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Archdiocese Enacts New "Touching" Guidelines

Tom McKee, KYPost, August 11, 2008

Tough new guidelines on "good" touching and "bad" touching are now in place for anyone who has contact with children within the Archdiocese of Cincinnati.

For example, "side hugs" are allowed but "bear hugs" are considered prohibited physical contact.

The rules are included in the third five-year revision of the Decree On Child Protection.

They apply to priests, lay people, teachers, coaches and volunteers.

"Originally, I think that was all left to common sense," said Dan Andriacco, spokesperson for the Archdiocese. "Now, common sense just isnít good enough."

The decree has two purposes.

One is to prevent the abuse of children and adolescents.
The second is to provide a system for handling incidents of abuse after they occur.

Details of what is acceptable and what is banned are included in a section called, "Contact With Children."

"It is really sad, but itís necessary in the culture in which weíre living," said Andriacco.

Appropriate physical contact includes:

Side hugs
Shoulder to shoulder or "temple" hugs
Pats on the head, shoulder or back when culturally appropriate
Handshakes
"High-fives" and hand slapping
Holding hands during prayer or when a child is upset
Holding hands while walking with small children
Kneeling or bending down for hugs with small children

The decree prohibits physical contact that is considered "inappropriate."

Any form of unwanted affection
Inappropriate, forceful or lengthy embraces and/or "bear hugs"
Kisses
Lap-sitting
Touching buttocks, chest, knees, thighs or genital areas
Placing hands in the pockets of al child
Showing affection in isolated areas such as bedrooms, closets, adult-only or staff-only areas
Laying down, cuddling or sleeping near a child
Being in bed with a child
Wrestling
Tickling
Piggyback rides
Massage given by an adult to a child
Massage given by a child to an adult

Another section deals with emotional boundaries with violations including calling or e-mailing a child for purposes other than those directly related to academics or ministry.

A list or prohibited behaviors includes 

using drugs or cigarettes; 
letting a child visit inappropriate websites; 
using bad language; 
being rude or nude in the presence of a child; and
engaging in sexual contact with a child.

A provision that was instituted in 2003 requires anyone coming in contact with children to undergo a criminal background check, including fingerprinting.

Andriacco said since that time, 266 people have been found to have something in their past that precluded them from working in the Archdiocese.

"Offenses ranging from murder to rape to registered sex offenders," he added.

Elder High School Principal Tom Otten said heís 100% behind the changes.

"When youíre trying to protect children Ė and thatís what itís all about Ė you need to be very specific and thatís what this document does," Otten said.

Otten said Elder has gone through some of the abuse issues in the past with accusations being leveled against a former principal.

"I think itís a good thing to spell it out, because when we relied on common sense, some people didnít have it," Otten added.

Dan Frondorf of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, called the newest version of the decree a 

"positive step in the right direction," 

but said it doesnít go far enough.

"We still wish there was some measure of accountability for the people who perpetrated crimes in the past," Frondorf said. "Until these priests are brought to justice, we donít think there can ever be justice for anybody in the future."

Frondorf said he was referring to 10 priests who have been suspended because of credible accusations of abuse.

"That only kicks them out of the Catholic church. It keeps them away from Catholic kids," Frondorf continued. "What about the kids that are on a playground not at a Catholic school or at a city park?"

"We donít know where these guys are and they [the Archdiocese] wonít tell us," Frondorf added.

Andraiacco said of the updated decree, 

"We are as current as we know how to be Ė as tough as we know how to be Ė right now."

"The process of revision is an ongoing one," he added. "No policy in itself can prevent bad things from happening. There are laws covering all kinds of the things in the United States and laws get broken."

Overall, Andriacco said the decree has been successful during its 15 years.

"Only two or three priests have been accused of improper action during that time," he said. "Unfortunately, several lay people as well, but we do think the decree has made a difference."

He added, 

"Itís really hard to know what you have prevented."

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