CATHOLIC MEDIA COALITION
For Immediate Release
April 15, 2004
Open Letter to the United States Catholic Bishops:
Keep “Touching” Programs Off Our Children
Mary Ann Kreitzer
Many dioceses have in place or are planning “safe environment” classroom programs for children from kindergarten through sixth grade. Parents oppose this for good reason. As you may know, criticism of Good Touch Bad Touch (GTBT) in the Diocese of Arlington and Talking About Touching (TAT) in the Archdiocese of Boston addressed not only problems in program content which are significant, but the fact that classroom curricula on sensitive sexual issues violate both parental rights and Church teachings. “Touching” programs introduce graphic and upsetting ideas and images to little ones during the latency period, what our Holy Father calls the “years of innocence” from about age five until puberty. Having a facilitator (often a stranger) present sexual information in a mixed sex classroom is seriously problematic and potentially damaging.
Under the definition of sexual abuse in the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, “A child is abused whether or not this activity involves explicit force, whether or not it involves genital or physical contact, whether or not it is initiated by the child, and whether or not there is discernible harmful outcome.” Many of the elements of “touching” programs qualify as sex abuse by this definition. Since the bishops excluded themselves from the Charter’s coverage, pastors, principals, and teachers will be the ones facing any charges of abuse related to these programs.
The Vatican document, The Truth and Meaning of Human Sexuality (TMHS) clearly warns against giving explicit sexual information to young children:
This period of tranquility and serenity [i.e., the “latency period”] must never be
disturbed by unnecessary information about sex….At this stage of development,
children are still not capable of fully understanding the value of the affective
dimension of sexuality. They cannot understand and control sexual imagery within
the proper context of moral principles and, for this reason, they cannot integrate
premature sexual information with moral responsibility. Such information tends to
shatter their emotional and educational development and to disturb the natural
serenity of this period of life. Parents should politely but firmly exclude any
attempts to violate children’s innocence because such attempts compromise the
spiritual, moral, and emotional development of growing persons who have a right
to their innocence. (TMHS, N.78 & N. 83)
How will introducing sexual issues during the latency period in a classroom setting affect children’s attitudes toward sexuality? Will placing sexuality in a context of abuse and distrust teach children to fear? Will they see sex as dirty? Will they question every touch? Will they “act out” disturbing ideas and images by inflicting “bad touches” on younger children? These are serious questions. To say, as some bishops have, that materials selected will be “age-appropriate” begs the question. By whose standard? Surely not the secular sex-educators who developed these “touching” programs in the first place.
According to some bishops, the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People approved by the bishops at their 2002 meeting in Dallas mandates “safe environment” programs for children. That is true. However, the Charter says nothing about implementation. It does NOT require classroom programs and is silent on who should present the material. Church teaching, on the other hand, is crystal clear:
Each child is a unique and unrepeatable person and must receive individualized
formation. Since parents know, understand and love each of their children in
their uniqueness, they are in the best position to decide what the appropriate
time is for providing a variety of information, according to their children’s
physical and spiritual growth... [emphasis added] Therefore, the most intimate
aspects, whether biological or emotional, should be communicated in a
personalized dialogue…. Experience shows that this dialogue works out better
when the parent who communicates the biological, emotional, moral, and
spiritual information is of the same sex as the child or young person. (TMHS, N.
65 and N. 66)
Classroom Programs Not Mandated by Charter: In view of the confusion about what the Charter actually mandates and the apparent contradiction between classroom programs on sexual abuse and Church teachings, Mary Ann Kreitzer, President of the Catholic Media Coalition, called Kathleen McChesney, Executive Director of the Office of Child and Youth Protection of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). In a brief telephone conversation on March 23 Kreitzer asked whether classroom programs are mandated by the Charter. McChesney replied that the Charter requires each diocese “to have a program for children,” but acknowledged that it does not call for a classroom program. Kreitzer specifically inquired whether there are backup documents mandating classroom programs. McChesney said no. Kreitzer then asked if parents could teach the material to their own children. McChesney saw no reason why they couldn’t, saying there had to be a program but the form it takes is “up to the bishop.” Since McChesney’s office has oversight responsibility and produces the annual report on diocesan implementation of the Charter, her opinion is particularly relevant.
