Bookmark and Share

October 6, 2008


The Archdiocese of Philadelphia today unveiled The Gift of Innocence, a 20-minute video presentation that will be shown this month to Archdiocesan high school students in tenth through twelfth grade theology classes. It will become a regular part of the curriculum after this year. There are twenty high schools in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. It was produced by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia Office for Child and Youth Protection and the Office of Catholic Education. Cardinal Justin Rigali, Archbishop of Philadelphia, hosted the premiere screening of the video for approximately 300 people, including many Archdiocesan high school students. In the video, young people hear from Delaware County District Attorney Mike Green, Victim Services Center of Montgomery County Executive Director Mary Onama and Reverend J. Brian Bransfield, a theologian with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Cardinal Rigali leads the video.

"There is so much at stake for our young people, so much sexual violence attempting to enter into their lives. The dangers are so real. Our young people are bombarded by the possibilities of this assault," Cardinal Rigali said. "It's important that they be assisted so they know what those dangers are. They must know they are there and how to confront it in order to save their lives and save their sexuality."

The Gift of Innocence starts with the statistical reality that sexual violence is prevalent in the lives of youth, and that most young people do not come forward to report or seek assistance. The video looks at the issue of sexual violence in the context of Catholic teaching. The Archdiocese forges a partnership with area law enforcement and victim assistance experts to focus the program's message on the following themes: Sexual violence is a crime; it is never the fault of the victim; it is always the fault of the offender; and the victim's value as a person is never diminished in the eyes of God.

This program also provides Archdiocesan theology teachers with a study guide that include resource materials and background information about sexual violence; guidance for class discussions; and information about responding to disclosures of sexual violence from students.

The Gift of Innocence is part of the Archdiocese's Safe Environment Programs. Safe Environment includes:
- Required background checks for anyone who comes into regular contact with children, including priests, deacons, teachers, and staff (the Archdiocese also requires all volunteers to have background checks although the law does not require these checks);
- Safe Environment Education, which assists priests, deacons, teachers, staff and volunteers in identifying the warning signs of sexual abuse and establishing appropriate boundaries with children;
- Internet Safety Program based on a nationally recognized curriculum developed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children;
- Called to Protect, an educational program designed to inform parents about steps for preventing sexual violence;
- Teaching Touching Safety, an educational program for students in pre-K through eighth grade that focuses on helping students understand appropriate boundaries, safe and unsafe touch, and the importance of telling an adult if someone is violating those boundaries.

# # #

Donna Farrell
Director of Communications

Back to Top