The article you published in the Landmark on Wednesday, Jan. 28 about Russell Romano and St. Barbara Parish (“Documents detail former St. Barbara priest’s alleged abuse”) while factually accurate, did not go far enough to increase public awareness of the safety of children.
Your article focused on events that happened almost three decades ago, and while sad and regrettable, abuse of children continues today.
In the past the psychologists and psychiatrists believed that people who abused could be rehabilitated. Actually, the Chicago Archdiocese was one of the few which treated abusers; they were sent for rehabilitation to a specialized facility, where they were evaluated and released by qualified health providers back to service in parishes.
We were lauded for recognizing and treating offenders back then. It is horrible that abuses sometimes recurred, and we feel terrible for those affected, however the Catholic Church has since instituted such stringent requirements and training under the Virtus program (Protecting God’s Children) that the church is probably the safest place around for children today.
Did you know that according to Parents for Meghan’s Law, which compiled accurate statistics on sexual abuse of children, 93 percent of juvenile sexual assault victims know their attacker and 34.2 percent of attackers were family members?
There are currently 18 registered offenders in the Lyons ZIP code and 16 in Brookfield — none of which are priests. Every adult volunteer who interacts with children at St. Barbara attends specific training to recognize opportunities for abuse and eliminate them, and is subject to yearly background checks through the State of Illinois.
Do the public schools institute these same protections? In accordance with a requirement of President Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act, in 2002 the Department of Education carried out a study of sexual abuse in the school system. Hofstra University researcher Charol Shakeshaft looked into the problem, and was quoted by CBS News as saying, “Think the Catholic Church has a problem?” she said. “The physical sexual abuse of students in schools is likely more than 100 times the abuse by priests.”
I would suggest responsible media investigate the nationwide public education teacher molestation problem, rather than the Catholic Church exclusively. Many of the accusations released were not tried and found guilty by courts of law. U.S. citizens, except Catholic clergy apparently, are innocent until proven guilty.
Unfortunately, dwelling on these events from almost 30 years ago discounts the fact that St. Barbara is a vibrant community with a century of faith-based service to the Brookfield area.
Our parish has been an anchor, providing a strong base of support to its parishioners in their prayer and worship, offering assistance to the community, regardless of their religious affiliation or lack thereof, through its food pantry, outreach to the broader community with its pastoral care, and forming and preparing faith-filled and inspired formation to families through a vibrant religious education program.
We are personally tired of apologizing for being Catholic and feeling attacked by anti-Catholic media, looking for salacious content rather than the public good.
Marge Kearney, Ruth K. Hroncich, Thomas Carlson, Anthony F. Skokna, Paul and Penelope Straka, Roseanne Carlson
St. Barbara parishioners