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Tomorrow I get to once again do the safe environment class as directed by my diocese (Madison). I was just wondering, because I have nearly no way of knowing other than to maybe randomly get an associate of the USCCB wandering in here and answering my question, but is everyone doing this program or is it dependent on the amount of sexual abuse cases in your diocese, is it ever going to go away? For me, at least, its getting pretty old.

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  • What is a "safe environment class?"
    – user13992
    Nov 5 '14 at 5:55
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    A class we have to teach once a year on sexual harassment and abuse. I think it's either part of a settlement or done spontaneously, either way it needs someone to take another look at what it means to accomplish. I'd imagine it mainly makes Catechists nervous and unwilling to teach.
    – Peter Turner
    Nov 5 '14 at 6:31
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    Child protection is a serious issue within the church - I would expect this programme or similar ones will continue indefinitely into the future. Hopefully it will be made fresher and more interesting and be updated to reflect modern best practice. Nov 6 '14 at 11:47
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I remember having to do something similar when I was hired at a parish in Mill Creek, Washington, US, in 1993. Thus (based purely on anecdotal evidence) in the United States such programs have been around for at least 20 years in at least some dioceses.

The website of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has a page on the "Safe Environment" program, and another detailing a document known as the "Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People". This document (PDF file) includes "Essential Norms", canon law specifically binding on dioceses in the United States. These Norms do not direct dioceses to have a "safe environment" program; however, the Charter itself, in Article 12, states:

Dioceses/eparchies are to maintain “safe environment” programs which the diocesan/eparchial bishop deems to be in accord with Catholic moral principles. They are to be conducted cooperatively with parents, civil authorities, educators, and community organizations to provide education and training for children, youth, parents, ministers, educators, volunteers, and others about ways to make and maintain a safe environment for children and young people. Dioceses/eparchies are to make clear to clergy and all members of the community the standards of conduct for clergy and other persons in positions of trust with regard to children.

This Charter is described on the "Frequently Asked Questions" page of the USCCB's Committee for Child and Youth Protection as a "uniform policy" and states, on that page:

Dioceses and eparchies have been required to meet Safe Environment expectations since 2003 and should plan on meeting those expectations for the foreseeable future.

(emphasis added)

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