Catholic video about protecting kids includes bishops accused of failing to protect kid
By Dan Horn
October 01, 2018
|New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond talks about child abuse in a church training video.|
Two Catholic bishops accused of failing to protect children from abusive priests are being edited out of church training videos about preventing child abuse.
The videos, titled “A Time to Protect God’s Children” and “A Plan to Protect God’s Children,” are widely used by Catholic dioceses across the country in mandatory training programs for volunteers, coaches, teachers and others who work for the church.
Officials at the Archdiocese of Cincinnati said the decision to revise the videos came after some leaders of the training program complained about the involvement of Buffalo Bishop Richard Malone and New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond.
Abuse survivors have said the two bishops failed to respond appropriately to accusations of child abuse involving clergy.
“We’ll be replacing the DVDs as soon as we have it edited,” said Mike Schafer, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Cincinnati. “We were concerned about that.”
He said the archdiocese shared its concerns with Virtus, the company that produced the video, and was told the company already was in the process of removing the bishops from the training videos.
Representatives of Virtus, based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, did not respond to email and voicemail messages.
The Virtus videos include testimonials from abusers and abuse survivors, staged scenes performed by actors and brief commentary from Malone and Aymond, who talk about the horrors of child abuse and the church’s commitment to stopping it.
“Despite our best efforts, there is a nightmare which no child should have to face and no parent should have to worry about,” Malone says in an early segment of the videos. “I speak about childhood sexual abuse.”
Malone has come under fire in recent months following media reports that he kept priests in ministry despite complaints about inappropriate conduct. U.S. Rep. Brian Higgins, D-New York, among others, has called for his resignation, but Malone has refused.
In New Orleans, The Advocate reported this summer that the archdiocese under Aymond settled lawsuits against a deacon accused of misconduct with children and did not notify parishioners until after journalists broke the story.
Aymond appears in both training videos. “When a child becomes the victim of sexual abuse, it’s always a tragedy,” Aymond says in one video. “When it involves the church, it’s more tragic because that person, first of all, represents the church. And for the young child, represents God.”
Schafer said two training facilitators in Cincinnati raised concerns about the presence of Malone and Aymond in the videos earlier this year. The videos appear to have been most recently updated in 2015.
After speaking to representatives of VIRTUS, Schafer said, the archdiocese was told it will receive about 350 new videos free of charge. Other than the removal of the bishops, the content of the videos is not expected to change, Schafer said.
He said the archdiocese would continue to use the old videos until the new ones arrive because incoming volunteers, coaches and teachers cannot begin work until they’ve undergone the training, which includes the videos.
“Some people were upset we’re using the old video, but if we don’t, you’ve got to wait,” Schafer said. “It’s required training.”
Dan Frondorf, co-chair of Cincinnati’s chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said the bishops’ inclusion in the videos is part of a broader problem of the church’s actions not always matching its words.
“Taking them out of the video is fine,” Frondorf said of the bishops. “People are going to say, ‘Isn’t that ironic.’ What would mean more is if every bishop accused credibly of that would face some kind of accountability.”
The Catholic church has struggled for years with its response to child abuse allegations involving clergy. Hundreds of priests nationwide have been accused in the past two decades of abusing children while bishops turned a blind eye or shielded them from exposure.
In August, a Pennsylvania grand jury revealed a coverup of abuse there involving more than 300 priests and 1,000 children during the past 70 years.
Child protection programs, including the mandatory video training for church employees and volunteers, were part of the church’s response to the abuse scandals that erupted more than 15 years ago.
American bishops also have changed policies on how they handle reports of abuse and are now required to notify police about all accusations.
The Archdiocese of Cincinnati, among other dioceses around the country, has used Virtus training videos for years as part of the church’s child protection programs.
Virtus, a Latin word meaning valor or courage, is an offshoot of the National Catholic Risk Retention Group, a nonprofit insurance company that provides coverage to Catholic organizations.
Schafer said the archdiocese expects to have the new videos in hand by the end of the year.