The American Catholic Bishops adopted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People during their Dallas meeting in 2002. It was updated recently in 2005. The creation of this Charter was in reaction to the priest sex abuse scandal. The result of this Charter is the requirement that each diocese must establish and implement a "Safe Environment" program.
If you’re receiving this and you’re in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, you recently received the letter from Archbishop Harry Flynn along with the VIRTUS parent’s guide. If you are a parent who is just too busy to get involved and you think, "oh, the school and Church will look out for what’s best for my child," please consider reading just some of the articles contained in this document.
As parents, we are the ones ultimately responsible for our children’s upbringing. We will be held to account for what they are taught and exposed to especially in their early years. We are not to delegate the tough decisions to Bishops, priests, adminstrators or teachers. We must make the judgement on what’s right and wrong for our children.
There have been many e-mails flying around with various articles and stories about the various programs offered under the guise of "safe environments" programs. I thought it might be easier for everyone if you had one document that you could turn to for more information. I imagine when you open this, it will seem like an overwhelming number of articles. Please don’t think you need to read them all…just start with a few to get the flavor of what’s coming to a diocese near you.
The best way to start to dig in would be the first set of articles under the heading of "Criticisms of Safe Environments…" The articles are attached in an Excel file (Download Protecting_God_s_Children_Articles_1_16_06.xls ) as well as a pdf (Download Protecting_God_s_Children_Articles_1_16_06.pdf ). (I prefer Excel, but I realize not everyone receiving this has Excel…the pdf has small type…sorry, but that’s the best I could do).
A "safe environment" program will be implemented in the Twin Cities during the ’06-’07 school year. All Catholic school, religious ed, and home schoolers will be required to participate starting in Kindergarten (and perhaps pre-school). We may be able to opt our children out but there is a specific 4 step process that must be followed (Office of Child and Youth Protection). However, Archbishop Flynn has the ultimate say. If he chooses not to allow parents to opt out, your child will participate in "safe environments" training.