Links for Learning
Curriculum Connections for High School Students and Their Teachers
This months Links for Learners will support high school curriculum in:
Christian lifestylesexperiences of faith; dealing with crisis; church leadership
Psychologyhealthy relationships; healthy child development
Basic Terms in This Months Article
Look for these key words and terms as you read the article. Definitions or explanations
can be researched from the article itself, or from the resource materials cited throughout
the Link for Learners.
Office of Child and Youth Protection
Safe environment programs
National Review Boards
Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People
Statute of limitations
American Bishops' Response to the Sex-abuse Crisis in the Church
Sexual abuse of children and young people is a grave social problem everywhere.
Not even churches are exempt; not even the Catholic Church. Revelations of how bishops
have mishandled clergy sex abuse, most often in secrecy, has created a crisis in
the Church. The most extensive survey to date, conducted by The
New York Times, finds that some 1,200 priests have been accused of abusing
at least 4,000 minors, primarily in the 1970s and 1980s. The widespread abuse involves
over 90 percent of the dioceses in this country.
The American bishops belong to the United States
Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), a governing body for the 194 dioceses
in the United States. Bishop
Wilton Gregory acts as president of the conference. The USCCB structure includes
a number of departments designed to
service the needs of the church in the United States. See the USCCB Web site for
a list of each bishop and dioceses in
Anxious to restore the trust of both Catholics and the general public, as well as
to ensure that the Church is a safe place for children, the bishops have begun implementing
strong measures to address and resolve the crisis.
One of the USCCB's first actions was the creation of a National Review Board, headed
by the former Oklahoma governor Frank
Keating. Thirteen individualsall prominent Catholic laitywill help
church leadership deal effectively with the current crisis.
Following on the National Review Board, in November of 2002 the bishops ratified
several documents intended to serve as guidelines for the future. "Restoring
Trust: Response to Clergy Sexual Abuse" includes the statements:
· The Essential Norms
for Diocesan/Eparchial Policies Dealing with Allegations of Sexual Abuse of Minors
by Priests and Deacons
· The Charter for the
Protection of Children and Young People
· Earlier statements by the USCCB include the 1995 Walk
in the Light: A Pastoral Response to Child Sexual Abuse.
After publishing their Charter, the bishops then created the Office of Child
and Youth Protection and recruited as its head Kathleen McChesney, a woman with extensive
background in law enforcement. McChesney's mission includes:
· Assisting each diocese in establishing standards and creating "safe-environment
· Conducting audits of each diocese to understand the scope of the problem
(Are The New York Times survey findings correct?) and to ensure compliance
with the national guidelines.
· Commissioning an academic study on the context and causes of abuse in the
McChesney acknowledges that education and healthy living are key to preventing future
abuse. Safe environments, as well as parental communication and involvement, will
provide our children with an emotionally sound start in life. For Catholics, positive
experiences of faith for our young people are also critical. Parents and children
need to trust that the Church, after the home, is a critical source for faith development.
and Prevention of Abuse
The psychological impact to an abuse victim is severe. Mary Gail Frawley-O'Dea,
a noted psychologist and psychoanalyst, addressed the American bishops last December.
She called on the bishops to face the wrongs in the Church, understand the trauma
to the victims and engage in reparative apology for what has happened. Her address "The
Long-Term Impact of Early Sexual Trauma," is honest, blunt and disturbing.
Up to one-fourth of sex offense victims in society are children six and under, according
to studies cited by National
Public Radio (NPR). Education is a key factor in preventing sexual abuse of children.
A recent NPR program cited surveys as well as statistics offered by the U. S. Justice
Department indicating that child sexual abuse has declined by 30% in the last 10
years. While it is not yet clear how much prevention programs have contributed to
that decline, NPR says that children are catching on to the fact that keeping secrets
is wrong. Secrecy is a predator's primary technique for covering up inappropriate
NPR's report admits, however, that we have a long way to go. Discussions about sex
with the important adult in a child's life need to be a part of that child's everyday
The National Network for Child
Care (NNCC) offers useful information about just what constitutes sexual abuse
and tips for training our children to recognize and avoid abuse. The NNCC reinforces
what others have saidthere are no secrets. Open
discussion is critical to prevention.
to Avoid Becoming a Victim
"An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure," the saying goes. A
number of groups are focusing efforts on teaching young people how to recognize a
predator and avoid being tricked into abuse. One is "Parents for Megan's Law." (Megan's
Law refers to a legal requirement in some states for sex-abuse offenders to be reported
to their neighbors by local authorities.) www.ParentsforMegansLaw.com offers
a very useful section of tips for young people to consider.
Among many myths the site debunks is the myth of the dangerous stranger: "Most
children are sexually abused by someone known or related to them, often in a position
of trust or authority," says the site. "Studies indicate that no more than
10% to 30% of sex offenders were strangers, meaning that up to 90% of children sexually
abused had some type of relationship with their abuser. Children are abused most
often by someone that they know such as a relative, the best liked coach, the pillar
of the community, pediatrician, teacher, scout leader or religious leader."
The site goes on to list some of the tricks
that these predators use: the Threat Trick, the Pet Trick, the Accidental Touching
Trick and many others are listed on this page that is certainly worth a careful
Some other Web sites that offer prevention advice are:
The Center for the Prevention of Sexual and Domestic
of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry
American Psychological Association
U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services' Administration for Children and Families
Role of Faith in This Crisis
In the article, McChesney says she hopes the current crisis has not affected people's
faith negatively. "I don't think faith and belief are the issue here. People
who have faith know that some people do some awful, evil thingsthis isn't heaven!
As intelligent, rational people, our obligation, because of our faith, is to try
and fix those things, to make things right. It's a blessing to be able to do so."
Visit the teen
section of this Web site's "Faith-filled Family" column "Church
Sex-abuse Crisis Hits Close to Home" and discuss the questions posed there
in light of McChesney's statement.
Also remember that the majority of priests are hard-working and caring individuals,
who are probably as disheartened by this crisis as everyone else. Talk to a priest
you know about how this crisis is affecting him. It may provide a different outlook
on the situation. Or send him an e-card to
let him know you appreciate all the work he does.
Try accessing some of these Internet sources for further general reference. Be
aware, however, that some of these sites may charge for downloading articles contained
within the site’s archives.
United States Conference of Catholic Bishops
The New American Bible
Documents of Vatican
The New York Times
The Los Angeles Times
The Chicago Tribune
The Washington Post
The Miami Herald
The Associated Press
PathfinderAccess site to a number
of online news publications
The History Channel
The Close Up FoundationWashington, D.C.-based organization
Channel Oneonline resource for the school channel