Springs Diocese to Train 2,000 against Child Abuse

By Eric Gorski
Denver Post [Colorado Springs CO]
December 31, 2003

The Colorado Springs Roman Catholic diocese will provide child sexual abuse prevention training to an estimated 2,000 church volunteers by the end of February to fully comply with national standards adopted in response to the clergy abuse scandal, a diocese official said Tuesday.

The training was established in response to a recommendation from a team of investigators that spent last fall auditing U.S. dioceses' compliance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, adopted by U.S. bishops in June 2002.

The findings of the national audit are to be released Tuesday, but some dioceses have shared their results in advance. Sergio Gutierrez, spokesman for the Denver archdiocese, which includes 368,000 registered Catholics in 24 northern Colorado counties, said the archdiocese will wait until the national results are made public.

The Colorado Springs audit, which was conducted Oct. 6-10, found that the diocese was in full compliance with the charter's roughly 15 categories, except for in the area of training volunteers, for which it received a ranking of "basic compliance," said Ed Gaffney, who heads the diocese's office of pastoral services.

"We came out very strongly in the audit," Gaffney said. "Just to have to do these couple of things really is not a major problem. It's a major challenge in terms of the human effort to put together the training and complete it."

Under a part of the charter titled "safe environment programs," dioceses are charged with "creating a code of conduct for ministers, employees and volunteers who work regularly with children on behalf of the church, training adults how to define, identify and report abuse, as well as educating parents and children as to what constitutes acceptable behavior and how to report any concerns."

Gaffney said the Colorado Springs diocese has been training clergy and staff members in that area since 1991, when it first put a sexual misconduct policy in place. The charter also requires training of volunteers who have regular contact with children and youths.

The training, which is being conducted at parishes, runs between 90 minutes and two hours and includes information about the diocese's misconduct policy, guidelines for working with children and protocol for reporting allegations.

Gaffney said every volunteer will be given a copy of the sexual misconduct policy and be asked to sign a form acknowledging they've received it and understand it.

Gaffney and another diocesan official are conducting about two sessions a week and began Dec. 17. He said the auditors did not give the diocese a deadline for compliance, but training should be done by the end of February. Some volunteer training already was happening on the parish level, he said.

The 10-county diocese includes 33 parishes and about 125,000 Catholics, stretching from the Kansas border to Leadville and north from the El Paso-Pueblo county line to include Douglas County in south metro Denver.

The Colorado Springs diocese, along with the Denver archdiocese, was among the first to adopt a sexual misconduct policy. It's possible other dioceses will be faced with training volunteers as national audit results are released next week.

"Probably most dioceses will be found to be in compliance with most of the articles," Gaffney said. "I wouldn't be surprised if this area of volunteer training is one area where many dioceses will have to respond and do something more comprehensive than in the past. That is one of the things we had heard from other dioceses.?


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