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Is something amiss with the Safe Environment Program? February 1, 2010

Posted by Tantumblogo in Dallas Diocese, General Catholic.

I’ve been getting some e-mails recently from parents concerned about some elements of the Safe Environment Program, specifically, the materials produced by The National Catholic Risk Retention Group, VIRTUSOnline.   For those who aren’t aware, the Safe Environment Program and VIRTUS were created as the ‘official’ Bishop’s response to the sexual abuse scandal in the Church, wherein many priests preyed on almost exclusively pre-pubescent and pubescent boys.   Anyone who wants to work at any parish in the Diocese, or who might teach a class or anything like that, has to take Safe Environment Training.   In the Dallas Diocese and about 80 others, they use this VIRTUS program.

What’s the problem?   Well, some parents have contacted me to tell me that some of this VIRTUS material is being presented to children, and they feel this material is very inappropriate.  The problem area seems to be a video presentation of “appropriate/inappropriate” touching which is shown to elementary age children.  This video has made my correspondents both upset and very nervous, and apparently a number of parents in the St. Elizabeth Ann Seton parish are going to pull their children from the class to avoid the video.  These parents have researched Safe Environment Programs nationwide, and feel that there are other, better alternatives that don’t involve children watching videos of such a sensitive nature.   One of these that is most positively perceived from a perspective of adherence to the Faith and sensitivity to children is the program instituted by the Diocese of Harrisburg, PA.

I haven’t seen the video in question.  I don’t want to damn a program I am not terribly familiar with, but there have been several concerns communicated to me.   I’d like to open the floor to any comments people have on this VIRTUS video.  Use the combox below to leave your comments.

UPDATE 02/02/10: Yeesh!  So, I’ve managed by hook and crook to see some of the VIRTUS materials.  A little is available online, but I’ve seen some other material that is not online.  If you go to the links below, you can see more details on what some of the concerns are.  Essentially, very explicit sexual information is being communicated to children at ages as young as 5.  The declared purpose for this is to educated children on their body and what appropriate/inappropriate touching means.  I’ve got 6 kids, and the oldest is 10, and I can say categorically I would not let any of my children be exposed to this material – this goes into areas they are completely unready to be exposed to.  There is apparently an opt-out for some of the most extreme material, but what’s to prevent a child from learning all the gory details from their classmates later on?  Based on what I’ve seen, I can see why some parents have serious concerns.   NOTE: the 2nd link contains material that is a little strident but it does make some valid points, so I included it.

VIRTUSOnline – you can see a short introductory video to the program, but not much detail here, other than I really don’t want my kids having to think about this kind of thing in such detail




1. Steve B - February 2, 2010


I went through Safe Environment training here in the Dallas Diocese last Fall.

The video I saw (I have no idea if it was the same one to which you are referring) was innocuous enough for all ages in my opinion, although all of the “trainees” were adults at my evening session. I don’t recall anything in the video remotely beginning to try to teach what kinds of touching were appropriate/inappropriate, so I doubt that the video I saw is the one that parents you mentioned are balking at.

However, one aspect of my Safe Environment training REALLY bothered me – a LOT, in fact – because it was so glaringly missing from the program….

As far as I know, 100% of the “trainees” were Catholic. So, wouldn’t you think it appropriate for such a program to begin and/or end with a brief prayer? Nope. None at all. Nada. Zip. I guess prayer just wasn’t at all “important” to the topic at hand, or else that the program directors and/or instructors think that prayer outside of Mass just makes Catholics too uncomfortable anymore. Sad. VERY sad….

Those sad thoughts also made me seriously wonder whether the Safe Environment is on the right track at all. If we put our Catholic faith on the sidelines for ANY reason, what are the chances of a real & lasting success in defeating the kinds of evils this program is trying to combat???

2. Mary - February 3, 2010

I see so many problems with this.

Children have a natural tendency towards modesty. In my opinion, this adds to the trend towards sexualizing our young children. It’s already all around; we don’t need to add to it.

I believe it is the job of the parents to teach their own children about safe touch and all subjects involving sex education. This should be kept as a private discussion, between the parents and their own children. This is absolutely not a classroom discussion, with children of both sexes, without the parents. This just infuriates me! Why is this CCD program trying to take away the duties of the parents. This does not encourage parents to be parents!

As a parent, I receive graces to raise my children properly. When those duties are taken away from me, I am not dismissed from being held accountable for their actions in the eyes of God. I still have to look at God face-to-face and explain why I failed in raising my children to the best of my abilities – no excuses!

The Church should be standing behind parents in helping us to properly educate our children in faith and morals. Parents are the primary educators, the domestic church.

This is a problem I have not just with this program but with all of these types of programs. Another concern is that many of these sex education programs do not separate out the boys from the girls. If our parishes are concerned, they need to discuss the topic with the parents and encourage them to have the discussion. This is the only way.

3. TravelerWithChrist - February 3, 2010

This sort of thing encourages me to homeschool my children for ‘the 3 Rs’ as well as for faith formation. There are countless options for textbooks or otherwise!

Thanks tantamergo!

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