TikTok Silences Catholic Priest for Church Teachings

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by Martin Barillas  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  June 22, 2020   

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SAN DIEGO, Calif. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A major, Chinese-owned social media platform sought to silence a Catholic priest who shared the eternal teachings of the Catholic faith regarding showing charity to all, including those burdened with same-sex attraction. 

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St. Peter Chaldean Cathedral in El Cajon, California

In a short video, Fr. Simon Esshaki of St. Peter Chaldean Catholic Cathedral in El Cajon, California explained that faithful Christians should love everyone but without validating sinfulness. The month of June has been almost universally recognized as gay "Pride" month and is replete with parades and demonstrations of solidarity with the LGBTQ cause on the part of politicians both here and abroad. Fr. Esshaki said in the video: "Christians should not participate in or support Pride Month."

The young priest added: "And it's not because we hate men and women with same-sex attraction. It's because we know that according to the law of nature and the law of God, marriage should be between man and woman. The Catholic Church actually teaches that we should love all those with homosexual tendencies."

Just because you love somebody doesn't mean you have to agree with them in every single action that they do. To love someone means to want what's best for them, and it's not best for someone that they are supported in their sinful actions, and it could be homosexual actions, it could be any other type of lustful actions, or any other type of sin. All sin is bad, and we are all sinners. We all struggle, but we all need the grace of God to be able to overcome our sins. 

The priest said finally, "Catholics actually dedicate this month to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, so instead of conforming to our sinful desires, let's conform to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and try to become like Him." He concluded. "Pray for all sinners. Love them, but do not support their sinful actions."

Pray for all sinners. Love them, but do not support their sinful actions.

Fr. Esshaki recently recommended a documentary video titled The Third Way: Homosexuality and the Catholic Church. He also recently released a short video that called on Catholics to restore their belief in the eucharistic presence of Jesus Christ, a foundational precept of the Faith. Fr. Esshaki's repetition of age-old Christian teachings was met with accusations that he had engaged in "hate" directed at those living with same-sex attraction. 

TikTok, a media platform based in China, locked the priest out of his account while citing unclarified "community guideline violations." Even while Fr. Esshaki was temporarily prevented from posting videos on his account, vile posts and denunciations from others continued on the platform. He noted on Twitter, "It's very disappointing that TikTok allows videos of people defaming me and yet does not allow me to defend myself."

On June 4, Fr. Esshaki wrote on Twitter: "All men and women with same-sex attraction should be treated with love and respect, but not supported in any sinful actions," and cited the official Catechism of the Catholic Church regarding same-sex attraction. He noted that he has received "thousands of hateful comments and messages, including death threats ... ." 

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He charged that accounts have been made in his name on social media and dating websites that are "fake" and seek to "defame" him. Fr. Esshaki called on Christians to love their enemies and pray for their persecutors. In obedience to Jesus Christ, Fr. Esshaki wrote that he continues to "love and pray" for his persecutors. 

TikTok is owned by ByteDance, a Chinese company that has engaged in censorship in the past. For example, it temporarily banned the account of Live Action, one of the most visible pro-life organizations in the United States, and has also banned the accounts of those critical of China's persecution of its Uighur Muslim minority. 

[TikTok CEO Kevin] Mayer recently issued a formal apology after TikTok was accused of supposedly silencing black users of its service and allowing racist posts.

Also, TikTok is in the midst of a class-action lawsuit since two unnamed minors alleged last year that the social media giant had violated the Biometric Information Privacy Act (BIPA) of Illinois. The plaintiffs charge that TikTok had captured and stored the facial and appearance characteristics of thousands of users without permission. The lawsuit charges that the alleged violations of privacy are of particular concern because minors have used face filters, stickers or tracker lenses offered by TikTok or the related Musical.ly to upload photographs or images. 

According to the filing, there are possibly thousands of minors affected. The lawsuit charges that the purpose of capturing users' personal information is uncertain, as well as who can access it or how long it is stored. The suit charges that TikTok has gathered users' personal data, including e-mail addresses, IP addresses, phone and social network contacts, location and other information. Furthermore, even when a user closes the app, the suit charges, biometric and other user data are still collected and stored on several Chinese servers. 

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TikTok CEO Kevin Mayer

Having recognized the possibility that China's communist government may misuse personal information, both the U.S. Army and Navy have prohibited accessing the app on government-owned devices. However, service members are not prohibited from using TikTok on personal devices.

In 2019, TikTok settled with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for $5.7 million in the wake of allegations of violations of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Last month, the Dutch government announced it was investigating TikTok's use of children's data and European Union authorities announced an investigation into TikTok and its privacy protections.

Since May, Kevin Mayer has been TikTok CEO and COO of parent company ByteDance. He was once chairman of the Walt Disney Direct-to-Consumer & International company. Mayer recently issued a formal apology after TikTok was accused of supposedly silencing black users of its service and allowing racist posts.

"Diversity is our strength. As a society, as an organization, as a platform," read Mayer's June 3 statement. "It has never been a more important time to support black employees, users, artists and our broader community. I am making this commitment from today, my 'Day 1,'" the executive said. He continued, "Words can only go so far. I invite our community to hold us accountable for the actions we take over the coming weeks, months and years. Black Lives Matter." 

TikTok is growing in popularity in India, and has had more than 1 billion downloads as of February 2019. Some 41% of its users are aged 16–24.

Fr. Esshaki is a priest of St. Peter Chaldean Catholic diocese, which has its cathedral located in the suburbs of San Diego, California. As part of his ministry, he has made several videos with titles such as "Priests are Sinners," "Chastity and Modesty," and "How to Get to Heaven."

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