Much energy and effort has been expended by the Church in helping to assure that no child is ever the victim of abuse, especially at the hands of Church employees. While these efforts in theory are most commendable, Protecting God’s Children does little more than protect society’s insurance companies. The materials promoted by these insurance companies are often deceptive and show less concern for our children than they do for the underwriters of judicial settlements. Many have observed that a primary objective of this program appears to be the build up of massive paper trails which, when tragedy occurs, can be used in court to demonstrate that there was no neglect, benign or malignant, local or systemic, on the part of the institutions or persons subsequently in the sights of aggressive litigators.
Concern must extend beyond protecting God’s children from physical, sexual or emotional harm. We must, in addition to protecting their human bodies, be vigilant about protecting the immortal souls of our children. Popes, parents, and priests all have important roles to play. But a crucial role for the salvation of our young people’s souls is entrusted to the local Director of Religious Education, i.e. the parish or diocesan D.R.E.
Space available here does not allow for a complete listing of everything a D.R.E. must be. We can, however, list a few things a D.R.E. must not be. A D.R.E. should never profess disloyalty to the Church through membership in or sponsorship of dissident, anti-Catholic groups. A D.R.E. should not support dissident groups by acting as a member, speaker or contributor of any kind at any time. Seriously problematic groups like Future Church (demanding an inclusive priesthood, i.e. the ordination of women and married priests) and Call to Action (promoting dissent against Church teachings on a broad range, including women's ordination, homosexuality, creation spirituality, married priesthood, and liturgical reforms, while incorporating new age and Wiccan spirituality) should be avoided by competent D.R.E.’s (and all loyal Catholics in general) at all times. Membership in, allegiance to, or commitment to any organization that denies the Magisterial teachings of the Church while at the same time being appointed to teach what the Church teaches can only redound to absolute confusion for and harm to our little ones. Acceptance of the authority of the Church and a reverence for what she teaches, whether definitively or through the ordinary Magisterium, must stand at the very heart of what a DRE must be. External or formal support of groups which deny the Catholic Church’s teaching on any issue should automatically disqualify a person from official teaching roles in the Church, especially when that role involves imparting or overseeing instruction of innocent children and potential converts. Whether you agree with Bishop Fabian Bruskewicz or not, the fact that he formally excommunicated anyone affiliated with the above groups should at least raise the question about suitability for educational ministry. The delicate minds, hearts and souls of our children demand vigilance.
The relevancy of this issue is manifested in the fact that there are a plethora of Directors of Religious Education who fit the above description. It is difficult to accept that anyone is permitted to function as a D.R.E. while simultaneously adhering to positions diametrically opposed to the clear teachings of the Church. It should never be tolerated that a D.R.E. who has a direct impact on the minds of the young people of the Parish can publicly (or even privately) reject the Magisterial authority and teachings of the Church. If some church employee tampers with a child’s sensitive body or tender psyche, charges can be made to a Board and that person can be removed and dealt with severely. But where does a parishioner turn to redress grievances against a spiritual abuser who subtly and sweetly infects a child’s mind with heterodox lies and endangers a child’s soul with her own ecclesial agenda? Perhaps a nationwide or Diocesan-wide program of intellectual, academic, and doctrinal background checks on D.R.E.s would be a good step in keeping our children safe. No diocese tolerates physical, emotional or sexual abuse of children, yet there seems to be total obliviousness to this most insidious form of detrimental spiritual abuse.
To protect its treasury almost every diocese has in place a user friendly mechanism by which priests and directors of religious education who violate children and young peoples’ bodies can be put out of commission. Probably no diocese has a user friendly device by which priests and directors of religious education can be taken out for damaging minds with false and misleading information and destroying souls with formal and informal heresy.