As a result of the pedophilia scandal in the church, the National Catholic Risk Retention Group, Inc. (National Catholic) began their effort to help the Church eradicate the problem. In March of 1998, National Catholic invited prominent national experts from many disciplines to discuss the problem at a forum in Washington, DC. From these discussions, the initiative for Virtus Programs was begun. Virtus programs identify best practices designed to prevent wrongdoing and promote “right doing” within religious organizations. They empower organizations and people to better control risks and improve lives of all those who interact with the Church, but especially our children.
The word VIRTUS derives from Latin, and means valor, moral strength, excellence, and worth. In ancient times, the term denoted a way of life and manner of behavior that always aspired to the highest, most positive attributes of people and aspects of human interaction.
The Protecting God’s Children program is a development of the Virtus program for protecting children from child sexual abuse. It consists of an initial awareness component for adults working in the faith community and follow-up training sessions at regular intervals. Those in the faith community who have access to children are required by the Diocese of Savannah to be enrolled in this program and to take frequent instruction to keep them aware and knowledgeable of all aspects of keeping our children safe. The Diocese also requires all personnel to sign a statement indicating they have received this training. In addition, all clergy and other Diocesan personnel in positions of trust who have regular contact with children are required to read, understand, and follow the Diocesan Code of Conduct for Those Working with Minors. This particular document is available in the parish administrative office.
There are five areas in the Protecting God’s Children program:
1 - Know the warning signs
2 - Control access to children
3 - Monitor all programs
4 - Be aware of risks Communicate concerns
5 - Communicate concerns
All employees and volunteers at St. William are actively participating in this endeavor. You may have seen some of the effects of the program in our parish, such as, all personnel and volunteers are enrolled in the ongoing instruction, areas in the parish hall that are isolated now have a security camera installed, a door in that area has an alarm installed, and the issuing of keys has been severely restricted. While we are aware that some of these efforts on our part have caused inconvenience to parishioners, we know you will agree that the protection of our children is worth the effort. We are proud that the Catholic Church, nationally and locally, has undertaken this initiative.
If you notice anything that you think will improve our efforts to protect our children please call the office with your suggestion.