Church Can Become World Leader in Child Protection

By Michael Kelly
Irish Catholic
February 7, 2012

If bishops around the world courageously embrace robust child safeguarding policies the Church can lead the way the Rome conference on abuse has been told.

While the Church has failed dramatically to respond properly to abuse by priests and religious "there are clear signs of progress and hope" according to US-based Msgr Stephen Rossetti who has spent many years treating abusers and working to ensure that policies for dealing with abuse are robust. He told the conference that "an increasing number of bishops from several countries have intervened decisively and effectively when allegations of child sexual abuse have surfaced."

He said the Church now stands at a crossroads where countries that have experienced the abuse crisis can help other countries ensure that children are protected. "Does each country around the world have to go through this same agonising process?," he asked.

"The Church now knows the essential elements of an effective child-safe programme. We ought to implement them today around the world…If the Catholic Church were proactively to implement and strongly enforce such a world-wide child-safe programme, it would become what it is called to be: an international leader in promoting the safety and welfare of children."

He insisted that the needs of a person who makes an allegation must override all other concerns. "there are false allegations to be sure. It is critical that we do all that we can to restore a priest's good name once it is determined that the allegations are false."

However, he said "decades of experience tell us that the vast majority of allegations, over 95 percent, are founded. There is little benefit, and much to be lost, for a person to come forward and to allege that he or she was sexually molested by a priest.

"It takes courage to do so and a willingness to suffer blame and ridicule," he said.

Msgr Rossetti told delegates that he is hopeful about the future. "In recent years, I have witnessed the tremendous strides that the Church has made, with the strong support from our Holy Father, in combatting this evil. I know that this growing consciousness will, and must, spread throughout the world".

He said the Church's calling "is to become the voice of millions of abused children. We must stand in the corner of those who are hurt and suffering.

"One day victims of child sexual abuse will look upon us, not as their foe, but as their advocates and their friends. That day is not yet fully here and so we are not yet fully the Church we are called to be.

The Catholic Church is a large, international body with a 2,000 year history. It is slow to change. But when it finally gathers its intellectual strength and moral conviction, and focuses on that which is right, the power of its voice is unstoppable," he said.


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