Parish Learns How to Answer Children's Questions
Clinical Psychologist Works with Parents, Teachers on Addressing Sex Abuse

By Olivia Clarke
Times [Crown Point IN]
Downloaded January 3, 2004

At least 90 people attended counseling sessions Friday at St. Mary Catholic Church in Crown Point to learn how best to talk to children about sexual abuse.

There were three sessions to help parishioners deal with the recent news that the church's pastor, Monsignor Don Grass, admitted last month he molested a preteen more than 30 years ago when he was associate pastor at Holy Angels Cathedral in Gary.

The Rev. Pat Kalich, administrator of St. Mary Church, said he sent a letter to members of the church community to notify them about the three sessions. Teachers and parents wanted to learn how best to talk to children about the recent situation.

"We're going to listen to people as they work through this sadness," Kalich said. "We're going to try to respond to their needs."

Carroll Cradock, a clinical psychologist with Chicago-based Cradock, Gardner & Associates, spoke to those in attendance at each 90-minute session and offered tips for answering children's questions honestly. Cradock said she has spoken to between five and 10 congregations each year since 1988.

She said some common questions parents and teachers have include whether they should bring up the issue or talk about the situation if the child has not mentioned it. They also want to know what they should do if their children have received incorrect information, she said.

In general, if the person removed was someone the child or children knew, trusted and missed, parents should bring up the situation, she said.

"Parents and teachers can really help children in times like this," she said. "They are people children really trust. ... Answer the questions children ask. Don't try to answer the questions they are not asking. Let them know you are open to talking about it."

Adults can make the mistakes of refusing to listen to their children's feelings and not correcting misinformation, she said. They also can wrongly minimize the importance of the safety of children, Cradock said.

"I think people had a good opportunity today to listen, to reflect, to look over some material, to absorb all that and look at how to use it," she said.

Kalich said he remains hopeful the sessions will help the parish move forward.

"I think that people were grateful for the wisdom Dr. Cradock showed and I think they feel more prepared to respond to their children's questions," he said.

Olivia Clarke can be reached at or (219) 933-4078.


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