Should Priests Give Kids Piggyback Rides?

By Manya Brachear
Chicago Tribune

August 21, 2008

Priests in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati may shake childrenís hands, pat them on the head, and give high-fives.

But they are forbidden to kiss them, tickle them and give them bear hugs or piggyback rides, according to a renewed Decree on Child Protection.

Are the new rules an example of good judgment or an irrational response to the clergy sexual abuse crisis that has plagued the Catholic Church?

The new safety precautions are taking effect in Cincinnati as the Chicago Archdiocese still reels from last week's decision by Cardinal Francis George to release a legal deposition that explained how priests accused of abuse were permitted to remain in ministry. Some Catholics found the deposition so "damning" that the Boston-based church reform group Voice of the Faithful on Tuesday called for George to resign.

Survivors of Those Abused by Priests, who had already called for the cardinalís resignation two years ago, praised the groupís gumption.

"We certainly support VOTFís call and want the cardinal to resign but at the same time are convinced that the secrecy, recklessness and duplicity in the archdiocese is widespread, long-standing and deeply rooted," said David Clohessy, executive director of SNAP. "Even if he leaves tomorrow, itís naive to expect serious reform."

Colleen Dolan, communications director for the archdiocese, said the cardinalís decision to release the deposition demonstrates his continued efforts to be transparent and protect children. She said he does not have plans to tender a resignation. Instead, he will apply the lessons he has learned from his mistakes.

"The church is in a stronger position having someone like him leading rather than walking away," she said.

Dolan emphasized that the archdiocese now requires all personnel, contractors and volunteers to undergo Virtus training, a church-based program that teaches ways to protect children. In addition, all volunteers who are in contact with children must sign the Archdiocese of Chicago Code of Conduct book, undergo a criminal background check and fill out a form that is kept on file by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services and the parish.

In 2004, the Chicago Archdiocese enacted many of the same precautions that now exist in Cincinnati. Priests are permitted to give "side hugs" and to hold hands during prayer or when a child is upset. But bear hugs and piggyback rides are out of the question.

Should priests be permitted to do more or it better to be safe than sorry?


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