A code of conduct

A code of conduct

The Diocese of Worcester, Mass., has issued its code of conduct for priests and church employees. From now on, physical conduct with youth will be limited to high-fives and handshakes. (So is hugging adults okay?)

I guess you can’t disagree that such codes are now necessary because some bishops failed to properly deal with predators, but it’s a sad day when you have to tell children they can no longer give their pastor or even religious education teacher a hug, or when putting your arm around a grieving child could be grounds for termination.

We’re a society that is building smothering cocoons around our children. We’ve already told them to be suspicious of every adult. What a world we’re creating.

  • If these rules were set up to protect the children, I wouldn’t have a problem with it.  But I would assert these are for the protection of the church.  This is an anti lawsuit rule.  It also isn’t going to work.  I remember back in the early 90s there was a big push to put windows in the doors of each office.  That way if you were meeting with a student, everyone walking by could see what was happening.  Again it was for the protection of the church against lawsuits under the guise of protecting the students.  It also didn’t work.  How many (jump in here JenB) meetings do youth ministers have with students after 5:00 PM?  Usually the office is pretty well desolate at that time. 

    Oof its so sad to see.  I can think back on several distinct ocassions when students have told me “they couldn’t remember” the last time they were hugged.  Rarely does one say that about a high five with the same emotion. 

    I miss my days in ministry.  But I don’t know how well I could work under these kind of rules. 

  • Non-relative adults should NOT be running around hugging kids, thank you.  Teachers don’t either and for good reason.  It’s not appropriate, and sometimes it can lead to all kinds of trouble.  Think, folks.


  • Coming as I do from a bvious that porn viewing is a mortal sin I bet this would not be a welcome suggestion.


  • Actually, Jaime, even I, as a female am quite careful about where and when I meet alone with kids. In these days with Mary Kay Letourneau even us women can’t be to careful about what others might be thinking. I thought I was immune to it, not so anymore.

    At the same time if this diocese made that rule, I’d have to be fired because I know myself and know that hugging a kid doesn’t cause problems for me-I’ll hug, I’ll be affectionate-but I do find myself being more reserved these days.

    PS IM and MSN Messenger are the best meeting ground because then they aren’t in my office after hours.  Dom, it is a sad day. And it’s a band-aid for an infection that needs major surgery.

  • JenB

    Please don’t misunderstand me.  Of course there is a need to be careful.  But as an old mentor of mine used to preach. “You can do ministry or you can do programming”  If one does programming, you (all inclusive you, not JenB specific)  can insulate yourself from any unwarranted allegations.  But ministry doesn’t set up regular hours.  You work with a couple hundred students and you run into a crisis now and again.  An even simpler example, (that I ran into without fail) is that you put an event together, it finishes up and some parent crossed their wires on “who was picking up Bobby”.  Back in the 90’s the guidelines were “never give a student a ride home”.  Well reality is sometimes you have to give a kid a ride home. 

    Again when fear based rules are made, ministry suffers. Ministry will never be a clean antiseptic environment.  People’s lives get messy, so does ministry. 

    Whoa I didn’t even realize that I still had that old soapbox!

    Oh yeah, hugs aren’t bad!!

    former hugger

  • totally with you, jaime. want to come volunteer for me? you can hug still at this parish.  wink it’ s just sad that even i have to think about possible allegations or such, as a woman these days. no offense to the men, it just used to be that women weren’t the predators, i.e. MK Letourneu, a lonely midele aged woman who would not stop herself.

  • Jenb: A point of order. Mary Kay was “a lonely, middle aged woman…” Huh????

    Well ‘middle-aged’ can be subject to interpretation. Mary Kay was 34 years old when this started. As I’m well past that age, it seems positively ‘young’ to me.

    ‘Lonely’…??? She was a teacher, married, and the mother of four children. Somehow ‘loneliness’ doesn’t jibe with that lifestyle.

    She was/is a pervert, a pedophile who now wants to marry her juvenile paramour – with whom she has had two more children.

    Somehow ‘loneliness’ and ‘middle age’ don’t appear exculpatory for what she did and continues to do.



  • Well, those were words from her interview with Bawbwa Waltews the other night. (yes I watched, I was intrigued to know why, sadly)

    I’m not sure she likes teenage boys per se,  she just “felt drawn” to this particular young man and went beyond the boundaries that are appropriate, clearly.

    Which can certainly happen.  In a lonely state of mind anything may appear acceptable, which is really, my point.

    Any of us in ministry, paid or volunteer have to pay serious vigil to how we are doing internally. Do I regard some teen as a close confidant, a best friend, and cross the line into-it’s happened, my friend, men and women alike.  Unable or unwilling to draw boundaries, and using ministry to ok it.

    I do separate that type of neediness from sexual lust of a children, teens, etc. and warn others to just be aware of being honest with themselves and drawing healthy boundaries.

  • “why not make a rule that all are to forego pornography?” The problem with a rule like that is that it would mean that Catholics could not buy or read the novels of Father Andrew Greeley.

  • Touch is a intergral part of who we are as ensouled animals.  We are both body and soul; and ministry can’t be done correctly if we treat kids like cartisean “brains in a vat.”  There are boundries that must be maintained, but a hug says to a kid that they are loved, fraternally and paternally, in a way that words (or a handshake) cannot.   

    To Michigan, who cringes at the idea of a priest hugging people, I must ask what he thinks of the semitic and mediterranian custom of embracing with a hug and a kiss.  We know that Jesus embraced people this way. 

    I think its really sad that even the purest act of true self-giving love is now looked at suspiciously.  But as GK Chesterton says in his biography of St. Francis, when you treat sexuality like the rest of your appetites it will inevitably come to dominate you and color the way you see the whole world. 

    This policy has one purpose, to avoid lawsuits. It will not stop any sicko from harming a kid, and it might actually prevent kids from feeling that they can come to a priest if somone, a parent, teacher, coach, friend, or another priest is abusive toward them.

    What we need in this world is to let the little children come to Jesus and his Church, to embrace them, to tell them how speacial they are to God, and to let them (and any preditors) know what will happen to anyone who harms God’s little ones, both here and in the hereafter.

  • No tolerance for those who scandalize the flock—It worked for St. Augustine when his diocese was crippled by a priest scandal and it worked for St. Dominic when heretics threatened the faith.