Bias of “Safe Environment Classroom Programs: Your Excellencies, many dioceses seem to be approaching the issue of “safe environments” from the bias of secular child protection agencies which presume that parents abuse their children. In fact, some chancery officials have said those outside the family should teach these programs because “parents might be abusers.” What an offensive premise!
There isn’t a single case in the Jay report of parental abuse. On the contrary, the report documents abuse by clergy, the overwhelming majority of which is homosexual in nature. So the shift to blaming parents is unreasonable and unjustified. Some parents have questioned whether keeping their children out of these offensive programs will bring accusations of neglect by diocesan lawyers if their children are abused by diocesan employees in the future. Those questions remain unanswered.
The safest environment for children is an intact family. Studies indicate that “Children of divorced or never-married mothers are six to 30 times more likely to suffer from serious child abuse than are children raised by both biological parents in marriage.” (Patrick Fagan, The Child Abuse Crisis: the Disintegration of Marriage, Family and the American Community, Heritage Foundation) An intact family with a dad in the home is a proven deterrent to all types of abuse. Most of the cases in the Church sex scandals involved vulnerable families whose children were easy targets for predators. There is no evidence that “safe environment” programs would have prevented or interrupted the abuse. Efforts to strengthen the family are the surest way to protect children.
In closing, we respectfully ask you to abandon implementation of any classroom program addressing the sensitive issues of sexual abuse. Instead, a home-based program for use by parents with their own children should be developed, one that is sensitive to the needs and temperament of the individual child. Parents are those most concerned about the safety of their children and are the natural teachers of this delicate subject. Every diocese is blessed with many well-educated and qualified parents who would welcome the opportunity to assist in developing a program for use in the home. We look forward to the opportunity to serve Holy Mother Church and assist you in your most challenging task.
President, Catholic Media Coalition
CATHOLIC MEDIA COALITION
For Immediate Release
April 8, 2004
Cardinal McCarrick, Sacrilege is a Bad Choice for “Pro-Choice” Kerry
In early April, Pope John Paul II met with a group of U.S. bishops during their ad limina visits. He called them to reform saying, "In the life of every bishop the challenge of interior renewal must involve an integral understanding of his service as 'pastor gregis' (pastor of the flock), entrusted by Christ's will with a specific ministry of pastoral governance in the Church and the responsibility and apostolic power which accompany that ministry." The pope's call for bishops to exercise responsibility and "apostolic power" is necessary and welcome. There is much to concern faithful Catholics about the actions, or rather inaction, of our bishops. Just take one cleric, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of the Archdiocese of Washington, formerly of Newark, NJ. The Cardinal met privately with presidential candidate Senator John Kerry two days after discussing his views on Kerry and the Eucharist with Newsweek reporter Melinda Henneberger.
Mary Ann Kreitzer
A believing Catholic who loves the Eucharist could hope that Cardinal McCarrick admonished the senator and told him he would not allow him to commit sacrilege in his diocese by receiving Our Lord while he repudiates His teaching by consistently voting for abortion. The Cardinal could tell the senator he must take this action because of his love for Our Lord and his personal concern for Kerry's soul. A possible scenario? Well yes, anything is possible. Likely? Not in view of the cardinal's past actions.
When he was Archbishop of Newark, McCarrick allowed his Cathedral church to be used by pro-abortion Governor Christine Todd Whitman for an interfaith prayer service as part of her inaugural events. His recorded remarks are chilling in their detachment and courteous indifference. It reminds one of Cardinal Bernardin’s use of the "seamless garment" to undercut efforts to defend the unborn. (Yes, killing babies is wrong, but.... )
The Cardinal also has allowed AFL-CIO head John Sweeney, a radical pro-abort, to be honored and feted at more than one Catholic function in D.C. Continuous opposition from courageous local Catholics about this and other scandals has no apparent impact on the Cardinal's support for prominent figures who publicly reject Church teachings. Can one believe the Cardinal's words defending the unborn when he treats those who advocate their murder as honored guests? Hardly -- rather it appears those with money and power can do almost anything without fear of serious censure.
