Well, in the hopes of possibly getting a job, or at least being involved in my new parish, I decided to attend this evening’s VIRTUS session.
Now, there are a long list of reasons why people have problems with the USCCB’s “Safe Environment” programs. Many of the criticisms are hit upon in this article, which focuses on the claim that these programs are designed to shift the blame for the Catholic scandal away from homosexual prietss. That is definitely true in VIRTUS, where it is emphasized that “most abusers are homosexual” is a “myth,” cites a bunch of statistics about “heterosexual” abusers, gives no statistics explaining the “homosexual argument” as it were (e.g., that the vast majority of accusations against priests regard improper sexual behavior towards teenaged boys 14 and over). Consider the following statement from the Catholic League:
Almost all the priests who abuse children are homosexuals. Dr. Thomas
Plante, a psychologist at Santa Clara University, found that “80 to 90% of all
priests who in fact abuse minors have sexually engaged with adolescent boys, not
prepubescent children. Thus, the teenager is more at risk than the young
altar boy or girls of any age.”[viii]
Then there’s this piece from Concerned Women for America, The usual response is to paint those who take issue with the programs as trying to cover up their own sexual deviancy. Recently, the CMA came out very strongly against these programs in a position paper, and then Bishop Vasa, long a critic of the programs, teamed up with the CMA to write a program more in keeping with Catholic teachings.
Anyway, so I went to the session today.
As far as its objective, I actually found the session very weak. It didn’t really address much. There wasn’t much room given for discussion.
When I asked about whether children were required to go through these programs, I was told: “Every parish is required by the diocese to make these programs available to children in Catholic school and religious ed. But parents can opt out.”
“So, it’s not mandatory?” I asked.
“It’s mandatory, but parents can opt out.”
Much of the criticism boils down to certain factors: a) the claim that forcing children to attend these programs introduces them to sexual information at an inappropriate age; b) the programs don’t properly address the problem of homosexuality in the priesthood; c) the programs undermine the authoirty of parents; d) the programs are about PR and distraction from the real issues facing the Church. VIRTUS, from its website, is clearly all about “What to do so the Church doesn’t get sued for any reason.”
The criticism that I have *not* seen, but comes out of my experience with VIRTUS, is that the program isn’t Catholic.
I did get a lot out of the class, and it re-dedicated me to the safety of my own kids, always a priority, anyway. When I was talking with Allie after the session, I said, “There are lots of bad people out there. As you know, some bad people want to do bad things to you. Some bad people want to make you do bad things. Other bad people want to do bad things to you and make you feel like it’s your fault. What’s the main thing you can do to prevent that from happening?”
I was going to say something out of the video, along the lines of following parents’ rules and always communicating with us.
Her immediate response was, “I know! Pray!”
And that’s what’s wrong with VIRTUS. The session did not begin or end with prayer. The videos did not make any mention of prayer, fasting and virtue as key elements of preventing evil from happening in life. The only person to use the word “evil” was one of the former child molesters who spoke, and, if anyone used the word “morality” at all (I can’t entirely recall), it was that same child molester.
No one on the video spoke of spirituality, morality or evil. While they talked about “warning signs” of child molestation going on or of a person being a potential molestor, no one spoke of occultism. No one spoke of the Devil. No one spoke of sin.
They talked about foul language, pornography and lewdness, of course–all of which are also warning signs of extraordinary demonic influence, as well as molestation. Fr. Corapi and others draw a distinct connection between child sexual abuse and demonic influence. Fr. Corapi, for example, says that he’s only known a few people who were truly “possessed” in the technical sense, and they had all been sexually abused. And he said most people he knew who’d been sexual abused were tormented by demons.
In the famous St. Louis case from the 1940s upon which The Exorcist was based, the boy was found to have been sexually abused by his aunt, who died shortly before the alleged possession began. Many have argued that the evidence of sexual abuse negates the claim of possession, that the boy was merely suffering some psychosis resulting from the abuse.
So there was no mention of any of this in the video.
The video made the very good point that predators start by encouraging children to break simple rules, like giving them candy without parents’ permission or permitting some behavior parents might not allow (e.g., “Your parents don’t let you watch Barney? That’s silly. You can watch it with me. Just don’t tell your parents”), then move on to something worse (“Look at these pictures in this magazine. Don’t tell your parents! We don’t to get in trouble!”)
Yet the only depictions of the Church as such depict violations of liturgical norms: liturgical dance, folk masses, etc.
Worst of all, this video about child abuse (_A Time to Protect God’s Children_) begins with abuse of God: an image of a young girl drinking what appears to be wine from a glass cup.
Now, perhaps it wasn’t properly contextualized, and the video was meant to go with a later portion about molestors giving kids alcohol. However, in its context, it appeared to be a girl receiving Communion.
In that case, setting aside the controversy regarding laity receiving from the Cup as an ordinary thing, there are two clear violations in the video:
1. Chalices should be made of a metal that neither absorbs nor chemically reacts with the Precious Blood, yet the “chalice” in the video is glass.
2. The hands of the communion minister (presumably an extraordinary one) *pass* the glass goblet into the young girl’s hands.