Friday, April 13, 2007

Diocese of Winona Web Site Focuses on Preventing Abuse

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Nearly five years after U.S. Catholic bishops approved procedures for dealing with a sex-abuse crisis, the Diocese of Winona has launched an online "learning community" aimed at recognizing and reporting child abuse.

The Safe and Sacred Series continues a diocese-wide education effort that started after bishops approved the Charter for the Protection of Young People in 2002, according to Rose Hammes, the diocese's communications director.

At first, training seminars were offered across the diocese for clergy, church workers, volunteers and others who interact with children, Hammes said. She added that an online training system was developed 1 1/2 years ago because of the logistics involved in setting up traditional classes across the 20-county diocese. "This is just a natural progression of what we've been doing the past five years," she said.

While the new program offers participants the chance to interact online, Hammes said it also offers new materials not just on clergy sex abuse, but on workplace abuse, physical abuse and mental abuse.

The diocese's online program is potentially helpful, but it "misses the mark" because it doesn't address the root causes of the clergy sex-abuse crisis, said David Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.

While Clohessy disagreed with the program's focus on laypeople, Hammes said the training is required not just for laypeople in contact with children, but for all clergy as well.

"I don't see how any effort to protect our children can be reflected in a negative light," Hammes said.

Paper versions of training materials will be sent to people who don't have Internet access, or they can go to their church and get the materials there, Hammes said.

She said there is no deadline for when people who work with children in the diocese must complete the program, adding that it's up to individual parishes to set standards for when people must complete the training before they can work with children. Rochester Post Bulletin

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