Thursday, February 16, 2012

Empty Buildings Are The Safest Of All

My husband and I are frustrated at the state of affairs in our diocese. While we're better off than some (one diocese has cited children's safety as a reason not to have coffee hour!), the culture of fear is getting ridiculous. My husband commented recently that he wished he had a blog people read, so he could voice his discontent. I offered mine. 


A few weeks ago, a woman from a ministry I volunteer with at church went to the building during a youth group meeting to do some work for the ministry. She is also a Sunday School teacher, has completed the Diocesan "Creating A Safe Environment" training required for working with kids, and had her 5 year old daughter with her.

She was kicked out of the building.

We learned that the policy of the Diocese of Rochester is that, during any youth group meetings, no adults who are not official youth group volunteers are allowed in the building unless escorted by a youth group volunteer. I also learned that, during CYO basketball games, they have a separate "adult bathroom" to which a volunteer must escort parents and fans so that adults and children will not be in the same bathroom at the same time.

All of these are in place, of course, because "we have to put the security of our children first".

So, basically, we've institutionally begun treating every person who enters our churches as child molesters, and implying that anyone who complains about it is trying to compromise our children's safety.

And they don't understand why attendance is dropping precipitously.

My hometown is in the Diocese of Syracuse. My friend's parents are the youth group leaders for the Catholic church in town, and at least as of last time I checked (which was after the draconian policy was introduced in Rochester), they led youth group meetings at their house. By themselves, sometimes. Granted, the town is much smaller, but I haven't heard any issues with that. And they were recently able to build a large new addition onto their building, so even as church attendance goes down nationally, they seem to be doing all right.

What's making this issue worse is that catechises (the fancy Catholic word for "teaching our faith") has been abysmal in the Diocese for many years. My wife and I have been absolutely flabbergasted at some of the things we've heard people being taught, or things others have said (antithetical to Catholic teaching) that have gone uncorrected. Without knowledge, the Catholic Church is no different than Protestant churches other than a bunch of arbitrary restrictions. They aren't truly arbitrary, but if you don't explain things to people, they sure will seem that way.

If I didn't believe in the Eucharist, I would shake the dust off my feet on my way out of the local Catholic church in a heartbeat. And we've raised a generation of people who, by and large, do not believe in the Eucharist. And now we're treating them like second-class citizens. (I was actually told openly at a church event by an older woman that all men are either child molesters or would cover for them. While the leader was not supportive of the comment, no one but me called her out on it.)

Instead of asking why people are leaving, I think it's time to start asking ourselves why people would possibly ever want to stay. How sad. But we can fix it! We just need to actually teach people the faith again, and treat them like people. It should be a beautiful faith. Let's try to keep it that way.

Jeremy is still praying for the Catholic Church even though he has all but given up the idea that he can say anything himself to stop the currently pervasive insanity. You can catch him in all his snarky glory on Twitter (@top10wolves).


  1. I hate to say it but I agree with your husband, and so does my husband the Deacon, he often accompanies our daughters to youth group meetings. He is not active in youth ministry but he will stay at the church since we live 20 minutes away. He will often go into the church itself and pray vespers or work on a homily in one of the empty classrooms. According to the diocese of Rochester this would not be permitted even though he is a diocesean employee. I am not a rules person in general and especially ones that do not make sense.

    1. I don't for a second want to do anything to put children at unnecessary risk. But I think the people making these rules really need to take a step back and realize how insane this is. We have another volunteer at the ministry who has done the same task at the same time as this woman without getting kicked out - because she's also a youth group volunteer. But, because this woman is a Sunday School teacher and not a youth group volunteer, she can't stay, per Diocesan policy. I feel a little bad for our parish leaders (because this has been a bit controversial, and they're getting the blame for it), but I mostly feel bad for the 5 year old. Kids aren't stupid; she pieced together that they got kicked out because the perception is that they were making it unsafe, even though she just wanted to sort baby clothes. I imagine that has to hurt.

  2. What ever happened to common sense?! I'm completely supportive of wanting to keep our children safe, but those rules in place are complete insanity. I can't believe more people aren't speaking out against them. I can understand where they are coming from with some of the rules, but the execution is so, for lack of a better word, bizarre! So, are you telling me that a parent can't escort their own child to the bathroom if they are attending these basketball games? And I understand not wanting random adults in the church building during youth group meetings, but someone who has completed the necessary safety classes and has been cleared to work with children?! Our society is losing common sense more and more with each passing generation and it is a shame.

    1. If memory serves, the bathroom closest to the gym only has 2 stalls, so I don't know if they would turn away a parent from escorting their own child or not (since it would effectively fill up the bathroom). I also haven't read the policy myself. From what I was told, though, it sounds like yes, they could tell parents they can't escort their own children into the bathroom, because someone else's child might come in while they're in there.