thank God for the experts

By Diogenes (articles - email) | May 03, 2007

Where would we be, without the counsel provided by experts, such as those wise students of human nature who kept telling bishops that Father X was ready to return to parish work, and could be trusted around the altar boys?

Things have changed in the last few years, of course, and the experts are now busy devising child-safety programs. Early in April, Catholic educators had the privilege of hearing about their latest work.

At the request of the bishops, Joan Cole Duffell, director of partnership development at the Seattle-based nonprofit Committee for Children, and Deacon Anthony Rizzuto, director of child advocacy for the Archdiocese of Boston, developed a document listing the "critical and core elements of personal safety education programs" aimed at preventing child sexual abuse.

Brilliant! The Catholic bishops wanted a program to protect children, so quite naturally they turned to a group whose founder was a "Dianic Wiccan priestess and sacred whore"-- a group whose original purpose was the legalization of prostitution. (I am not making this up; I don't have that vivid an imagination.) Yes, it's true that the character and goals of the organization have changed since its early days. Still, if you were advising the bishops, is this the first organization you'd look to? No? Ah, but then you're not an expert.

Although it might be "easier to find something, plunk it down in front of the child to read and then check off a box," Deacon Rizzuto said, the church "must rely on the evidence of the psychosocial sciences" in its safe environment programs.

Right. So the collaboration with the Committee for Children came only after an exhaustive nationwide search for an appropriate partner. Funny that I didn't see any Request for Proposals. Maybe I'm not on the right mailing list. But it's a relief to know that we're relying on the "psychosocial" sciences-- they've worked so well for us in the past-- rather than some ancient set of principles such as, say, the Church's moral teachings.

"Talking About Touching," the Committee for Children's program adapted for use in the Boston Archdiocese, begins with a discussion of the basics of traffic safety, fire safety and gun safety and then talks about safe versus unsafe or unwanted touching.

Traffic, fire, and gun safety? And this is all mandated by the Dallas Charter? Was there a major problem involving kids jaywalking on their way home from parochial schools?

Franciscan Sister Clare Bertero, director of religious education in the Archdiocese of Boston, said the biggest challenge to implementing the safe environment program in parishes has been finding time for it in the already packed religious education curriculum.

"We have them for so little time during the year," she said. "The one-size-fits-all approach was not going to work."

So little time, so much to do.... But there's a lesson here for all of us. If your 8th-grade child at St. Eulalia's can't name any of the seven sacraments, keep in mind that his teachers are just awfully busy. You can teach him all that religious stuff at home; the parochial schools have all they can do, telling him not to play with matches.

Richard Cross holds a doctorate in psychology, who has taught at the university level, including at Franciscan University. He is currently an educational researcher and consultant in the field of psychology and related disciplines.
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  • Posted by: - Mar. 26, 2010 8:46 AM ET USA

    What interests me most about the above statement is this sentence: "I thank him for his contribution to the work of the Irish Bishops’ Conference over the past twenty years, PARTICULARLY IN THE AREA OF LITURGY." What did this bishop do there--does anyone know?

  • Posted by: I am Canadian! - Mar. 26, 2010 1:49 AM ET USA

    Why is parochus' comment allowed? There should be no place to advocate murder on this site, regardless how hideous the crime. This is the mentality of the crowd who demanded Jesus executed and while necessary for our salvation was a great miscarriage of justice. Something we never, ever want to repeat. Remember that this next week coming up.

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Mar. 25, 2010 10:00 PM ET USA

    Anent your headline re the gold watch: we should not forget that when Cardinal Law finally resigned because of the pesthole over which he presided in Boston, he was taken to Rome as archpriest of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, given a palazzo across the street, and (presumably) the stipend that goes with the job. It was reported at the time that his predecessor made $400,000 per annum. John Paul the Great was Pope at the time and Joseph Ratzinger was prefect of the C. D. F..

  • Posted by: parochus - Mar. 25, 2010 6:37 PM ET USA

    Putting his head on a spike in front of St. Peter's would send a message.

  • Posted by: howland5905 - Mar. 25, 2010 6:13 PM ET USA

    To what extent can the Pope or other authorities in the Church discipline bishops? It's my understanding that there are significant limits. It would be interesting to read something on the issue. Does anyone know of a good discussion of the subject?