Ecclesiam res et talia sermocinamur -

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Friday, January 06, 2006

Protecting God's children from silly programs

Last night I sat through 2 1/2 hours of Virtus training. My initial thoughts were wrong -- it's not "don't touch little children" but "only YOU can prevent little children from being touched." The only thing missing was Smokey wearing a biretta instead of a ranger's hat.

The seminar was neither as bad as I had feared nor as useful as I would have hoped. It was moderately useful to have the "warning signs" for child molestation laid out explicitly (but I'm not sure if the exercise was aided or hindered by the fact that the Suspiciously Acting Character that they use in the videos just LOOKS like a freak show). Most of these are pretty strait forward (and actually sort of creepy -- like folks with no kids who spend inordinate amounts of time hanging around kids and talking to them about kid stuff).

I know that lots of people have expressed very articulate critiques of the program and the approach to the problem in general, but I'll share just a few critical observations.

First, I think the whole approach is one that relies upon everyone being obsessively (and even compulsively) ruled by fear. Everyone around us evil, nobody can be trusted at all, I have to always look at everything everyone does because they're ALL child molesters, and goshdarnit, I have to stop them! I'm not a big fan of any arrangement that causes your actions perpetually to be motivated by an emotion, especially fear.

Second, there's an amazing contradiction in the methodology. There are two principal axioms: 1) people who are nice, involved with and have relationships with children are suspicious, suspect, and are probably child molesters (we live in a world where Fr. O'Malley gets shipped out of town and St. Dominic's choir goes through intensive therapy for all the time they spend *shudder* with a caring adult). 2) However, in order to detect and stop child molesters, we have to cultivate close relationships with children so we can know when they're being abused by someone else. So, to recap: I have to be a child abuse suspect in order to stop child abuse. Right.

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