After McCarrick Report, Here’s How to Extend Safe Environment to Adults

National Catholic Register

December 12, 2020

By Peter Jesserer Smith

New resources to extend Safe Environment protections to all adults could help stop future McCarricks and break the global clergy abuse crisis.

Ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick was finally brought down by credible allegations that he had sexually abused children — but as the McCarrick report reveals Church leaders could have stopped the powerful cleric’s career, and saved the lives of children, seminarians, and young priests, had they acted on allegations McCarrick had abused his power to sexually exploit young men under his pastoral care or authority.

But stopping the present and future McCarricks in the Church’s midst means the People of God need to take proactive steps to educate and inform themselves about adult sexual abuse in the Church, recognizing that every adult can be vulnerable to the abuse of power for sex by clergy and lay leaders, and that protecting adults from abuse in the Church strengthens also the protection of children.

Lea Karen Kivi, president of Angela’s Heart Communications and author of Abuse in the Church: Healing the Body of Christ, is an advocate for survivors of adult sexual abuse by clergy who has helped provide training material and guidance for Canadian religious communities’ sexual abuse policies and procedures. Kivi has developed two new Safe Environment resources for parishes and dioceses could adopt: one is a template document called “Creating a Safe Environment for Adult Care Seekers” that could be posted on a website and provided directly to adults before beginning any pastoral relationship, and give insight into what is acceptable and unacceptable behavior in pastoral care. Another is a basic videoexplaining the topic of clergy sexual abuse of adults and what potential grooming signs look like.

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