Tony raises the issue about the “liberal witch hunt” for child abusers. If the lawyers and legal affairs people with the diocese are all liberals, then I suppose the shoe fits. For the record, I didn’t make any suggestions for inappropriate private and suspicious behavior of adult to teen. My examples:
- Meetings of adult groups: Knights of Columbus, Daughters of Charity, or other meetings in which more than one adult would hopefully be accompanying more than one young person. Bringing a token teen to a meeting is not the recipe for success. It must be a group commitment carried out with the commitment of a significant portion of the individuals.
- Non-aligned adults can certainly attend school concerts, athletic events, plays, musicals, and the like. These are community events and young people I’ve known have always appreciated the support of their mentors.
- As for the other activities a mentor and youth can do together: serving in a soup kitchen, going to liturgy or adoration: these are public activities in public places. The witch hunt, as Tony terms it, takes place when an adult takes a kid on an overnight trip, disappears into a room behind a closed door, engages in grooming and other behaviors that separate individuals from peers, families, and the public community of the Church.
Safeguarding kids from sexual predators isn’t rocket science. It also doesn’t mean the end of the world for adult-child or adult-teen interaction. Guidelines for protecting young people have changed my practices very little. I’ve always worked with liturgy-interested young people in open places: naves, sanctuaries, rooms with open doors and other adults present. No one-on-one’s in my office, my car, in closets, behind closed doors, or out-of-the-way places.
Standards for appropriate behavior shouldn’t faze anybody who is serious about helping young people.