Church Trains 6,000 in Abuse Prevention
Priests, Teachers, Volunteers Learn to Spot a Problem and How to Protect Victims
By Alyssa Young
The Express-Times [Allentown PA]
November 14, 2004
During the past year, more than 6,000 priests, deacons, employees, teachers and volunteers in the Diocese of Allentown were trained on how to prevent child abuse, a spokesman said Friday.
The Catholic diocese plans to train the remaining volunteers -- about 6,000 more adults -- by the end of 2005, spokesman Matt Kerr said. Parents in the diocese also will be invited to attend training sessions.
The program, called Protecting God's Children, aims to ensure the church is a child-safe environment by teaching about the signs of child sexual abuse, the methods offenders use to commit abuse and steps that can be used to prevent it.
Kerr said the program is an outgrowth of the priest sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church. In June 2002, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops passed the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which called for dioceses to adapt reforms bishops said would make churches safer.
Fourteen sex-abuse lawsuits were filed against the Allentown Diocese this year. All of the allegations in the lawsuits are at least 20 years old, Kerr said.
The companies that developed the Protecting God's Children program, Praesidium of Texas and Virtus Programs and Services of Oklahoma, trained the priests, deacons and employees in the Diocese of Allentown, and then trained about 30 facilitators to administer the program to other volunteers.
The training sessions, which last between three and four hours, involve watching two videos that include testimonials by victims and perpetrators of sexual abuse, according to Kerr.
The Virtus Programs and Services Web site says the program sends the message that churches do not tolerate child abuse, they vigilantly protect children, they listen to and shield victims from further abuse and they identify and punish offenders.
The Diocese of Allentown covers Northampton, Lehigh, Carbon, Schuylkill and Berks counties.
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