Pope: Attachment to computers ‘damages souls’

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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Pope: Attachment to computers ‘damages souls’
Pope Francis says many families 'are together at the dining table...but the children have their telephones and are in another world'

MANILA, Philippines – Echoing a teaching of the Jesuit religious order, Pope Francis has warned against becoming “too attached to computers” because it “hurts the soul” and enslaves people. 

“This damages the soul and takes away freedom: It makes you a slave of the computer,” Francis said on Saturday, June 6, in an in-flight news conference from Sarajevo to Rome. 

“It’s curious: Many mothers and fathers tell me that, in their families, they are together at the dining table with their children, but the children have their telephones and are in another world. It’s true that the virtual language is a reality and we cannot ignore it; but we must direct it in the right way, because it does represent human progress,” the Pope said. 

He added: “But when this leads us away from a common life, from family life, from social life, and also from sports, from the arts, and we are glued to our computer…this is a psychological illness. I am sure of it!” 

Pope Francis made this statement after Katia Lopez, a Spanish journalist, asked him about pornography, which the pontiff describes as “evil fantasy.” Francis earlier warned the youth against using computers “to look for dirty programs” that damage their dignity.

His remarks echo the teachings of the Jesuits, the Pope’s religious order, on detachment or indifference. (READ: What Filipino Jesuits sang to Pope Francis)

Pope vs ‘degrees of pornography’

To explain “detachment,” spiritual writer Margaret Silf in an article quoted the Jesuit founder, Ignatius of Loyola. Ignatius, Silf said, talks about “making use of those things that bring us closer to God, and leaving aside those things that don’t.” 

Francis uses this framework when he says virtual language, on one hand, “does represent human progress,” but can also lead people “away from a common life.” This way, it is not the computer itself that “damages the soul,” but the attachment to this gadget. 

In a related statement on Saturday, the first Jesuit pontiff also slammed pornography. 

The Pope said: “Yes, there are dirty things, from various degrees of pornography, to empty and valueless shows, such as relativistic, hedonistic, consumerist ones, which foment these things. We know that consumerism is a cancer on society, that relativism is a cancer on society.”

He also said he will discuss these more in an upcoming encyclical or papal letter.

Francis added: “I used the word ‘filth’ in a general way, but we all know this. There are parents who are so concerned that they do not allow their children to have computers in their room; the computers must be in a common area of the house. These are small ways that help parents to avoid precisely this problem.” – Rappler.com

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email pat.esmaquel@rappler.com