Eight Years of Struggle over “Safe Environment” Programs
March 16, 2002: Cardinal Law empanelled Cardinal Law's Commission for the Protection of Children.
June 15, 2002: Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which states in Article 12. Dioceses/eparchies will establish "safe environment" programs. They will cooperate with parents, civil authorities, educators, and community organizations to provide education and training for children, youth, parents, ministers, educators, and others about ways to make and maintain a safe environment for children.
September 13, 2002: Deacon Anthony Rizzuto has been named director of the newly established Office of Child Advocacy, Implementation and Oversight. He declares in a Pilot article: “The school-based program, which will also take place from October through February, will provide the curriculum for teachers to instruct their students in pre-school through grade four. Teachers will undergo training called “Talking About Touching”
October 7, 2002: The final report of the Commission was released. The report is entitled: Recommendation for Policies for the Prevention of Child Abuse and the Response to Allegations of Abuse, which in section 4.4 states:
4.4 Educating children and young people:
The goal of prevention education is to protect children and young people ages Pre-K through high school. The Archdiocese shall mandate school-based and religious education curricula that teach children and young people basic personal safety skills that help keep them safe from dangerous and/or abusive situations. The programs will cover:
a. Safety issues including rules about appropriate and inappropriate forms of physical contact and other interpersonal boundary violations.16 (16. The Archdiocese will train teachers, counselors, and school nurses to implement Talking About Touching in grades K through 4 in all Catholic schools and parish religious education programs in 2003.)
b. Steps to take to deal with inappropriate contact
December 13. 2002: Cardinal Bernard F. Law, meeting with Pope John Paul II in Rome, resigned as archbishop of Boston.
December 14. 2002: Bishop Richard Lennon named Apostolic Administrator for the Archdiocese of Boston.
January 18/19, 2003: a CAP (Child Advocacy Protection) team is formed in Saint Brendan’s to attend the Archdiocese presentation of VIRTUS and TAT. David L. Vise, a CAP team member, is scandalized and debated with Deacon Rizzuto in public against these programs. Deacon Rizzuto was entirely ignorant of the Church’s opposition regarding sexual information to children other than by parents. Father Mullen is informed of the details and engages in the struggle.
April 12th, 2003: CAP’s 1st presentation of the VIRTUS Program (Modified) to Saint Brendan’s parish volunteers.
June 5, 2003: Father David Mullen sends letter to Bishop Richard Lennon, Apostolic Administrator, against TAT, copies to regional bishops, Deacon Rizzuto and the Vicar Forane. This letter was never answered or acknowledged.
July 1, 2003: Seán P. O'Malley appointed Archbishop of Boston.
July 30, 2003: Seán P. O'Malley installed as Archbishop of Boston. Shortly after this Fr. Mullen sends a copy of the letter he had originally sent to Bp. Lennon to the new Archbishop. This letter was never answered or acknowledged by Archbishop O’Malley.
September 15, 2003: Archbishop O’Malley writes to all the pastors of the Archdiocese and asks that they send people to be trained in the TAT program. He says that he is committed to TAT.
September 16, 2003: David L. Vise prepares a PowerPoint presentation and meets with all the regional bishops (and the Vicar Forane) in the Archdiocese of Boston to present it. All bishops are taken aback and promised to protest the program at their meetings with the Archbishop. According to eyewitnesses at the meeting, their protests are made and heard.
September 29, 2003: Fr. Mullen writes a letter(2) to Archbishop O’Malley saying he is “distressed” that TAT is being imposed on the parishes. He copies all the auxiliary bishops. This letter was never answered or acknowledged by the Archbishop.
October 09, 2003: Father Mullen appears on prime-time talk show, the O'Reilly Factor, at 8:00pm on Fox News.
October 12, 2003: David L. Vise speaks with Archbishop O’Malley regarding the evil of TAT and discusses his letter of June 4th. The Archbishop acknowledges receipt of that letter and of other concerned parents and informs David that he has set-up a Committee to deal with the issue, headed by Bishop Richard Malone.
