In the Diocese of St. Petersburg, the Safe Environment Office oversees a comprehensive program of child abuse prevention that is focused on background checks and training of all adults entrusted with the care, responsibility and/or supervision of minors or vulnerable adults.
“Our obligation to protect minors and all vulnerable persons and to prevent sexual abuse flows from the mission and example given to us by Jesus Christ himself, in whose name we serve,” said Michael Craig, diocesan Safe Environment Program Coordinator.
Since 1992, the Diocese of St. Petersburg has trained and fingerprinted more than 60,000 priests, deacons, teachers, employees and volunteers as well as contractors and vendors working in close proximity to minors or vulnerable adults. Also, in 2018 alone, the Diocese trained over 24,000 young persons on personal safety and awareness of potential exploitation and boundary violations through the Safe Environment Student Education Program in all parish and Catholic school programs for children and youth.
Throughout the year and especially during National Child Abuse Prevention Month in April, the Safe Environment Office seeks to encourage all individuals to make the safety of young people a priority. Equipping parents with knowledge, skills, and resources is essential to preventing child abuse and creating strong and thriving children, youth, and families in our communities. For this reason, the Safe Environment Office in conjunction with the Evangelization, Formation, Youth and Family Life Office provides resources online for parents and guardians. (Click here for resources.) Some of the articles highlight the warning signs of predators and provide precautionary steps to ensuring the safety of our vulnerable population.
“Everyone needs to be vigilant to keep children safe,” said Craig. “It is our sacred responsibility as people of faith.”
The Catholic Church recognizes their enormous responsibility to secure a safe environment for minors and admits tragic failures in certain situations.
“The sexual abuse of children and young people by some priests, bishops and deacons and the ways in which these crimes were not adequately addressed, have caused enormous pain, anger, and confusion. I express great sorrow for what the Catholic faithful have endured,” said Bishop Gregory Parkes. “We denounce all forms of sexual abuse by any person or any institution as a reprehensible crime and believe that perpetrators should be punished to the fullest extent of the law.”
For more information about the Diocese of St. Petersburg’s child abuse prevention programs and activities, click here.