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Local priest describes program to protect children in Catholic Church

By Carole Mikita | Posted - Apr. 22, 2010 at 9:55 p.m.



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KEARNS -- The recent Catholic priest abuse scandal in Europe brought attention to the worldwide church and frustration to at least one Utah priest. He says bishops in America created a program to protect children eight years ago.


About 4 percent of all clergy who served in the U.S. since 1950 have been accused of molesting children. -The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops

Just before and during Easter week, another Catholic priest scandal broke, this time in Europe.

"Frankly, when those reports came in, I was shocked that they hadn't handled the situation over there, knowing what had happened here," says Father Robert Moriarty, pastor at the St. Francis Xavior Catholic Parish.

Father Moriarty says nothing is more important to him than protecting children in his parish. When priest abuse surfaced again, he decided to address it.

He felt so strongly about this issue that he wrote several articles in the church bulletin, and also delivered a couple of homilies so that all members of the parish could hear.

Child abuse in Utah

Perpetrator% of abuse
Parents66%
Relatives12%
Non-relatives21%
DCFS, 2005

"To ignore it in the Church is irresponsible. To ignore it in our society is irresponsible. We all have to take responsibility for this and be vigilant," Father Moriarty says.

Since 2002, there have been extensive background checks for anyone who works with children, and a credible abuse report goes to the police. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops created the Charter for the Protection of Children.

"Our Diocese of Salt Lake responded immediately and efficiently, so much so that in many cases parts of our program became a model for other diocese within the nation," says Rosemary Baron, chair of the Diocesan Review Board.

Every American parish must have a Safe Environment Program, and lay people -- not priests -- run it.

What is... the Safe Environment Program?
In response to the clergy sexual abuse of minors, in 2002, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops adopted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People. The Charter required each diocese develop a Safe Environment Program to help insure that children and youth in the care of the Church are protected from sexual abuse. CLICK HERE for specific details of the program.

"If someone doesn't pass, we make sure there is no contact with any minor children whatsoever," says Char Rodriguez, director of the Safe Environment program at St. Francis Xavior Parish.

"I really think it would be nearly impossible for someone to be abusive towards children in a Catholic parish if all the procedures are followed," Father Moriarty says.

Leaders here hope the Catholic Church in other parts of the world will soon begin to create their own Safe Environments.

Every year, every Catholic parish and school undergoes an outside audit to look into the Safe Environment program.

E-mail: cmikita@ksl.com

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Carole Mikita

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