The Catholic Church is likeliest the safest environment for children today.

I’ll bet that made a few of you pause.

On the heels of the abuse scandal that rocked the church in 2002, that seems a pretty bold statement.
Yet, it’s the claim by, an educational cooperative begun in 2004 to chronicle and monitor the mainstream media’s coverage of the Catholic Church sex abuse narrative.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops says much the same thing on its website, The Catholic Church has done more to protect children than almost any other organization in the United States.
In the aftermath of the abuse – primarily occurring between the 1940s and 1970s – the Catholic Church has attacked the issue of sexual abuse of children head on and, judging by the comments of many observers, is a leader in addressing the problem.

For example, in a 2009 report on the implementation of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, Teresa M. Kettelkamp, executive director of the Office of Child and Youth Protection at the USCCB, wrote the Catholic Church is becoming “one of the safest havens in our world for children and young people” and a “resource for people beyond the Catholic Church who seek to confront this societal scourge.”

A June 2012 article by Thomas Plante in Psychology Today ( notes, “Only the Roman Catholic Church has undertaken an extensive and comprehensive research study to investigate institutional child sexual abuse (see the John Jay studies, 2004 and 2011).”

He goes on to say that the church was forced to confront the abuse problem head on and “in doing so and over time state of the art policies and procedures were implemented to keep children safe in the church…. These are now key principles used in the Catholic Church and can be generalized to use with all other organizations that provide services and ready access to children.”

If there’s any good that has come from the scandal in the church, it’s an awareness of the severity of the problem and the implementation of a carefully plotted response to the issue that includes education, required background checks of those working with children and more attentive monitoring. In our archdiocese, we call this the Safe Environment Program.

Based on media reports, it may have seemed the only ones abusing children were Catholic priests, but research proves otherwise.

A 2010 Newsweek article, “Priests commit no more abuse than other males,” quotes John Jay researchers who found that about 4 percent of the 110,000 priests active between 1950 and 1992, were accused of sexual conduct involving children.

It further said while experts disagree on the rate of sexual abuse among the general American male population, a conservative estimate is one in 10 and Margaret Leland Smith, a researcher at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, says her review of the numbers indicates it’s closer to one in five.

Regardless, the rate of abuse by Catholic priests is not higher than these national estimates, the article concludes.

Hardly a week goes by without a headline reporting on sexual misconduct by coaches, teachers or other adults trusted to be caretakers, not abusers, of children.

All these factors, combined with the technologically advanced culture in which we live, which place Internet dangers at our children’s fingertips, make it a challenging time to be a parent.

Back to the idea the Catholic Church may be the safest environment for children today.

April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, and our archdiocese designates April 6 to 12 as Safe Environment Week.

In this month’s issue of Catholic Herald Family on Pages 6-7, we examine the theme of the week, “Media & Morality: Creating a Kid-Friendly Culture,” and offer advice for you as you help your children safely navigate our seemingly sexually obsessed culture.

Parents, take advantage of this advice, as well as the many resources available through the Safe Environment Office of the archdiocese (414) 769-3449 and online through the USCCB – faithandsafe is particularly informative – to make sure that your children thrive in a kid-friendly culture and steer clear of dangers that are so prevalent.