Protect human dignity from high-tech threats, pope says


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VATICAN CITY — Lawmakers need to regulate and develop sound policies regarding today’s digital technology, specifically targeting the problems of child pornography, personal data violations, cyber attacks on critical infrastructures and fake news, Pope Francis told Catholic and Christian legislators.

“Prudent legislation can guide the development and application of technology in the service of the common good,” he said during an audience at the Vatican.

“I heartily encourage you, therefore, to make every effort to undertake serious and in-depth moral reflection on the risks and possibilities associated with scientific and technological advances, so that the laws and regulations governing them may concentrate on promoting  human development and peace, rather than on progress as an end in itself,” the pope said.

He was speaking to members of the International Catholic Legislators Network who were in Rome for an annual conference on Aug. 27. It’s a nonpartisan organization founded in 2010 to bring together practicing Catholics and other Christians in elected office on a regular basis for faith formation, education and fellowship. It has headquarters in Vienna and an office in Washington, D.C.

The pope told those in attendance that one of the greatest challenges today is making sure technology is used for the common good. Technology cannot be left on its own, he said, otherwise, “these innovations can end up becoming a threat to the dignity of the human person.

“I think of the scourge of child pornography, the misuse of personal data, attacks on critical infrastructures such as hospitals and the spread of false information on social media and so on.”

He said that the challenge for lawmakers and government representatives when the pandemic ebbs is to foster a holistic “renewal of your communities and of society as a whole.”

This requires more than “seeking to return to the status quo prior to the pandemic; no, that would be a failure. It demands confronting the deeper causes that the crisis has laid bare and aggravated: poverty, social inequality, widespread unemployment and the lack of access to education.

“In an age of political polarization, legislators and politicians in general are not always held in high esteem,” he continued. “Yet what loftier vocation can there be than that of serving the common good and placing the welfare of the community before your personal advantage?”

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