Priest to Police Other Priests
Program Developed to Encourage Parishioners to Come Forward
NBC 6 News [Miami FL]
July 24, 2003
MIAMI -- Brother Joseph Teston defended his right to police other priests Thursday in his role as Miami Archdiocesan Coordinator of Safe Environment.
"The church can certainly police itself and should be encouraged to police itself," said Teston. In his role as coordinator, Teston is more like an educator then a cop, he says. His job is to make sure that the church's children's programs are safe and free of potential sexual abuse, and to coordinate training of the Virtus program throughout parishes, schools and other organizations within the archdiocese.
As outlined on the archdiocese's href="http://www.miamiarch.org/" target="_blank"Web site , the Virtus program encourages recognition of signs of abuse and how to report it. Church personal will also be trained.
"Do not be afraid to come in and give us some bad news," was Teston's message to both parishoners and priests.
The American Catholic Church was rocked last year by allegations of priests sexually assaulting young parishioners, and by charges of priests covering for other priests across the country. Local priests were also accused of abuse, sometimes going back 25 years. Lawsuits were filed, and quiet settlements arranged in some cases.
"The church has proven historically that it is incapable of policing itself," said Ft. Lauderdale Attorney Russell Adler, who has filed many abuse suits against the local archdiocese on behalf of alleged victims.
"It is a good thing that they have this program and have taken steps to protect (children)," Adler said. "Our concern is they have not turned to outside professionals, (and to) members of the laity to run the program."
Adler said until priests are extensively screened and scrutinized prior to their investure, the Virtus program won't be foolproof. He also offered some advice on how to spot signs of abuse.
"If I notice a child was depressed (sic) ... if the child was hiding something, as a parent, I would want to find out what is behind all this," said Teston.
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