Diocese Begins Anti-Abuse Training

By Michael Clancy
The Arizona Republic [Phoenix AZ]
October 29, 2003

The Catholic Diocese of Phoenix has begun training thousands of employees and volunteers to show them how to create safe environments for children in churches and on church property.

The training sessions are the latest step being taken to combat sexual abuse of children by priests and others associated with the church.

The first round of training, required for everyone who works for or volunteers with the diocese, is aimed at those who work most closely with children.

Creation of safe environments and training were mandated by the Catholic bishops' Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, and the Phoenix Diocese's Policy on Sexual Misconduct by Diocesan Personnel, which recently was revised. Both documents were drafted in response to the sexual-abuse crisis.

The immunity agreement that retired Bishop Thomas J. O'Brien signed with the Maricopa County Attorney's Office also mandates training.

Classes began Monday and will continue through Dec. 9. A total of 43 sessions are being offered. A new batch of classes will begin early in 2004.

The training was supposed to start four months ago but was delayed by a variety of factors, diocesan officials said. Among them were the events of June, when the immunity agreement was announced and O'Brien resigned after his involvement in a fatal hit-and-run crash.

Further delay came about because the diocese decided to draft its own training manuals rather than use generic materials.

And the immunity agreement itself caused some delay because it required the involvement of the County Attorney's Office in revising diocesan policy and training.

Jennifer O'Connor, the diocese's youth-protection advocate, said Catholic school personnel and youth ministers, who are paid employees, already have been trained. Others who have direct contact with children will be trained next, she said.

Priests have seen the materials but have not yet been through formal training, she said.

O'Connor was unable to say how many people need to be trained, but most of the diocese's 89 parishes have dozens of people involved directly with children, from religious-education teachers to those who baby-sit children during Sunday services.

One parish human-resources director said the number would easily reach the thousands.

The Rev. Chris Carpenter of Christ the King Parish in Mesa said, "we have nearly 1,000 people who are supposed to complete the training."

Under diocesan policy, all individuals who are employed by or volunteer with a church are required to take the training.


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