Child Protection


CWN head seems to be going off about child protection programs. Commenters at Amy’s, too. I confess being mystified over this. Is this a homeschooling clique concerned about teaching kids about sex before its appropriate? Is this about making lay people pay for the sins of priests and bishops? Is this about keeping psychologists and program designers at VIRTUS and lawyers and insurance people employed?

Psychologists didn’t have a ready-made program to address the specifics of what got people ticked off about priests molesting minors. They gave the dioceses what they’ve been developing for years: how to assist parents and other adults in spotting potential situations where abuse might take place. The material I read from VIRTUS 2003-date wasn’t substantially different than what Anita and I heard and read in 1999-2001 when we did foster/adoptive parent training. It was much like the seminars I attended in various places since the late 1980’s. I never felt like I was under suspicion. I was taught I’m responsible for the children in my care. If a child is abused, it’s the fault of an adult, not the kid. My job as an adult is to make things safe, and ensure boundaries are maintained.

Is the compliance with abuse programs part of the legal/insurance situation? Of course it is. Do you think the people with the purse strings are going to accept this line: “All our priests and bishops are inspired by JPII, so because they toe the moral line 100%, there will be zero abuse from now on.” Ha.

My take: be grateful church employees and child volunteers are required to take this training. Should you be suspicious of complainers? I don’t think so. Some people just don’t understand the dynamics of child abuse. I think it would be criminal to focus on church people exclusively and not encourage people who work with children to spot the various signs of abuse, bullying, inappropriate behavior that goes on. Does some of that abuse happen in the home? You bet it does. If your child was abused, odds are the perp is closer to you than you realize.

Instead of being frowny-faced about all those lawyers, insurers, and psychologists making money off your donation dollar, be glad more people are on the lookout for dangerous people in your community. And if you don’t want to be bothered by it, nobody says you have to go to these programs. But unless you’re planning on keeping your kids locked up till they’re eighteen or twenty-one, I don’t know why a parent wouldn’t want to be fully informed about the dangers.

And if your beef is with those perp clergy and their bishops, that’s another issue. How your bishop handles potential seminarians, how sick priests are cared for, what happens to abusers discovered in the clergy: none of the child protection programs cover that. Why? It’s the bishop’s job. If a perp priest is hovering on the edges of acceptable behavior with teens and/or children, it’s up to adults to take appropriate action. Good training will tell you how. If you’re concerned about the gay subculture in the priesthood, you’re going to have to invent your own program for that.

Personally, I’d rather cover 100% of the abusers rather than just the gay subset. And if you think that morality is the cure for all perverse ills, I don’t know what to tell you. Any sexual predator is going to be able to fool you on the morality front. How do you think they manage to break down the virtuous resistance of their victims?

Bottom line: open your eyes and get with the program.

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About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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