Your Kid’s Not Going Pro

A Youth Sports Blog

The virtues of Virtus

with 13 comments

Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.

If you are coaching a team at a Catholic school, or working with children there in any capacity, more than likely you have to go through something called VIRTUS training. Or as I call it, How Not to Molest Children.

I went through VIRTUS two years ago before coaching my son’s fourth-grade basketball team, and which my wife went through this year to teach first-grade CCD (stands for Confraternity of Catholic Doctrine — I had to look that up). I haven’t coached in a Catholic environment since then — the end of that year, we transferred our kids from Catholic to public school — but I still get emails updating me to online training, which I have to keep up with in case I ever do. The latest one came today, which I why I’m writing about VIRTUS now.

The major unvirtuous, if that’s a word, cloud over VIRTUS training is that it was designed by the National Catholic Risk Retention Group — the ones who provide the church insurance to cover costs associated with those pesky priest-molestation lawsuits. Like any corporate lawsuit prevention training, it focuses as much on how not to get in trouble as it does helping the actual, you know, children. It talks about ways to prevent yourself from being falsely accused. And when you go for your two-hour training, one of your first thoughts — well, it certainly was mine — was, why are we here? As I recall, it was clergy that was the problem, not the fourth-grade basketball coaches.

After two hours in the auditorium-like, tiled basement of St. Bede the Venerable in Chicago’s Scottsdale neighborhood, my feelings changed from cynicism to sadness. As easy as it is to joke about diddling priests, it was heartbreaking to the depths to which people have beens shaken by the scandal.

I don’t mean that they are questioning themselves as being Catholics, or that they are even sympathetic to the criticisms lobbied at the church. Predictably, some groused the media was making too big a deal out of it. Particularly in Chicago, and particularly on the south side of it, Catholicism is deeply ingrained culture, not merely a place to go on Sundays and worship without ever taking off your coat. Being told not to be alone around a parish child, not to give anyone a ride home who isn’t your own kid, not to leave a kid with a priest until the parents arrived — whatever the sound, ass-covering reasons, for these hardcore, lifelong Catholics, this was like being told that we are not friends anymore. The best (and sometimes worst) thing about life inside a Catholic parish is its intense sense of community, and the message of VIRTUS training was that you no longer could trust anyone.

As you might have gathered, I am not a lifelong southside Chicago Catholic. I was baptized Catholic so my then-nonreligious parents could get me into a Catholic school, and I was later confirmed as an Episcopalian. Before I got married to my wife — a lifelong southside Chicago Catholic — I had priests in two different archdioceses trying to figure out what I was. When I gave the priest my baptismal certificate, he saw that I was four years old when I was baptized and asked me, “This is REAL certificate?” I had no idea passing fake baptismal IDs was such a problem.

Still, I was sympathetic toward people who whole worldview was being rocked good and hard during VIRTUS training. Here we all were, wanting to do good by coaching or teaching kids, and we were being treated as potential molesters first, eyes and ears to potential molestation by others second, and maybe good-hearted people third. The pastor of St. Bede knew the vibe. He had been installed there, not long after word broke that the Chicago Archdiocese had reached settlements for molestation by priests, including one who had served at St. Bede. Meanwhile, another former St. Bede priest was already in jail. The new priest, who seemed to me a genuinely nice guy, said a few parishioners greeted him by asking, to his face, if he was a child molester, too.

Guarding against child predators isn’t only a Catholic problem or concern, of course. Everywhere I’ve coached, I’ve had to fill out a form for a police background check. There are too many memories of kid-friendly coaches who turned out to be not so friendly. Heck, just run a quick Google News search and you’ll see it still happens, despite all the precautions. That’s why VIRTUS training exists. Yes, it tries to prevent child predators from entering the system or if they do, from getting out of hand. But it also exists to say to parents, don’t sue us — we tried.

Written by rkcookjr

January 7, 2009 at 12:09 pm

13 Responses

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  1. […] a twist, the best advice is to do everything to ensure your child is never alone with that coach. That’s the advice I got during how-not-to-molest-children training for coaching Catholic schoo…, telling me for my own protection that I should never be alone with a child (in a related note, […]

  2. […] I understand as a parent the need for background checks and steps to protect kids from predators, especially after the father of one of my daughter’s […]

  3. […] suspect the people running the Mooresville schools are worried about their own heads if they did a Catholic-style, transfer-the-priest-to-another-parish move by taking a creepy coach in softball and shuffling him […]

  4. […] a list below. This is gleaned from reading over law enforcement sites, child protection sites, my Catholic church Virtus training, and my own past experience as a journalists covering cops and […]

  5. Thoughtful post.

    I agreed to help with the infant class at my last church, and the woman in charge of classes and teachers told me I’d need to sign a form to let them do a background check.

    Just being *asked* to do that made me feel less appreciated and welcome. I don’t see the point of volunteering for things if people get to do background checks on me. I didn’t help with the infant class because I’m good (or comfortable) with children, either, I did it because they asked me to. So it was doubly weird because of that.

    On the practical side, I could see why they wanted it. On the emotional side, I was taken aback.


    March 15, 2010 at 12:32 pm

  6. Sad but true in this current enviroment of lawsuits and mistrust. We best abide by what is taught in these Virtus courses.
    Our current enviroment makes one appreciate all the more the healthy and trustworthy relationships that we do have with any of our brothers and sisters in Christ.


    April 20, 2010 at 1:12 pm

  7. I woke up today in a bad mood but after finding this post my state of mind improved.


    July 6, 2010 at 4:46 am

  8. […] me, I heard all the arguments when I underwent Virtus training so I could coach basketball at a Catholic school. (The training was instituted by the liability […]

  9. […] will sound familiar to anyone who has been involved in youth sports or has gone through Catholic Virtus training, but are generally new to the […]

  10. […] The piece, as it ran on my old WordPress site: […]

  11. Greetings! This is my first visit to your blog!
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    Your blog provided us useful information to work on.

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  12. Why viewers still make use of to read news papers when in this technological globe everything is existing on web?

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