It occurred to me recently that my VIRTUS certification is up for renewal this year, and I began considering the fact that I’ll have to go through that dreadful process.
Then a Washington Post reporter contacted me to interview me about my views on priest scandals.
Now, a Facebook friend who also lives in South Carolina asked me today for my views on VIRTUS, as her parish is basically implying that the Diocese requires everyone to take the class. Her daughter considered teaching CCD but declined after seeing the content of VIRTUS for children and deciding she did not want to be a part of the evil of teaching that sexually explicit material to young children.
Now, back when the Diocese of Arlington wanted to implement Talking about Touching, which was designed by Planned Parenthood, Deal Hudson successfully led a protest to get the VIRTUS program adopted instead, but the origins of VIRTUS–and the leadership of the whole “safe environment” office at the USCCB–is still just about as bad as Planned Parenthood. It should be noted that *all* these programs violate church teaching by their explicit teaching of sexual matters to underage children (regardless of whether parents are given the option to opt out–and many diocese imply that parents who choose to exercise their right and duty under Canon Law to educate their own children about sexuality are trying to cover up their own abuse).
Several years ago, my hero, Bishop Robert Vasa of Baker, OR, teamed up with the Catholic Medical Association to create their own “safe environment” program that corresponded completely with Catholic social teaching and proper developmental psychology.
When Mary and I were going through the engagement process, we were given the option to do our preparation in another diocese. Thus, when we decided that the program at the Doicese of Savannah a) was too liberal and b) would not accommodate my disabilities (they would have required me to sleep in non-air conditioned cabins at a Boy Scout Camp in a room full of strange men), we were given permission to do our marriage prep in the Diocese of Arlington. Since there are at least 3 major USCCB-approved “safe environment” programs, it would be nice if individuals and parishes were given the option to use the program of their choice, instead of whatever is mandated by the particular diocese.
Anyway, I know I’ve addressed some of these concerns previously on this blog, but I’m not sure if I’ve written to VIRTUS itself about them, so I did so tonight, and what follows is the e-mail I sent.
Dear VIRTUS program,
(I cannot discern the gender or appropriate title of your director, so I am addressing this generically).
As my own VIRTUS certification is up for renewal this year, I’ve been contemplating the program recently, and a friend today contacted me for advice on her own concerns about the program.
I would presume I addressed these concerns to you three years ago, but in case I didn’t, I would like to point out several flaws in the program as I experienced it 3 years ago at St. Joseph’s Church here in Columbia, SC.
1. Early in the video, there is a depiction of a young girl receiving the Precious Blood in a glass goblet. Regardless of the issues surrounding lay reception of the Precious Blood, it is a very blatant liturgical abuse to use anything but certain defined metals at Mass, because glass containers will retain particulate matter of the Eucharist and risk desecration. It seems strange, in a Catholic video on abuse, to depict favorably the abuse of Our Precious Lord, which seems to be at the root of the problem.
2. Similarly, in the videos I watched, no one ever talked about the issue in terms evil, sin or the Devil, except for the convicted child molesters themselves. Everyone else spoke in nice politically correct legal, psychological and sociological terms. Yet the essence of the crisis in the past generation, as evinced by the testimony of Cardinal Law and others, is that bishops have handled this issue of evil in a purely legalistic and psychological manner–following the advice of lawyers and psychiatrists first, rather than sound spiritual direction. Abusers have been treated as mental cases or as potential legal liabilities, rather than as evil men, under some level of demonic influence, who needed severe penances and, possibly, exorcism.
3. As many have commented, the VIRTUS program does its best to misdirect attention away from priests and try to widen the blame, again focusing more on legal liability and PR than on facing the essential crisis in the Church (that said, knowing the rampant child abuse that goes on in public schools, the coverage of teachers is very helpful).
4. The class tries its best to distance homosexuality from the issue, even though the majority of abuse cases were priests with same sex attraction targeting teenaged boys. The Catholic Church has always consistently taught that same sex attraction constitutes a severe personality disorder that renders those who have it ineligible for the priesthood. Indeed, the recent Vatican clarification on this subject has even said that anyone who supports the homosexual political and social agenda, without being himself homosexually inclined, is ineligible for ordination. Yet VIRTUS, as I experienced it, said nothing of these matters and instead tried to defend the “good name” of homosexual priests.
5. I found it interesting that the VIRTUS program described the “MO” of many child molesters as being people who try to ingratiate themselves both to their victims and their victims’ parents as being “nice.” The video described the typical “lay” child molester as being someone (giving examples of teachers, friends’ parents, or coaches), who singles out a particular child for “special attention,” offering special gifts and activities, saying “don’t tell your parents.” The molester gradually “blackmails” child with increasing violations of “the rules,” increasing permissions of “naughty” behavior, always saying, “Don’t tell your parents,” and, later threats to expose the child’s participation. . . .
Meanwhile, there was only one case involving a priest discussed in detail. In that case study, the parents talked about how the priest was “so friendly” and wasn’t all legalistic, or words to that effect. The parents made it clear that they liked the priest because he was very liberal in regard to the Church’s moral and liturgical teachings, and they were shocked that this man who didn’t care about the Church’s teachings could commit immoral acts on their child.
Yet the video does *not* draw the connection between the two facts: that a priest who tells his congregation “you don’t have to do that; just don’t tell the Vatican” is no different than the playground-lurking creep who says, “Have a piece of candy; just don’t tell your parents.”
Your program would be vastly improved if you addressed these issues in the class. Otherwise, it just seems like a cover-up for the same old Americanism in the Church that caused this crisis in the first place.
John C. Hathaway, OCDS