Coloradans have chance to rescue the unborn

Archbishop Aquila

Some people in our pews today can remember the time when abortion was not legal. But the rest of you who are filling the seats in our churches, working various jobs across northern Colorado and living next door are survivors. You may not realize it, but more than 50 million people who should be alive today are not because they were aborted.

Each of us is blessed that our mothers and fathers chose life for us, even when that meant life being very difficult for them. The recent revelations that the abortion provider Ulrich Klopfer kept the remains of 2,246 aborted children in his home, or the gruesome scenes brought to light by the trial of Kermit Gosnell lay bare the reality of what happens in abortion into clear focus.  Abortion is the violent taking of innocent, defenseless life, and the fact that this is legal in the United States is abhorrent.

Many people ask me what they can do to respond to this grave injustice. We must first and foremost pray for mothers and fathers who believe that they have no other choice than abortion. We must pray that their hearts are opened to God’s mercy and experience his forgiveness, no matter what they have done. At the same time, we should be ready to materially assist those women who find themselves considering abortion. That is why we have been working to expand our Marisol Health Clinics in recent years. We must be using every resource we have — medical care, food, shelter, counseling and friendship — to love Jesus as he comes to us via those in need.

Yes, we should be moved by the tragedy of how many innocent lives are being snuffed out by abortion, but we should not allow this injustice to let us overlook the suffering of the mothers and fathers who are often driven by fear to consider abortion. Similarly, we must not lose sight of the fact that those who work at abortion clinics believe that they are doing good, that they are helping people in need. Are we praying for these clinic workers? Are we treating them with kindness, even if they do not accept it?

In addition to physical, emotional, and prayerful assistance, we can limit the number of unborn children threatened by abortion in the legal realm. Several states have made progress in passing laws that seek to protect women and unborn children. Just this week, for example, we have learned that the United States Supreme Court will hear the case challenging Louisiana’s Unsafe Abortion Protection Act, which requires abortionists to have admitting privileges at a local hospital.

In Colorado, we have some of the least restrictive abortion laws in the country. Currently, there is no point up until birth at which a baby cannot be aborted. Thankfully, Colorado voters will have the chance in the coming months to help children whose lives are at risk by signing a petition to qualify Proposition 120 for the November 2020 ballot. This proposition will restrict abortion to a maximum age of 22 weeks gestation, the point at which it is possible for a child to live on its own outside its mother’s womb.

I urge all Catholics to get involved in this effort! The bishops of Colorado and I have given permission to every pastor to allow trained signature gatherers to ask for signatures at every Catholic church in the state. It is important that those asking for signatures be trained so that we obtain the maximum number of certifiable signatures possible.

The fight against the culture of death is a long-term battle. In some ways known only to God, it will not be won until the second coming of Jesus Christ. However, we must not let up in our efforts to ensure that the goodness of every human life is respected in our laws, our churches and our families. It is my fervent prayer that in future generations, none of us will have to say that we are a survivor of abortion and that this great travesty is replaced by a culture of life.

If people in your parish are interested in being involved in this effort and would like to receive the training to collect signatures, please have them send an email to: life@ccdenver.org.

COMING UP: Q&A: How the Office of Child and Youth Protection helps keep kids safe

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Protecting kids should be one of the highest priorities of all youth-serving institutions and organizations. In 2002, following the breakout of a terrible scandal within the Church, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops convened to create the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, more commonly known as the Dallas Charter. To learn more about the Dallas Charter, check out this post.

One of the fruits of the Dallas Charter was the requirement that all dioceses in the U.S. create an office specifically for keeping kids safe. In the Archdiocese of Denver, we have the Office of Child and Youth Protection, which has been a key part of our diocese since shortly after the Dallas Charter was implemented. Headed by Christi Sullivan, who has a background in certified child protection training and has worked in the office for eight years, the Office of Child and Youth Protection has trained over 70,000 adults to recognize and report child abuse since 2002, and trains 20,000 to 25,000 kids on how to keep themselves safe each year.

We sat down with Christi to get a better idea of what she and her office do to make sure that the Church is among the safest places possible for children and youth.

Denver Catholic: What is the function of the Office of Child and Youth Protection?

Christi Sullivan: We train adults, children and adolescents to recognize and report possible abuse and neglect. We train between four and five thousand adults every year. In 2003, the first round of adult classes trained approximately 20,000 people. Since then, we have trained 4,000-5,000 adults every year.

Additionally, we train all the facilitators that provide safe environment training for the adults. I have roughly 250 facilitators in the diocese. We supply the curriculum that’s been promulgated by our archbishop and we also train parish staff and administer and maintain a database of 80,000 adults that have been trained since 2003. We also provide support and guidance for the 160+ entities and organizations in the diocese that work diligently to ensure they are safe environment compliant. We are available if they have questions or concerns about curriculum, reporting, background screening, the Code of Conduct or any concern regarding child safety.

DC: What is the process like if somebody has an allegation of abuse?

CS: If somebody has a suspicion of abuse or neglect with a child, at-risk-adult or elder, obviously they contact the authorities immediately. If the person is in imminent danger, they call 911. If it’s not an imminent danger situation, then they need to call 844-CO-4-KIDS for children or the county adult protective services office.

DC: How does your office intervene and assist?

CS: If they’re talking to me, it’s probably potentially a concern with somebody either who’s an employee or volunteer within the archdiocese. So, once the report to the authorities is made, we ask the report is made to us. Then we would follow up, when appropriate, when the authorities have finished their investigation and then we follow through with an investigation and take appropriate action, up to and including termination.
Also, Jim Langley is our victim assistance coordinator. If there’s anybody that just needs to speak to any kind of abuse or neglect situation, he’s available. St. Raphael’s Counseling through Catholic Charities is also available to help people.

DC: What is the process for somebody who wants to be safe environment trained?

CS: Anybody can go to a safe environment training anywhere in the archdiocese — they don’t have to be Catholic. And those are listed on my website, ArchDen.org/child-protection under “Find a Class”. I think right now we have about 20 classes in the next 30 days.

DC: Tell me about the curriculum you use.

CS: We’re going to soon have a new curriculum that’s more updated and current. The curriculum we have now is not irrelevant, the information is still incredibly relevant — Pedophiles have not changed their modus operandi. But the new curriculum is going to expand on that and include things like Internet safety, bullying, suicide awareness and other safety areas of concern for families, parents, mentors and ministries. It will also provide training for reporting at-risk-adult and elder abuse and neglect.

DC: Is this curriculum required in public schools?

CS: Safe environment training is not required in public schools in Colorado. Curriculum is available to public schools and has been for about three years now, but to my knowledge, the only school district that’s picked it up is Adams 12. Aurora public schools just started training teachers this year with their own custom curriculum, but they are not including parents and kids yet as they are still developing curricula for those groups.

DC: So this has been a norm in the Catholic Church and Catholic schools for 17 years.
CS: Yes.

DC: And for all of the other schools in the state, it’s not even required.

CS: No it is not. In 2015, Colorado introduced SB 15-020, a version of what is commonly known as Erin’s Law. The full version of the law was not passed as introduced, which would have required safe environment training for students, teachers and parents. After committee hearings, the final version of the law allowed for a new position of a Child Sexual Abuse Prevention Specialist at the Colorado School Safety Resource Center and a reference booklet listing available curricula has been published, but the version of the law that passed does not require school districts and charter schools to include safe environment curriculum.

To learn more about the Office of Child and Youth Protection and attend a Safe Environment Training, visit archden.org/child-protection.