The past two months I have been auditing parishes across the Archdiocese to determine how effective we, the Church of Chicago, have been at institutionalizing the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. I can attest to the size of the Archdiocese by the miles I have spent in the car. I have been in the country. Did you know that cows graze on acreage adjoining St. Mary of the Annunciation Parish in Mundelein? I have been in parishes in the city located near busy expressways. I was thrilled by the commitment of parishes that have embraced protecting children and challenged by parishes that are tired of the Charter and its requirements.
So, tired of the Charter? Tired of hearing about clergy sexual abuse? Tired of all the Charter requirements for which the archdiocese is audited for compliance? Well, maybe it is time for us to refocus. Why do we do background checks, learn about the behaviors of sex offenders, sign the Code of Conduct, complete the CANTS form and, for some, attend Mandated Reporter Training? We do it for the children. For when it is all said and done, that is the reason for our efforts: to bring victims/survivors healing and reconciliation and to create a safe environment for children.
I believe that what the Church is doing to reach out to victims/survivors of clergy sexual abuse and keeping children safe is changing the culture of the Church and, with continued diligence, it will change the culture of society. A bit ambitious you say? Maybe, but consider the following:
- The US Church has trained more than 1.7 million clergy, educators, employees and volunteers in parishes in how to create safe environments and prevent child sexual abuse.
- The US Church has prepared more than 5.7 million children to recognize abuse and protect themselves.
- The US Catholic Church has run criminal record checks on more than 1,500,000 volunteers and employees, 163,700 educators, 51,000 clerics and 4,950 candidates for ordination.
These accomplishments deserve to be widely known and expanded by our ongoing commitment. We are changing our environment, inside and outside the Church, to one in which children are safer. With that refocus, may we all be refreshed in our efforts and given hope that all of our work is worth every moment.