Child Sexual Abuse is All of Our Responsibility

Sep 4, 2018

Child Sexual Abuse is All of Our Responsibility

              If you are like me, you are feeling shock, anger, disgust, outrage, or betrayal by the recent allegations by bishops and of bishops and priests and the grand jury report out of Pennsylvania.  It is wrong and it is rightly regarded as a crime by society, to use the words of Saint John Paul II when he summoned all of the United States bishops to Rome in 2003.  One victim at the hands of someone who is supposed to represent God or the Church is even worse and a serious violation of trust. 

It is true that bishops and other leaders of the Church clearly have work to do that not only includes serious change that involves lay leadership in newer ways, but serious soul searching within.  It would be easy to say that the fault of these crimes falls squarely on the shoulders of those who have committed them and those who have harbored priests who have done so.

However, all parishioners can be part of the solution in our local churches and contribute to the safety of children on our grounds and by our leadership.  Saint Augustine of Hippo said, “Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage.  Anger at the way things are and courage to see that they do not remain as they are.”

With this in mind here are some practical things we can all do to make sure that we have a safe environment and a culture that promotes such an environment. 

  • Encourage your friends that Virtus training is necessary, explains the problem well and what we can all do about it. It is a training that lasts two to three hours, but it enables us to be guarded and watchful.
  • Take into account your own behavior. Review your Code of Conduct for Volunteers or for employees.  Make sure that you are not conditioning children to accept inappropriate behavior.  If you see such behavior report it to me or a staff member. 
  • Work together cooperatively to ensure that we are implementing safe environment procedures consistently. We need two volunteer ministers who have Essential Three when working with minors or vulnerable adults.  Can you create sufficient availability for yourself or for a co-volunteer to accomplish this?  Is there more that you can do?
  • Express compassion for victims. They have likely experienced people attempting to discredit their experience or who have treated them with hostility.  It took a great deal of courage for them to speak up.  Now we must listen and show compassion for the long-lasting effects that their abuse had on them.
  • Speak up! If you see behavior or classroom set-up that makes you feel uncomfortable or that is contrary to the code of conduct, talk to a staff member or me.  If you know of any type of abuse that a child reveals, call child protective services or report it to us and we will do so.

I offer my Code of Conduct for Clergy on our parish website under “Father Tony’s Teachings.”  Please keep me accountable as well.  Thank you for your part in protecting children!    Father Tony