Everyone must learn how to prevent child abuse, bishop says

CHARLESTON—Bishop Robert E. Guglielmone celebrated Mass April 15 at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist in commemoration of National Child Abuse Prevention month.

The Gospel on that Divine Mercy Sunday was about the apostle Thomas and his doubts about Jesus’ resurrection. During his homily Bishop Guglielmone tied in the subject of doubting with denial and how society has not faced the massive problem of child abuse, particularly sexual abuse.

“We must move from the prison of denial to the openness and acceptance of the truth and there must be a resolve on the part of everyone that this horror of society has to be eliminated,” the bishop said.

“Today, the Diocese of Charleston puts into effect a new updated policy for all employees and volunteers as we renew our commitment to be a major participant in the battle against child sexual abuse,” he said.

“It is no secret that the church was one of those who had been in denial; much damage to young people has occurred and we must take responsibility for poor decisions and neglect of the trust placed in us by so many. Because we have been part of the denial of the past we must be active proponents of change for the present and the future.”

The diocese has had a policy in place since 1994. It was updated in 2003. The current “Policy Concerning Allegations of Sexual Misconduct or Abuse of a Minor by Church Personnel” includes revisions to address social media, enforce background screening and safe environment training of employees and volunteers, and gives more independence to the advisory board that assesses allegations.

“We have tried to eliminate any possibilities of non-compliance with the policy as we commit ourselves to monitor constantly the changing circumstances of life so that we may continue to provide the safest possible environment for children in our parishes, schools and Catholic institutions,” Bishop Guglielmone said.

The Diocese of Charleston requires Virtus training of all employees and volunteers in the church. It is designed to raise their awareness about the nature of child sexual abuse, to educate them on how to recognize the warning signs, and train them about what to do when they suspect a child is being victimized.

Most abuse occurs in the home with relatives or friends, and an estimated one in six boys and one out of four girls are sexually abused before the age of 18, according to Virtus.org.

“It is a comprehensive program to make us aware of the dangers children may encounter; it is important, also, for children and young people to be educated in the threats that predators may pose and what is necessary for children to do if they are in any way threatened,” the bishop said.

Programs for children and parents are also available through Catholic churches and schools in South Carolina.

For more information about the policy or child sexual abuse prevention education, contact the Office of Child Protection  Services at www.catholic-doc.org or call Bonnie Sigers, safe environment coordinator, at (843) 853-2130, ext. 210, or email bonnie@catholic-doc.org.