sexually violent.
“This is compelling evidence of the need for the Australian community to act to save children from this harm.”
The bishops’ submission – submissions closed on 10 March – advocated greater education for parents and a clean feed internet filtering system, stating the lack of regulation of internet-based content in Australia was anomalous with content on other mediums.