Abuse prevention conference highlights continuing efforts

ATHLONE, Ireland (CNS) – The Catholic Church is “no longer a safe haven for child abusers,” said a top priest psychologist who advises the U.S. bishops on child sexual abuse.
Msgr. Stephen Rossetti told hundreds of Irish delegates to the first national conference on safeguarding children that the Catholic Church in the United States spent $43 million on child abuse prevention and education just last year.
The priest told Catholic News Service following his keynote address that secular organizations and other churches in the United States were now coming to the Catholic Church to learn from its policies.
More than 5.2 million adults and children have gone through the safe environment training in the United States, and more than 3 million priests, lay employees and volunteers have gone through background checks.
He highlighted that in the United States, child abuse rates are dropping throughout society and the church.
“At the recorded height, the John Jay Study said 4 percent of clergy were involved as perpetrators. That number has fallen to less than 1 percent. We have turned the corner, but we shall not rest until the number of abused children is zero,” he said.
Msgr. Rossetti spoke at a Feb. 27-28 conference organized by Ireland’s National Board for Safeguarding in the Catholic Church. April is child abuse prevention month nationally. The Office for the Protection of Children sent resources to the parishes earlier this month.
Msgr. Rossetti told participants in Ireland, who included laypeople, religious and bishops: “Good response policies are important. But the heart of the matter is education — stopping abuse before it occurs.”
Msgr. Rossetti, a professor at The Catholic University of America and a visiting professor at Rome’s Pontifical Gregorian University, thanked Marie Collins, a member of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors and a victim of clerical sex abuse, “and all those like you who have stood up and told your story. More than anything, this is what is turning the tide.”
Ireland’s safeguarding board was established in a bid to restore public confidence in the church’s handling of allegations of abuse against priests and religious after a series of judicial reports uncovered serious failings. Four Irish bishops have resigned following severe criticism of their failures in relation to handling allegations of abuse.
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