April 16, 2012

Milwaukee Courier

Child Abuse Prevention

Since becoming a mother twelve years ago, I have found a new and unexpected concern for the safety of my child and thousands of children like him.  This is not to say that men or younger women cannot or do not worry about the safety of children.  That said, the stress and great joy of motherhood has greatly shaped my priorities as both a private citizen and a public servant. 

The matter of child abuse weighs heavily upon my mind.  I have been disturbed the stories I have been reading.  For example,Philip Caminiti, formerly a pastor at Aleitheia Bible Church here in Milwaukee, was found guilty of instructing congregants at his church that infants and toddlers were never too young to be beaten with wooden rods. 

Caminiti claimed his teachings were in accordance with the Bible, but any true Christian would say that Caminiti knows nothing about the teaching of Our Lord Jesus Christ.  In the Bible I read, Jesus proclaimed peace even against feared enemies.  Caminiti distorted our faith and used it to excuse violence against children!  In recent months, few news stories have so greatly affected me.  How could this happen?

Though encouraging others to harm children is most certainly a terrible crime, I believe that protecting abusers may be a worse offense.  Reverend Lawrence Murphy, who taught at a Milwaukee school for the deaf, died in 1998. He was accused of sexually abusing about 200 boys.

I am personally shocked that documents have been uncovered suggesting that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, knew about the abuse allegations and protected Murphy from being removed from the clergy.

I know many of my most devout Catholic brothers and sisters love their faith and their Church wholeheartedly.  However, those I have spoken to cannot help feeling betrayed when news like the Murphy case continues to come to light. We must hold our leaders in faith accountable if we hope to protect our children.

I personally believe that State legislatures here in Wisconsin have much work to do on the issue of child abuse.  Every day, more and more headlines suggest that too many children have suffered from our lack of moral courage and leadership.

It is important to stop child abuse as soon as possible.  Protecting abusers has been and will always be a severe crime.  It is important for state legislators to stop conduct that protects abusers. The case of Rev. Murphy is only a single example among far too many.

I am encouraged that not all the recent news on child abuse has been negative.  The abuse rate in the Milwaukee child welfare system has dropped to the lowest rater in its history.  Unfortunately, that number has not dropped to zero, and one fifth of one percent of children in the foster care still face abuse or neglect of some kind. 

When even one child faces abuse while under the care of the state, we have not fulfilled our duties as public stewards.  We must work to perfect the safety of children even while acknowledging the great strides we have made.  I applaud the Bureau of Milwaukee of Child Welfare for their fantastic success and all their hard work.  I also pray they will not be content to rest of their recent triumphs.