I went through the mandatory training program for my parish last night called “Protecting God’s Children.” It was designed and implemented by the insurance cooperative for the Catholic dioceses in the US.
It was okay as far as it went, except I think it was too broad and generalized. For example, we were never told what age group we were talking about. That makes a difference because protecting a 5-year-old from abuse is different from protecting a 17-year-old. And I was backed up on this by a woman taking the training who was evidently some kind of social worker or therapist who knew about the topic. She reinforced the difference between pedophilia and ephebophilia, not just in how the predator acts, but in how the children react. Pre-pubscent children will almost always resist, but post-pubescent teens, especially males, will often take part willingly, having been convinced by their abusers that it’s okay. That creates a problem for those trying to protect them if they’re not helping in their own protection.
The least valuable part of the training was the small group discussion. After watching the videos that included molesters describing how they chose and manipulated children, everyone at my table was too disturbed to talk much. And even then, without a trained facilitator, there was no one to contradict any false information that was put forward. At one point, I was trying to make the point that what we are dealing with is monstrous sin, but one mother would have none of it. She kept insisting that it was a crime, not a sin, and wouldn’t listen to my explanation that one does not preclude the other.
And that’s my biggest problem with the program. There is no theological component. There was no time given to the morality or to the reality of sin. And I think that’s important, because we are all sinners. Once we realize that the capacity for monstrous sin lies within all of us, we are no longer lulled by thinking that only true monsters would do such things, and that the nice guy down the street who is so good to his own kids would never hurt ours.
Apart from that, the program was of mild help. I didn’t really learn anything I didn’t already know. Most of it is common sense if you read the papers or watch the news, but I suppose it could help some people who don’t already think this way. It does require you to make a conscious effort to step out of your own experience in your childhood because the way things were when you were a kid—even just walking into a public bathroom by yourself—are not things your kids can do today.