SECOND IN SERIES BY KATHY KANE
A few years ago when I encountered a breach in the Safety Environment Program, it gave me an opportunity to learn about our archdiocese’s child protection system. A few archdiocesan employees and a kind regional Vicar led me through the process. The most valuable lesson I learned from the experience was concerning the role of the pastor in child protection at the parish level. He is the ultimate decision maker concerning the safety of the children in the school, PREP, CYO, youth groups, altar servers and any other situations, activities or events involving children. Of course on a parish level there are many people involved — such as school principals, Religious Education Directors and many other. But the pastor has the absolute authority. This could not have been made clearer by all involved and even led to discussions on how this might not necessarily be a good thing in some situations.
I also attended the Mandatory Reporting sessions which were required of all volunteers in the Archdiocese. At the session I learned about Pa. law and the reporting process. I was instructed that I was free to make a report of suspected abuse myself, or could report the suspected abuse to the institution. There was a lot of discussion concerning the reporting chain and the institution. In the Archdiocesan written information concerning mandatory reporting, the title of pastor is listed first. For anyone unfamiliar with mandatory reporting and the responsibility of the head of the institution, the upcoming trial of PSU president Graham Spanier is a good example.
So I first learned about the importance of the role of pastor as the decision maker concerning many child safety issues from Archdiocesan employees and then learned about the role of head of the institutions (pastor) under Pa. Mandatory Reporting law.
It was shocking to say the least, when news broke that Father John P. Paul was left as pastor of a parish for a full year while being criminally and internally investigated for allegations of child sex abuse. I don’t care if it was a janitor, a food service worker, a teacher or volunteer who is being investigated, that person should be temporarily removed while the investigation unfolds. A pastor in charge of the safety of hundreds of children should absolutely be removed.
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