Church Making Changes in Light of Abuse
Training, Checks Now Part of Screening [Omaha NE]
February 20, 2004

OMAHA, Neb. -- The Omaha Archdiocese released a report Friday detailing church abuse for the past 52 years.

As a result of past problems, the Catholic Church is adding new training sessions for everyone who has contact with children in the church, and they must have a background check.

A lot has changed in the Catholic schools and churches in Nebraska since sexual abuse cases were made public across the state.

"We worked with what does a healthy relationship look like," said Barb Marchese, principal of St. Philip Neri Catholic School, one of the trainers for the Archdiocese's Safe Environment training. "What are appropriate and inappropriate boundaries."

Those who have had the training watch for signs of abuse among the kids. They also help police the priests and each other.

"There's a lot of children out there who are very vulnerable," said Marchese. "It really made us step back and say, 'OK, could this be misconstrued or seen as inappropriate?'"

Rev. Damian Zuerlein, of St. Peter church, said he's "overly cautious" when he's around children now, and that he doesn't think the extra awareness is a bad thing. He wants people to keep a watchful eye.

The next step for the Archdiocese's Safe Environment training is to teach the children. They'll learn about their rights. Currently, the training is in the works.

Because of a special guideline for interaction with children, an adult is not allowed to be alone with a child. Also, new church offices are being made with windows, and many older offices are being remodeled to include a window.

Zuerlein said those accused of abuse are gone now, but they left behind a feeling of doubt with the public and that the priests who are left must deal with that.

"We hope to earn back their trust -- those who remain," said Zuerlein.

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