Is there such thing as a good “safe environment” program or is the concept itself flawed? The Diocese of Manchester in New Hampshire was unsatisfied with the programs available to it (like Talking about Touching) so it created its own. In fact, it created two. One is a musical theater show performed at area Catholic schools to which parents and children are invited. Another is a mandatory program that takes place in Catholic schools and during religious education instruction for pre-K to 12th grade.
Here’s an initial reaction. Once again we have programs taking place during time that’s supposed to be set aside for religious instruction. Are our children so well-catechized that we can afford to give up more of the precious little time we have already? And since when it is a religious function to teach kids about “safe touching”?
The Manchester programs tried to address the deficiencies in other programs. For example, they say that parents complained they were left out of the planning process and implementation. In reality, the complaint is that children should not be exposed to material harmful to their innocence and that as the primary educators of their children, parents are the ones to determine both harm and appropriateness. Like I’ve said before, if a diocese wanted to have an education program for parents who would then decide how best to educate their children that would be appropriate, but going directly to children as young as four to make them their own first-line of defense is wrong. Our job as adults is to protect the children, not leave them to defend themselves.
What about the enablers and the bishop?