Action Alert!

What Virtus Won't Tell You

by Christopher Manion


In this article Christopher Manion discusses the facts about Virtus—a "safe environment" program supposedly intended to protect children from child abuse. He reveals that Virtus is concerned only with the liability of the bishops, rather than with the actual cause of the clerical abuse scandals.

Larger Work

The Wanderer



Publisher & Date

Wanderer Printing Co., St. Paul, MN, April 10, 2008

The USCCB has announced that April is "National Child Abuse Prevention Month." In the spirit of the season, I took a look at the web site of Virtus, a "safe environment" program required by over a hundred U.S. Catholic dioceses.

Virtus is a program of The National Catholic Risk Retention Group (NCRRG). And what is NCRRG? An insurance company. Now, no responsible insurance executive will inaugurate a program that collides with the interests of his shareholders or his clients. So who are NCRRG's shareholders? Bishops. And who are the clients? Bishops and archbishops — 66 of them, according to its web site, which helpfully explains, "National Catholic is owned and ultimately managed by its Shareholders. Company policies are therefore established by Shareholders for the benefit of Shareholders."

Well, you'd think that language was as plain as day, but Virtus "trainers" are apparently trained not to talk about it. Three years ago, the Diocese of Arlington, Va., began requiring Virtus, along with mandatory criminal background checks, of the faithful. Fr. Terry Specht, the chancery's "safe environment" official, assured a parish assembly, "I've had this job for a year and I've never hear that word, 'liability,' used once." But at the same time, Fr. Specht was requiring over 10,000 of Arlington's Catholics to be fingerprinted and to sign hard-nosed waivers absolving the diocese of any liability. Today, three years later, he still does.

Perhaps no one ever told Fr. Specht, but Virtus is all about liability. But its popularity is also a product of the clerical abuse scandals, which blossomed in 2002, after simmering for decades. In June 2002, the bishops, meeting in Dallas, tried to "put the scandals behind us," and Virtus has since been adopted by dozens of dioceses pursuant to the charter they adopted. But the bishops flatly (and almost unanimously) rejected a motion calling for a study of the causes of the scandals, including dissent and homosexuality. That renunciation comes through loud and clear in the Virtus programs.

Dr. Brian Clowes, a scholar at Human Life International, conducted an independent study published in Homiletic & Pastoral Review. His research reveals that, according to the John Jay Report's own findings, homosexual men pose a much greater danger to children than do heterosexuals. Specifically, he found that a homosexual priest is more than one hundred times more likely to molest a child than a heterosexual one, based on the bishops' own numbers.

Curiously, the experts at Virtus and their bishop-bosses do not want us to know that explosive fact. Perhaps that reluctance stems from an exhaustive study published in The Dallas Morning News as the bishops began their 2002 meeting. According to Philip Lawler's The Faithful Departed, the News reported that, while the crimes of abuse were committed by only a very small percentage of priests, "about two-thirds of American bishops had been guilty of covering up sexual abuse."

Virtus "Myths" and Realities

But what else could the embattled bishops do? With their backs against the wall, they could hardly turn to the laity without profoundly apologizing, honestly addressing the causes of the scandals, and firmly and publicly identifying and removing their guilty brethren. But they had already voted that option down resoundingly. So they had no choice. They turned to defense lawyers and other professionals — "experts" and "consultants," who apparently got the message loud and clear: "We want a program that never even gets near the issue of guilty bishops or the homosexual priests-predators whom they ordained and protected for decades."

Frankly, this makes perfect sense. If it is your job to defend bishops (who are also your bosses), you are likely to do their bidding. In fact, any Virtus lawyer-consultant who divulges information that might be damaging to her clients risks being hauled up in front of the ethics committee of the bar. She might even be disbarred herself. So what if you want the whole truth? Remember, these are defense lawyers. Revealing incriminating facts is the job of the other guy's lawyer.

And we, fellow Catholic parents, are the "other guy."

And here's what we're up against: Taking us as far away from the real scandals as quickly as possible, Virtus huffily dismisses the "myth" that "most abusers are homosexuals" — even though 81% of the crimes in the bishops' own report were "homosexual in nature." Another "myth": The explicit Virtus materials are unsuitable for children. Not so, says Virtus: "Young children are generally comfortable with the information provided in sex abuse prevention programs. It is parents who typically exhibit discomfort."

As usual, Virtus blames us ignorant parents — which is sadly (but not surprisingly) the same approach taken by all too many bishops, both before and after the scandals broke out into the open. If parents are ignorant, then our experts must inform them, Virtus goes on, or their children will be at greater risk. But Virtus avoids the dangers posed by the predator-homosexual and his protector-bishop, so the result is — more ignorance.

Another "myth": "The U.S. bishops are the problem and they still cannot be trusted." Oh my — how can that be? Why, "The truth is that the bishops have hired a top law enforcement professional to manage the Office for Child and Youth Protection and have established guidelines for compliance, along with an audit process."

As they say in court, "So what?" That defense professional works for — the bishops. Unsurprisingly, her job description does not allow her to pursue the problem of homosexual predator priests or predator-protecting bishops. And Bishop Skylstad, who headed the USCCB when she was hired, firmly laid down the law against such "witch-hunts." When his Spokane Diocese went bankrupt, he blamed the laity for the scandals and praised the "many wonderful and excellent priests [he did not mention bishops] in the Church who have a gay orientation, are chaste and celibate, and are very effective ministers of the Gospel."

Message received, Your Excellency. The result? "We're Virtus. Just following orders."

Virtus And Gays — Strange Bedfellows

Virtus pretends that the scandals never happened. Given all the facts, it simply constitutes pro-homosexual propaganda-by-omission. Like all propaganda, Virtus browbeats ceaselessly. Think Orwell's Ministry of Truth: Once you're in Virtus, you can't escape. Every month, you must subject yourself to a new wave of lay heterosexual guilt, and follow the expert's bouncing ball, lest you put your children even more at risk. (Note: No Virtus expert I contacted has returned my call.)

In the past, The Wanderer has received troubling reports from several parts of the country about Virtus sessions. When concerned parents have asked why the presentation includes nothing about the clerical or homosexual nature of the crisis, some trainers have reportedly responded by darkly warning the entire assembly that critics of Virtus are very possibly objecting because they are abusers themselves. Again, parents are the real problem.

Dr. Clowes found that this approach is actually a central ingredient of the "gay rights" movement. Clowes writes, "Homosexual activists within and outside the Catholic Church have done everything they could to divert attention away from even the possibility that there may be a higher percentage of homosexuals among the priesthood than in the general public, and that this may be the root of the problem of child sexual molestation within the Church. It is particularly the link between homosexuality and child molestation that they seek to deny."

Dr. Clowes points out that the "gay rights" crowd long ago decided that "the best defense is a good offense."

Is Virtus really as offensive as its ideological gay bedfellows? In coming weeks, we will take a closer look, and consider some alternative, reality-based approaches for protecting our children in a post-scandal world.

© The Wanderer

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