Diocese to Update Training to Detect Sex Abuse

By Brian Lyman
Norwich Bulletin [Norwich CT]
Downloaded September 9, 2003

NORWICH -- The Diocese of Norwich will begin training officials,employees and volunteers in a program designed to protect children from sexual abuse.

VIRTUS, designed by the Oklahoma-based National Catholic Risk Management Group, educates those having close contact with minors in the diocese on the warning signs of sexual abuse.

The Norwich Diocese is updating its policy on sexual misconduct to keep up with changes in Connecticut law and the U.S. Bishops' Conference Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, Sister Mary Alice Kline, coordinator of pastoral planning, said. The new program, she said, would standardize prevention programs the diocese uses now.

"There is something the school office does with teachers, and I think Catholic Charities does do some," she said. "But this would be a central piece we would put in place."

National Catholic Risk Management works with 59 dioceses and archdioceses nationwide managing liability for Catholic dioceses. The VIRTUS program aims to teach volunteers to look for signs of abuse among children and warning signs of potential abusers, and how to react. Diocesan officials and employees with close contact with children will be the focus of the training.

"It's not the once-in-a-lifetime chaperone," Kline said, "but certainly your teachers, catechists, coaches, choir directors, perhaps if they work with children, anything like that."

The Diocese of Bridgeport and the Archdiocese of Hartford also are implementing the program; the three dioceses plan to coordinate their efforts on the program.

"Each diocese is doing its own thing in terms of policy development, but we are coming together to do the training," Kline said.

New volunteers and employees who work with children would be trained as they come in, and everyone who goes through the program will do follow-up work every few weeks.

The diocese will train facilitators Sept. 19 and 20 in West Hartford. An awareness session for clergy, parish staff and ministry personnel will be at the St. Andrew Parish Center in Colchester from 1-5 p.m., Sept. 22.

Those interested in participating can call Kline at 848-2237. The deadline for registration is Monday.


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