First In a Series
By Kathy Kane
We tell them “to tell.” This generation of children and young people are taught to tell a trusted adult if someone speaks to them inappropriately, touches them inappropriately. There are books from when they are young that describe the areas of their body which are private. We have background checks for all who interact with them at school and on sports teams. They have been more informed and educated than the generations before them and they trust that as adults we would never put them in harm’s way. As adults we would do as we instruct them, we would ‘tell.” We would never withhold information from them even if there was just the possibility of a person being a threat to them.
When the news broke that Fr Paul had been allowed to stay at Our lady of Calvary for many months while being investigated, my immediate thoughts went to the children of the school and parish. Not just their physical safety but their psychological well being. Keeping information from children concerning their safety flies in the face of all that they have been taught and that we hope to instill in them should they face an abusive situation in their young life. Tell someone…don’t keep a secret…don’t hide it.
This could have happened at any parish as we are all part of one large system. A system that has spent countless time and money over the past few years with high priced consultants and pages of new documents. The best scenario this all produced was to keep a priest at a parish while he was being investigated and withhold this information from the parents. Oh how far we have not come.
I have seen the reactions of children when a predator was exposed…I can’t imagine the reaction when it is revealed that trusted adults had information and kept it from them and their parents. Even the most remote possibility that a person in their life could have harmed children…the remote possibility and this information was kept from them.
How would you explain this to your children? That not only did someone they know turn out to be a possible predator, but people they trusted withheld information for many months. Add to the craziness that those same people who “kept the secret” were also in charge of making sure that the priest did not go near the children. Sound like a safety plan that you would like to explain to your children? Me neither.
When people do not practice what they preach, the trust is broken. A child could be pushed back in the closet a child who could be abused at home, on a sports team, a youth group, a neighborhood. The message they are given is…”don’t tell”…”keep the secret”. That is tragic in so many ways and does not get fixed…That lesson will stay in a child’s mind more than any Safety Environment lesson the Archdiocese provides. Why should a child tell when adults did not…we expect children to be the heroes that the adults are not capable of being, even when the threat is just a possibility.