As reported in the last issue of The Mirror, the USCCB just recently released the 2022 Annual Report on the Implementation of the Charter for the Protection and Young People. This annual report includes the independent audit carried out by StoneBridge Business Partners, which is responsible for assessing the implementation of the 17 articles of the Charter, along with the updates, in each (arch)diocese and eparchy in the United States. The Diocese of Springfield-Cape Girardeau was among those dioceses that participated in the on-site audit during the 2021-2022 fiscal year and I am very pleased that the diocese remains in compliance with the articles set out in the Charter. The annual report can be found on our diocesan Website.
Being in compliance means that we are reaching out to and offering support to victims that have been harmed by abuse at the hands of clergy. We enforce the safeguarding of our children and vulnerable adults through education and training, background screening, and current compliance with the Code of Conduct for all clergy, employees, and adult volunteers. With the dedication and efforts of our local parish and school safe environment coordinators, pastors, principals, DREs and CREs, and all of the instructors through whom our prevention and educational programs are facilitated, we create a safe environment for all. We teach our children what are safe and what are unsafe interactions and ways to have healthy and respectful relationships and we mandate high standards of behavior from the adults.
During the 2022-2023 school year, we had 5,731 out of the 6,266 children and young people enrolled in our Catholic schools and Parish Schools of religion classes that completed the safe environment training, i.e., VIRTUS@ “Teaching Touching Safety” and the “Theology of the Body” curriculum in the spring. Those not trained were either absent on the days the lessons were taught or have parents that opted out of the training. During the past 2022-23 fiscal year, we processed—that is we registered in VIRTUS@, safe environment trained, background screened, and/or updated the Code of Conduct—a total of 2,350 adult volunteers and 683 employees, along with 157 teachers, 82 priests, 24 deacons, and eight candidates for ordination. The Safe Environment Training, which is available Online to anyone through VIRTUS@, has been expanded to include the “Mandated and Ethical Reporter” training, the “Vulnerable Adults Training Module,” and training entitled, “Healthy Boundaries for Adults,” along with the “Protecting God’s Children” training.
Of course, one of the biggest obstacles to the ongoing implementation of the Charter is “Charter Fatigue.” People get tired of the constant vigilance necessary to create and maintain healthy environments for both children and adults. Yet, that is exactly what is required in order for the Diocese to have the best program for protecting children and vulnerable adults. People will ask me, “Why do I have to go through training when I didn’t cause the problem,” as if to say the issue (and/or those that offend) is confined to clergy. We’ve learned in these past 20-plus years since the Charter was implemented that abuse occurs in every area of our society and culture, including the business world, educational institutions, sports and entertainment, and within the family. The more aware each of us becomes of the signs of abuse, the greater the possibility for prevention of abuse. I’m grateful to Shelly Ferry and Bill Holtmeyer for their good work in the diocesan Office of Child and Youth Protection, and I am especially grateful for our parish and school Safe Environment Coordinators: each is essential in our important safeguarding efforts and the training of our children and volunteers. Let all of us keep up the good work.
ISSUE OF PORNOGRAPHY
Pornography is not something that you may expect to be addressed in a diocesan newspaper, but I think with its pervasiveness in our society, it is essential. Online pornography is a lot more dangerous than most people suspect and if we ignore the issue or don’t understand its effects, it will only get worse. The evidence is in: pornography is as addictive as smoking and inflicts damage to the brain, just as smoking does to the lungs. With the average age of first exposure to pornography or explicit images reported in males to be as young as eight years of age, it also has far-reaching implications and a damaging impact on relationships. (No, that is not a typo: age 8!) In fact, numerous states have declared pornography to be a public health issue. If that is so, why aren’t more people talking about the issue of pornography and child sexual abuse materials? Well, some say it’s personal, it’s embarrassing, and an uncomfortable topic to discuss. And, for some, there is still the mentality that it’s harmless, victimless, and no one’s business. The reality is different. We can see in the statistics noted in the Annual Report, nearly all of those that had allegations of possessing child pornography or child sexual abuse materials also had allegations of sexual abuse. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), 2354, states that (pornography) “…perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other.” In other words, it undermines the basis of marriage and relationships, it creates a delusion, an unreality objectifying the other person for one’s pleasure. Finally, it attacks the very dignity of the human person. In the next several issues of The Mirror, a guest author from Jackson, MO, will explore the philosophical, theological, and human principles that guide the Church’s teachings on the sanctity of the human body and the dignity of the human person. You may find the introduction to this series on p. 10.
“O Sacrament Most Holy, O Sacrament Divine, all praise and all thanksgiving be every moment Thine.”
Published in the August 04, 2023 issue of The Mirror.
Photo Source: GettyImages
For more anti-pornography resources, visit: https://dioscg.org/antipornography-resources/