Diocese to Launch Anti-Abuse Seminar
'Protecting God's Children' Targets Prevention

By Rita Ciolli
February 28, 2003

Saying the Diocese of Rockville Centre must educate all who work for it to the "harms of child abuse and what we must do to prevent it," Bishop William Murphy is asking all Catholic Church employees and volunteers to attend special training seminars.

"We must do all we can do to make sure no child is abused again in our Church," said Murphy in letter that was e-mailed yesterday to pastors and diocese administrators. The Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, adopted last year by American bishops in Dallas as a response to the sex abuse scandal, requires all dioceses to institute these "safe environment" types of programs.

Priests, sisters, brothers and deacons, as well as Catholic school principals, teachers, religious education instructors, parish youth leaders and sports coordinators are expected to attend the two-hour programs called "Protecting God's Children," that start next month.

Diocesan spokeswoman Joanne Novarro said thousands of diocesan employees and volunteers would be expected to attend, but did not know the exact number. The program is already in place in 32 dioceses and archdioceses, including Boston and Brooklyn, and will start soon in about 30 more, said Jack McCalmon, director of VIRTUS,the organization which developed the program. He said the "God's Children" program, which was created in 1997 and tested in several dioceses in 2001, was not developed in direct response to the Boston scandal.

McCalmon said participants will see a video in which victims and their families talk about their experiences. In the video, the offenders are a priest, a teacher, a camp counselor and a neighbor.

"Two offenders speak very bluntly about what they do in the grooming [of victims] process," said McCalmon, who said in most instances it involves giving gifts without the parents' knowledge. McCalmon said that during the lesson the participants will learn to "recognize the signs of victims, signs of offenders as well as some of the myths, such as this is a crime committed by homosexuals."

Employees with more direct contact with children will also be required to complete an Internet certification program, in which participants must complete monthly coursework.

VIRTUS, which derives its name from a Latin word denoting excellence, was developed by the National Catholic Risk Retention Group Inc., a self-insurance company that insures 59 dioceses for excess liability including claims of sexual abuse. The Rockville Centre diocese does not participate in the insurance program, McCalmon said.


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