“To make sure we really protect children, we need answers”, says Bishop Robert Vasa
Bishop Robert Vasa
Bend,Oregon — “…The next topic is one that I bring up only with great reluctance for I do not want to give any appearance whatsoever of being soft on my desire to assure the complete safety and protection of children. The Charter for the Protection of Children has been interpreted to include mandatory “safe-environment training” for all children of or connected with the Church. In the diocese, we have indicated that such training must be made available to all children under our supervision in our Catholic schools but have not taken on the nearly impossible task of assuming responsibility for every child in the diocese.
“As a result of this discrepancy between a new interpretation of the charter and our diocesan policy, the annual charter audit will undoubtedly find the Diocese of Baker, and me as bishop, “Not in Compliance” and will issue a “Required Action,” which I am prepared, at this point, to ignore. I say this not because I resist efforts to protect children, but rather precisely the opposite. There are a series of questions that I believe need to be answered before I could mandate such a diocesan-wide program of “safe-environment training.”
“A few such questions follow: Are such programs effective? Do such programs impose an unduly burdensome responsibility on very young children to protect themselves rather than insisting that parents take such training and take on the primary responsibility for protecting their children? Where do these programs come from? Is it true that Planned Parenthood has a hand or at least huge influence on many of them? Is it true that other groups, actively promoting early sexual activity for children, promote these programs in association with their own perverse agendas? Do such programs involve, even tangentially, the sexualization of children, which is precisely a part of the societal evil we are striving to combat? Does such a program invade the Church-guaranteed-right of parents over the education of their children in sexual matters? Do I have the right to mandate such programs and demand that parents sign a document proving that they choose to exercise their right not to have their child involved? Do such programs introduce children to sex-related issues at age-inappropriate times? Would such programs generate a fruitful spiritual harvest? Would unsatisfactory answers to any of the questions above give sufficient reason to resist such programs?
“There are many concerned parents who have indicated to me that the answers to all of these questions are unsatisfactory. If this is true, do these multiple problematic answers provide sufficient reason to resist the charter interpretation? At very least, even the possible unsatisfactory answers to any of the questions above leaves me unwilling and possibly even unable to expose the children of the diocese to harm under the guise of trying to protect them from harm. I pray that, in this, I am neither wrong-headed nor wrong.
“For holding to this conviction I and the diocese may be declared negligent, weighed and found wanting.”