Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Safe Environment Training Program to Volunteer in the Catholic Church

I've written in the past about being baptized in the Baptist church at the age of 12 (back in 1977) and that one of my B.A. degrees is in Religion. For the past three and a half years I've been attending a Catholic church with my wife, Kelley. I know that the Catholic faith has been under tremendous scrutiny by the media and general public due to the appalling and shocking uncovering of extremely inappropriate and criminal sexual abuse occurrences within the church. I've also written in this blog how such abuse is not confined only to the Catholic faith.

In 2016, I began volunteering in the Catholic church and was required to complete a course in "Protecting Children in the 21st Century." Last week, I took the course again and was tested on the content -- the certificate for completing the course being valid for three years.

The Diocese through which I took the course states, "Everyone who works with young people and/or vulnerable adults shares the responsibility of creating safe environments. We are all charged with treating life with the respect and dignity given to each of us by our God." I agree with that! All Catholic church staff, clergy and volunteers who work directly with children must register with the Diocese and complete the diocesan safe environment training program every three years. Included in the process is a background check. The Diocese evaluates the criminal history background of all diocesan, school and parish employees, as well as volunteers who have regular contact with minors.  Specifically, they utilize the resources of law enforcement and other community agencies. The Diocese makes clear to clergy and members of the community the standards of conduct for clergy and other persons in positions of trust with regard to abuse.

By completing the training and volunteering, I am committing to a code of conduct which includes such things as: safeguarding children and youth entrusted to my care at all times; treating everyone with respect, patience, integrity, courtesy, dignity, and consideration; avoiding situations where I am alone with a child or youth at church/school activities; avoiding all unnecessary physical contact, especially when alone with a minor; and more. Having taken the course twice in the past three years, I can tell you that I am very impressed with the content and the fact that the Catholic church conducts a thorough background check. There is a specific sexual abuse protocol in place and, of course, a mandate under state law to report any suspected abuse.

In my opinion, through the mandatory training the Catholic church is showing that it is dedicated to ensuring an environment that is safe, open, welcoming and protective of all people -- especially children.

Keep Reaching For Life's Mileposts,

Paul Staso