Protection of Children in the Church in Focus Again

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SCRANTON -- The protection of children has been a big focus in the Catholic Church since extensive abuse by priests was uncovered more than a decade ago.

We talked with the woman in charge of the effort to protect children in the Diocese of Scranton.

Kathy Bolinski helps lead that effort as the safe environment coordinator for the diocese.

"We need that, as the diocese we need to step up. We need to be proactive in our approach and we certainly want to create the safest possible environment for children in our care because they are so important to us," Bolinski said.

The Diocese of Scranton has had cases of priests abusing children, but not to the extent of what the attorney general revealed about the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown. 50 priests are accused of abusing hundreds of children there.

"Our concern is foremost for the victims. We know that any time this type of incident occurs, whether it's in the church environment or any environment, it is a tragedy."

Since 2003, the Diocese of Scranton has trained nearly 26,000 adults, employees, volunteers, pretty much anyone who deals with children on how to prevent child abuse and look out for red flags in case it is happening.

"But by doing that, we identify behaviors prior to the point, hopefully, when the child has been injured either physically or sexually."

While adults are trained to look out for trouble and must all go through background checks, some of the most important training is for the children themselves in school, religious ed, or any Catholic youth program.

"It's extremely important for the children to have an idea of who they can go to if something occurs, and it makes them feel uncomfortable that they feel they shouldn't do that and someone may be upset with them."

Another policy of the Diocese of Scranton is to immediately report any accusation of abuse to law enforcement. That's something the attorney general says bishops in Altoona-Johnstown failed to do for decades.

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