October, 2003: Fr. Mullen appears on a local television’s nightly news criticizing TAT thereafter Bp. Edyvean calls and asks him to not speak to the media about TAT any longer. Bp. Edyvean said that he was passing on the request from higher up.
October 29, 2003: Fr. Mullen sends another letter(3) to Archbishop O’Malley regarding his “silencing”, with further criticisms of TAT. This letter was never answered or acknowledged by Archbishop O’Malley.
November 13, 2003: David L. Vise meets with Bishop Malone to discuss the TAT program and the PowerPoint presentation for 1 hour. Bishop Malone listens but concludes the meeting stating that the Policies and Procedures instituted by Bishop Lennon will be implemented. David L. Vise asks to be a parent representative in the Committee but Bishop Malone says he already has that position filled in.
March 24, 2006: Seán P. O'Malley elevated to Cardinal.
August 25, 2004: Cardinal O’Malley sends a letter to the Pastors and religious education leaders regarding TAT. He states that Bp. Malone’s committee has appropriately modified that program to make it fit Catholic needs.
February 14, 2006: Cardinal O’Malley sends another letter to the parishes directing those who have not implemented TAT to do so.
March - April, 2006: Fr. Mullen, with the help of teachers in the parish and in consultation with various members of the Catholic Medical Association, develops a “safe environment” workshop for children and their parents. It is congruent in all points with the Catholic Faith and the prescriptions of the Holy See regarding parental rights and childhood education. This workshop has been conducted two times at St. Brendan’s, but few families have shown interest in it. It wais later submitted to the Office of Child Advocacy and was not approved.
November 9, 2006: The Catholic Medical Association (CMA) releases their Task Force Report entitled, “To Protect and To Prevent: The Sexual Abuse of Children and Its Prevention”, that states: “We therefore recommend that U.S. bishops rescind the safe-environment mandate as it applies to children and adolescents and discontinue all child-empowerment programs for preventing child sexual abuse”
April 9, 2007: Fr. Mullen received a letter from Fr. John Connolly, special Assistant to the Cardinal, informing him that the 2006 USCCB safe environment compliance audit found St. Brendan’s to be non –compliant.
November 15, 2007: Fr. Mullen sends a third letter(4) to Cardinal O’Malley regarding the errors and deficiencies of the TAT and KCS programs. This letter was never answered nor was it acknowledged.
February, 2007: Mrs. Patricia Whalen attends a training session the offers two alternative “safe environment” programs. Fr. Mullen determines that they have the same errors as the previous offerings and refuses to implement them.
March 2008: Archdiocese steps up pressure on 16 resisting parishes of the West Region of the Archdiocese to implement TAT or programs like TAT.
March 27, 2008: Fr. Mullen has an hour long discussion with Deacon Anthony Rizzuto regarding the problems with the “safe environment” programs offered by the Archdiocese. Deacon Rizzuto had called Fr. Mullen; this was the first time in six years that anyone in the chancery showed any interest in talking to Fr. Mullen about the contents of the various programs.
April 24, 2008: Parents who are parishioners of St. Brendan’s compose a petition(5) to the Cardinal sharing their opposition to safe environment programs and asking for a meeting with him. They mention their support of their pastor. This petition was acknowledged by the Cardinal’s secretary, but there was no further response from the Cardinal or any other Archdiocesan authority regarding it.
March 13, 2009: The Archdiocese of Boston announces that St. Brendan Parish in Bellingham is one of – parishes “not in compliance” with the safe environment program directives.
August 28, 2010: Most Rev. Walter Edyvean speaks with Fr. Mullen via the telephone and informs him that the Cardinal wants all parishes to implement one of the “safe environment” programs offered by the Archdiocese of Boston.
September 18, 2010: Fr. Mullen meets with His Eminence Cardinal O'Malley and agrees to implement and present the "Stay Safe" program "according to the needs of the innocent children of St. Brendan's, their parent's rights, and my (Fr. Mullen's) conscience". A summary of what transpired during the meeting and its outcome was presented by Fr. Mullen in a letter to the parish.