In 2002, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops established the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, which mandates that all Dioceses maintain safe environment programs.

These programs are meant to provide training in the detection, prevention and reporting of child abuse and neglect and are essential for reducing the risk of harm to minors and protecting their fundamental rights.

In January, the Diocese of Burlington announced the official rollout of the Virtus on-line training program for adults, signifying a change from the Safe and Sacred Program.

William McSalis, diocesan manager of safe environment programs, explained that among the reasons for the change were the new content, which contains “training points consistent with both best practices and diocesan policy,” as well as a need for “a more robust and accessible database to manage our records. Virtus provided the solution to both concerns.”

While the previous Virtus training required live, in-person training, monthly readings and related quizzes, the current Virtus program is online only and required annually. McSalis explained, “We no longer provide printed materials because most of the new training is presented through videos, some of which contain interviews of actual victims. That impact and importance of these personal statements are not the same with a mere transcript of the videos.”

He also noted, “I am sensitive to those who are computer challenged or with limited bandwidth. Local safe environment coordinators in the parishes stand ready to assist those who have difficulty with the online aspect of the training.”

McSalis explained that “adults who take the training become both the watchdogs for the vulnerable and advocates for the abused. They help to keep those otherwise well-meaning adults who work with children from unwittingly displaying behavior that may be inappropriate.”

The reality, he said, “warrants that we must do all we can to prevent sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults. Employing best practices to reduce opportunities for predators and recognizing predatory behavior and signs of victimization, will hopefully stop the abusers and get assistance for suspected victims.”

Because Virtus assists with tracking training and criminal background checks, those who are required to participate in training are encouraged to do so as soon as they are able. However, said McSalis, they can wait until their previous Safe and Sacred training expires, which would be one year since the last time they took that training.

For more information, call 802- 658-6110 ext. 1219.

—Originally published in the Summer 2019 issue of Vermont Catholic magazine.