Avril at Romsey

… and Lancefield and Riddells Creek and Mount Macedon

“Don’t leave clergy alone with children”

Over breakfast I was reading yesterday’s Melbourne Age (because I am always a little behind in my newspaper reading) and I came across the following headline on page three: Don’t leave clergy alone with children.

It’s about a report made to the Anglican Church about how they can prevent child abuse by clergy. I know how important that is. But I’m finding the article difficult.

Yesterday at a funeral I approached two teenage girls who had spoken and told them they could call me or arrange to see me anytime if they wanted someone to talk to about their loss. If by any chance they choose to do that, I don’t want to have to make sure there’s a third person around because I’m not trusted to be alone with them. Every couple of weeks I attend a music group for pre-schoolers. After the formal program the mothers gather for coffee and the children and I usually play outside, without another adult present. This isn’t a danger for the children.

I don’t like this world in which adults are not to be trusted around children. I really don’t like a world in which my profession makes me seem less trustworthy rather than more trustworthy. I know that it’s the fault of the clergy who have abused children and the churches that in the past have covered that up. But I can’t help feeling that “don’t leave clergy alone with children” is going way too far.

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June 18, 2009 - Posted by | Life, etc., Ministry

4 Comments »

  1. Try being a male around children that aren’t your own. I’ve seen you approach children you don’t know and chat with them. Imagine if I tried that. Yes I know males are responsible for the majority of child abuse cases, but I don’t buy into the belief that all men are abusers. (Same with the ‘all men are rapists’ argument but that’s another debate.)
    I work around children in the library all the time, sometimes their parents are there sometimes they aren’t, but like you I don’t think I need someone looking over my shoulder to make sure nothing happens. Having said this I always wait to be approached by a child in the library, if they want something or a looking for a particular book etc, I wouldn’t initiate that process. Whereas I would approach an adult and ask if they needed a help.

    Comment by Pete | June 19, 2009 | Reply

  2. In reality, what they are saying is ‘don’t leave adults alone with children’. While clergy as a profession do have a higher rate of child abuse than say, builders’ labourers or people who do other jobs where they rarely come in contact with children, they are AFAIK, no worse and no better than teachers, scout and guide leaders, child care workers and other groups whose job puts them into contact with children in a position of relative trust.

    Also, “don’t leave children alone with clergy” doesn’t seem to be the message of the report – just the headline. Which sucks just the same. And yes, Pete, it’s definitely worse for men than women. Mind you it would require a very determined and very conniving person to be able to abuse a child in your music group situation and clearly the parents don’t see you as a threat or they wouldn’t leave you alone with their children.

    Comment by Judy Redman | June 19, 2009 | Reply

  3. I feel most sorry for grandfathers. Pete is absolutely right that men feel uncomfortable and uncertain around strange kids because of how they will be perceived. I also wonder what a lot of men would do when spotting a lost and frightened child- whether society’s obsession with predators would preclude good Samaritans…

    Comment by Alex | June 20, 2009 | Reply

  4. Firstly in response to Avril and the article- what, then is the point of the whole Working with Children Check procedure (which is a requirement for all UCA clergy and presumably clergy from other denominations too) if the environment is so paranoid that clergy must always insist on having some kind of ‘chaperone’ when with children?

    @ Alex- I remember seeing on a TV show a while ago (can’t remember which) that a scenario was staged where a child ‘actor’ was placed alone in a crowded place, looking lost and forlorn, and the observations were made as to how many people would actually notice the child and stop to see if he/she needed help. The result was- most of the time the child was ignored and noone did anything, so maybe paranoia and apparent self preservation have gotten the better of the Good Samaritan. (or maybe it’s a statement about society that people are so damned self-absorbed that they don’t notice people in need around them).

    Comment by Caro | June 21, 2009 | Reply


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