Dear Bishop Loverde:
I am writing on behalf of myself and other catechists and volunteers from the Diocese of Arlington, VA to request you exempt us from the current policy requiring mandatory fingerprinting and background checks for all who work with children. The signers below have taught religion in CCD programs for many years or volunteered with children in a variety of other ways like scouting and parochial school volunteers. I myself am a master catechist with over 15 years in the classroom at levels from elementary through high school and have also volunteered with music ministry, classroom enrichment programs, Bible School, and youth retreats.
We oppose the policy for the following reasons:
First, The current
policy fails to address the problems that caused the scandals.
Second, Fingerprinting and background checks give a false sense of security.
Most of the predators who abused children were protected from criminal charges; hence mandadatory fingerprinting would have turned up nothing. Certainly it cannot protect children abused before the predator is discovered. The policy may, in fact, encourage less vigilance on the part of parents and others by creating a false sense of security, thereby actually increasing risk, especially in view of the fact that the primary cause is not being addressed.
Third, Mandatory fingerprinting violates privacy and is demeaning to the innocent.
Traditionally, those suspected of a crime are fingerprinted, not the innocent. Others, such as undocumented aliens, will be reluctant to participate for obvious reasons. There are different ways to screen volunteers that respect privacy rights, e.g. interviews, references, and demonstrated adherence to the Catholic faith.
Fourth, Giving the secular government oversight of the Church is dangerous and imprudent.
As Pope Benedict XVI has pointed out, the Church is a small boat in a sea of relativism. The government in the United States is increasingly hostile to Catholics and, as Archbishop Raymond Burke recently said, persecution is on the rise. To give the secular government a database of all the priests and the most active Catholic laity in the United States is imprudent. We cannot rely on government assurances that data collected will not be misused, as has been demonstrated by state and federal offices that developed files on innocent pro-life activists. By voluntarily submitting to government finger-printing, we may be setting a precedent for mandatory state requirements in the future. It is also troubling to see the shepherds imply that the Church cannot protect the flock without the oversight of the state, particularly a state deeply entrenched in the culture of death.
Fifth, Lay faithful who oppose the invasion of their privacy and entanglement with the state may withdraw from parish religious education programs with great loss of talent to the local Church.. Others may form independent associations to teach outside the purview of the parish and diocese.
Those catechists and volunteers who object to the policy will probably drop out. Even if only ten percent of experienced teachers refuse to comply with the policy it will have a significant impact on CCD programs which are often short-handed. In those places where most parents object, religious education is likely to be done independently with the loss to families of pastoral involvement and loss to the parish of their services. Obviously that will damage the bonds of trust in the parish family. It is a lose-lose situation.
For these reasons we request exemption from the policy of mandatory fingerprinting for ourselves and others who share our very serious concerns. We look forward to your early response.
Sincerely in Christ,