Creating a safe environment

By | May 26, 2010

His words, of course, were in reference to the clergy sexual abuse scandals being reported around Europe. While few, if any, incidents of clergy sexual abuse have been reported today, many cases from the past, which were not handled properly by bishops and even Vatican officials, have received media attention and scrutiny.

Fr. Lombardi also noted that responding to the sex abuse scandal requires going beyond answering accusations by critics or the media, reported Catholic News Service. Fr. Lombardi said that one fundamental task, in which local Catholic communicators can take the lead, is to provide concrete examples that illustrate how the church today is a model environment for child safety.

This week The Compass answers Fr. Lombardi’s challenge with the first of a four-part series on the diocese’s Safe Environment Program. The program’s history goes back to 2002, when the U.S. bishops approved a document they called the Charter for Protection of Children and Young People. As part of the charter, dioceses were required to establish programs that would educate church employees and volunteers on how to keep children safe.

In the eight years since the U.S. bishops approved their charter, the U.S. Catholic Church has become a model for other institutions interested in preventing child sexual abuse. Here in the Green Bay Diocese, Ann Fox and Karen Bass quietly oversee a program that provides safe environment training to thousands of adults and children each year. They also serve as agents of support and guidance to victims of clergy sexual abuse.

This week’s Compass profiles the work of Fox and Bass. In upcoming issues, stories will focus on:

• Protecting God’s Children Adult Awareness Training, a safe environment training class created by Virtus;

• A coordinator of a Green Bay youth football program requires his coaches to participate in the diocese’s safe environment training;

• Local clergy taking a stand against child sexual abuse by serving as leaders in the Safe Environment Program.

We hope our stories convey the message that, while the pain of clergy sexual abuse still stings all of us, the church truly has responded in positive ways to make a difference. Your feedback is welcome.

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