Safe environment programs: Safe for predators, not so much for kids

It’s like having a public swimming pool without a life preserver …

A story out of St. Paul, MN, is a latest example of why so-called “Safe Environment” programs create a false sense of security and may even protect child predators.

The predator in this case was Rev. Curtis Wehmeyer, a now-convicted child offender who is currently serving a five-year prison sentence for abusing the children of a parish employee. The victims have now filed civil suits, exposing that Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis church officials actually knew soon after Wehmeyer’s ordination in 2001 that he was a threat to kids. They cite police reports from 2004 and 2008 involving Wehmeyer and boys.

The mother of the boys has pursued the civil suit because church knew Wehmeyer was a risk and did nothing, both boys are in intensive (and expensive) counseling, and the parish where she is working has cut her hours.

But here’s the clincher:

From the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

The mother said part of her job at Blessed Sacrament was to administer the parish’s Protection of Children and Youth Initiative, including doing background checks on volunteers. She said she allowed her boys to go camping with Wehmeyer and hang out with him because she hoped at least one of them would take an interest in becoming a priest. (emphasis mine)

As would be expected, the Archdiocese is fighting back, saying that the abuse was all the fault of the mother. They say that she should have done more to protect the boys from the priest.

Before everyone piles on about how the mother “should have known better,” we need to look at the reality of child sex abuse in institutions:


  • Her Archbishop (her “spiritual father”) told her that her boys were safe,
  • Her Archbishop told her there were no predators in ministry,
  • Her Archbishop was also her boss, and
  • She administered the safety program and assumed that Wehmeyer had never been arrested or suspected of abuse.

And then there is this reality: Most predators are never arrested, never caught, and, therefore, never in fingerprint databases.

The Protection of Children and Youth Initiative and other programs like it are a good FIRST step. But in this case, they are nothing more than a safety net for predators. Parents must not fall into a malaise of implied protection.

What should parents do? Well, the first things are education, using your gut, and being vigilant. A healthy distrust of the “safety” of institutions is another good step.

As Instapundit and law professor Glenn Reynolds often says: Someone should write a book about that.



1 thought on “Safe environment programs: Safe for predators, not so much for kids

  1. The disgraceful and very important facts about The Protection of Children & Youth Initiative, the National Charter for the Protections of Children, and all the others with similar PR objectives is:

    When a mandated reporter, teacher, coach, parent or child faces intimidation, denial, punishment, retaliation, isolation and defamation after making a report about sex crimes and/or other child endangerment violations of the law, NO CHILD, PARENT, ADULT OR EMPLOYEE IS SAFE!

    How many “Whistleblower” employees have tried to act in accordance with mandated reporting laws and found themselves publicly defamed and denied the fair administration of justice in a court of law? Speaking from firsthand experience, the Catholic Church should be held accountable in a court of law for failures to uphold federal and state Whistleblower protection laws. Or, in the alternative, the attorneys negligently advising the Catholic Church should all be disbarred from practicing law in the United States. You can be assured that these same attorneys would never look the other way if one of their children had been sexually abused by a Catholic priest.

    When the USDOJ or the FBI rally up the courage to act on behalf of the public’s safety, placing POLITICS on the back burner, we will begin to witness the Catholic Church and other religious institutions suddenly pay attention to legitimate child protection practices, not false promises and expensive PR words. When society continues to allow religious institutions a free pass out of prison, based on freedom of religion, we are living in one sick and twisted world.

    Until a federal government law enforcement agency steps up, no child protection policy, initiative, statute or promise by the Catholic Church will ever protect children and families. Tragically, the Catholic Church and federal government officials are still playing PR games with the public’s safety. Based on Los Angeles Archdiocese Cardinal Roger Mahoney’s escape from prison, it is hard to imagine how many more lives will be destroyed before the federal government takes corrective action in the interests of the Public’s safety.

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