- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 4, 2004

The Catholic Diocese of Arlington has acquired a tamer child-protection curriculum 10 months after being forced to shelve a plan that drew criticism for being sexually explicit.

In a column in the diocesan newspaper Catholic Herald yesterday, the Rev. Terry Specht, director of the diocesan Office of Child Protection and Safety, said the diocese has selected “Formation in Christian Chastity,” developed by the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pa.

“We went through 20 programs and weren’t happy with any of them,” Father Specht said. “We were going to develop our own until we saw what Harrisburg was developing. The real thrust of the program is to teach chastity and the dignity of the human person.”

The Arlington diocese will be the second in the country to use the program.

“Formation in Christian Chastity” was presented last month at a meeting of 200 diocesan priests who were “very pleased with it,” Father Specht said. “I suspect everyone will go with this.”

The program will be used to tutor students in the diocese’s 39 schools and in religious education classes at 66 parishes.

For first through fourth grades, the program supplies materials for parents to teach their children at home about sexuality, chastity and morality. There will be some classroom instruction for first gradeand fifth through eighth grade.

Father Specht said first-graders will learn “there are touches that make you feel good and touches you may be frightened of, and you have a right to tell anyone they need to stop. It doesn’t go beyond that.”

“Anything more explicit is handled by the parents in mailings that go home each year,” he said.

Older children will learn the Catholic Church’s teachings on the dignity of the human person and human sexuality. The program incorporates the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Bible verses and prayers to the saints.

“Intimate details” on sexuality will be reserved for parents, Father Specht said.

The program is posted at www.arlingtondiocese.org/childprotect/index.html. The only item missing is an appendix for parents that explains child sexual development, which Father Specht said he will e-mail upon request.

The diocese originally proposed “Good Touch, Bad Touch,” a program developed by Pam Church, a Catholic mother of six living near Atlanta. Parents denounced the program in January, saying it introduced sexual topics to children too young to understand and that it replaced parents with teachers as the primary educators about sex.

The program aims to satisfy a requirement of the 2002 Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, devised by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops as a response to revelations of widespread sexual abuse of young Catholics by their priests over a 52-year span.

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