Church Lists Banned Touches

By Dan Horn
Cincinnati Enquirer

August 11, 2008

Archdiocese: Pat a child's back, but no kisses

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati's new Decree on Child Protection includes the most detailed rules yet for how priests, employees and volunteers should interact with children.

The latest version of the decree, which is updated every five years, lists for the first time examples of physical contact that would be appropriate or inappropriate under church rules.

Handshakes, pats on the back, high-fives, side hugs or shoulder-to-shoulder hugs all are acceptable. But bear hugs, lengthy embraces, lap-sitting, kisses, wrestling, tickling, massages or piggy-back rides are off limits.

Church officials say the list should help eliminate any confusion staff members or volunteers might have about contact with kids.

The latest revision of the decree was released last week with about eight more pages of new or expanded rules.

"We try to make it better all the time," said archdiocese spokesman Dan Andriacco.

Other changes include a requirement that contractors who have contact with kids get background checks, and a policy that urges staff and volunteers to avoid using "suggestive or inappropriate" communications with children.

The decree also would bar people from entering the seminary or becoming deacons if their names appear on a new civil registry that lists anyone with a declaratory judgment - not necessarily a criminal conviction - for assault or battery.

The registry, created last year, allows Ohio judges to use a declaratory judgment to put someone accused of abuse on the registry if they believe the allegations have merit, but the case is too old to prosecute. So far, no one has been placed on the registry.

The changes to the decree came after months of consultation with a team of lay and clerical people, as well as from reviewing decrees in other dioceses.

Victims' advocates have criticized the archdiocese for its handling of past abuse cases, but they support the rules in the decree.

"Any change that moves toward protecting children is great," said Christy Miller, co-director of the Cincinnati chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

Miller said no rule, however, can protect children from abusers who never were prosecuted and appear on no registry.

Since publication of the first decree in 1993, church officials say, 81,000 staff, volunteers and clergy have been trained in its provisions. At least 59,000 people who work with children have been fingerprinted and undergone background checks.

Andriacco said 266 people have been barred from working with kids because of criminal convictions or misconduct.



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