Child Protection Involves Vigilance and Courage


Protecting children and other vulnerable individuals from abuse takes vigilance and courage, courage to speak out or respond when we notice actions, behaviours or other signs and symptoms that concern us.

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing," wrote eighteenth-century Irish statesmen Edmund Burke. Standing by while a child suffers abuse at the hand of an abuser or covering up abuse by leaders in institutions like the church is to allow evil to triumph – and it could result in criminal charges as well.

In what is now being called a landmark case involving child abuse, a high-ranking leader in the Catholic Church was arrested for child endangerment for failing to report child abuse. In the CNN article, Philly Priest Gets 3 to 6 Years in Abuse Case, writer Sara Hoye reported that it was the first time a U.S. church leader has been convicted of such a charge.

"The trial marked the first time U.S. prosecutors have charged not just the priests who allegedly committed abuses, but also church leaders for failing to stop them,” Hoye wrote. The article went on to explain, “Although Lynn did not sexually abuse any children, he failed to take the ‘appropriate steps’ to remove predator priests from ministry, the judge said.”

“This story should cause our denomination and all churches to pause to reflect about our policies for reporting abuse and whether our church culture contributes to being open or to hiding what is really going on,” says Bonnie Nicholas, Director of Safe Church Ministry for the Christian Reformed Church. “It takes all of us to make a safe church environment.”

Has your church taken the steps it needs to take to create a safe church environment? Do you have a safe church policy, including guidelines for reporting abuse that are in keeping with state or provincial laws? Do your church leaders and volunteers know what to do when they suspect abuse or how to report abuse to the authorities?

The CRC’s Safe Church Ministry website can help. Classical Safe Church teams are another valuable resource.

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