VATICAN CITY (RNS) Catholic leaders on Thursday (Feb. 9) launched an online distance-learning center to help educate church leaders on the prevention of child sex abuse.
Unveiled on the final day of a “Towards Healing and Renewal” conference sponsored by the Vatican, the new online forum will provide training and certificate programs in four languages.
The center will cost 1.2 million euros ($1.92 million) for the first three years, partly funded by the U.S.-based Papal Foundation charity. The Rev. Hans Zollner, one of the conference organizers, stressed that all the foundation's expenditures are expressly approved by Pope Benedict XVI.
The conference also highlighted the global scope of the child abuse crisis. Bishops from Asia, South America and Asia admitted that sexual abuse is not just a “Western problem,” even if the numbers of reported cases outside Europe and North America remain small.
The Rev. Edenio Valle of Brazil said bishops there had “no idea of what could or should be done.” Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, Philippines, said Asia's “culture of shame” may be responsible for victims' silence.
Even in the U.S., “many victims of sexual assault never report” the violence, warned Michael Bemi and Patricia Neal, who helped craft the “Protecting God's Children” program that's used in 115 U.S. dioceses.
Though a church-sponsored independent study identified at least 15,000 abuse victims from 1950-2009, others estimate the total number could be as high as 100,000 as some victims remain silent.