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How much Confidence do you have in ‘child-protection programs’

In the last 12-month period for which full statistics are available, the US bishops spent a bit more than $49 million on child-protection programs.

That’s a whole lot of money. Imagine how many parishes and parochial schools you could re-open, how many teachers and nurses and catechists you could pay, how many poor families you could help, with $49 million.

Sure, it’s better to spend $49 million avoiding sexual abuse rather than $3 billion settling lawsuits brought by abuse victims. But is that the relevant comparison? Is there any persuasive evidence that the “child-protection programs” have actually protected children from abuse?

Yes, I know; the number of sex-abuse complaints has been dropping at the same time that the “child-protection” budget has been soaring. If you tend to slip into the post hoc ergo proper hoc fallacy, that correlation might be good enough for you. It shouldn’t be. There are many other good reasons for that decline in complaints. The cases registered in the past decade represented a backlog of complaints that had built up for several decades. Most of the people who had complaints have now registered them. And certainly people are much more aware of the options available to sex-abuse victims and the urgency of curbing predatory behavior. But is that awareness the result of the child-protection programs, or is it more directly attributable to years of intense media coverage?

If the child-protection programs functioned like a shield, making young people invulnerable to abuse, they would be worth the cost. But they don’t. The $49 million price tag reflects the cost of training materials (of questionable value, but that’s another story) for students and parish volunteers, and the bureaucratic rigmarole involved in doing background checks on everyone from the CCD teacher to the janitor to the soprano in the church choir.

Now that you know $49 million is being spent in a year—and that cost is rising—do you feel confident that the children are safer? Suppose all the child-protection programs were phased out, but you had 100% confidence that your pastors would do the right thing: would you feel less confident, or more?

By Phil Lawler













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  1. Patrick Gannon Reply

    Wow. Sounds like someone wants to open the doors back up to sexual abuse. The RCC is always talking about repentance, but then dioceses’ hid their assets to protect them from those they victimized. This guy is whining about spending $49 million, but the best thing he can say for it is that it may save billion$ in lawsuits. He’s annoyed by the “the bureaucratic rigmarole involved in doing background checks on everyone from the CCD teacher to the janitor to the soprano in the church choir.” What about a word for those who were abused by the church? The author does not seem to harbor much concern for them or any future kids who might be abused. He’s more worried about the thing that is most important to any religion: MONEY.
    .
    He ends by saying, “Suppose all the child-protection programs were phased out, but you had 100% confidence that your pastors would do the right thing: would you feel less confident, or more?” This is not logical, and one statement does not follow the other. You would be out of your mind to have 100% confidence that your pastors would do the right thing. Week in and week out, in the Catholic Church and other denominations, there is someone always being hauled in for violating children in one way or the other. You can NOT trust your pastors and you’d be an irresponsible parent to leave your kid in the company of clergy unless there were sufficient safeguards in place. With regard to the RCC, these are disordered, celibate virgins dressed in robes – they are not normal people. As a parent you must exercise caution with all clergy, but particularly those that are from denominations like the Catholics or Jehovah Witnesses that have a manic obsession over what we do with our clothes off.

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