Melinda Henneberger’s Newsweek interview with Cardinal McCarrick, if accurate, is particularly troubling. She quotes the cardinal:
"'I would find it hard to use the Eucharist as a sanction,' he said gently. 'You don’t know what’s in anyone’s heart when they come before you. It’s important that everyone know what our principles are, but you’d have to be very sure someone had a malicious intent [before denying him communion.]' McCarrick is surprisingly humble, and a reluctant judge. 'It’s between the person and God,’ he said. Should Kerry or someone in his campaign seek counsel on Catholic protocol? 'What they do,' he demurred, 'is really their business and not mine.' The archdiocese has gotten some calls on the subject from rank-and-file Catholics, but he declined to characterize the faithful as a monolith: 'Obviously, we run the spectrum in the Catholic Church, from people who feel very annoyed with their politicians to those who are very supportive.'"
This is language to make faithful Catholics weep. Are we not the flock? Is the state of our souls not a concern for our shepherds? Is it not the business of the shepherd to go after the lost sheep and protect the flock from wolves? Is not "admonish the sinner" one of our corporal works of mercy? Do we measure the "spectrum" of belief among the faithful before taking action? Is this a servant of the people of God speaking or a Church politician?
Cardinal McCarrick has been selected to head the bishops' task force on how to deal with pro-abortion Catholics who hold public office. As Catholic leader of the nation's capitol he is perhaps an appropriate selection. On the other hand, the cardinal unquestionably hobnobs with the rich and famous of D.C.'s political establishment and the liberal elite. It is a heady atmosphere offering grave temptations to base decisions on human respect.
Remember also that Cardinal McCarrick is the same cleric who held the secret meeting of dissenters at the Catholic Cultural Center last year. He was out of the country when it was arranged and claimed he didn't know about it, but it is hard to reconcile that level of naiveté with the shrewd and polished individual he appears to be. As a senior government executive said, "Staff members set up meetings according to what they believe their boss wants."
And so we return to the question at hand. Should John Kerry be denied Communion? Unquestionably yes. Canon 915 says nothing about "malicious intent." It reads, those "who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Holy Communion." Kerry has been warned and admonished and he "obstinately persists in manifest grave sin." To give him Communion sacrilegiously is condemned by the Church. It is also a serious public scandal that will probably lead others into sin. If that doesn't concern the cardinal it certainly should!
There are many couples in invalid marriages who long to return to the Sacraments but do not because of their irregular situations and their respect for what the Church teaches. What does it say to them when John Kerry (who Catholic League head, William Donohue, points out may not be validly married in the Church) is allowed to receive Communion? What does it say to all of us that so-called Catholic politicians crucify Our Lord in his tiny babies and then sacrilegiously receive Holy Communion? Is it any wonder that three quarters of professed Catholics do not believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist? How many among those disbelievers are bishops of our Church?
We urge Cardinal McCarrick and all bishops to listen to the Holy Father and to exercise their apostolic power to defend the faith. It is the highest form of charity to do so.
President, Catholic Media Coalition
Note: The following is an update by Defenders of The Faith, Inc.
On April 17, 2003, Pope John Paul II made it clear that bishops have an obligation to deny Holy Communion to Catholics demonstrating "outward conduct which is seriously, clearly and steadfastly contrary to the moral norm." Despite the direction of the Holy Father, Cardinal Theodore McCarrick made the statement on April 27, 2004, concerning Catholic politicians who openly support legalized abortion: "I have not gotten to the state where I'm comfortable in denying the Eucharist." It is hard to believe this came from the mouth of a cardinal that is supposed to be our shepherd. Please write him at: His Eminence Theodore E. McCarrick, Archdiocese of Washington, P.O. Box 29260, Washington, D.C. 20017. Express your concern that he is in direct disobedience of the Holy Father. Tell him that you are appalled that he feels more comfortable offending Jesus in the Eucharist than offending a blatantly defiant ‘Catholic’ in need of admonishment to save his soul.
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