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Diocese establishes child protection office
archived from: 2007-03-12
by: John Franko

The Diocese of Pittsburgh has been at the forefront of the American church in instituting programs and policies for the protection of children.

As part of its ongoing efforts, the diocese has appointed Ron Ragan as director of the new diocesan Office for the Protection of Children and Young People.

Ragan, who had served as director of the Gilmary Diocesan Center in Moon Township since 1986, officially began his duties March 1.

His office will be located at St. Paul Seminary in Crafton.

“I have worked with Ron for many years now,” said Father Kris Stubna, secretary of education. “He has always had a deep love for the church and has a commitment to providing for the needs of others in the best way possible.

“He brings a high level of professional competence to these responsibilities that will be important, but he also brings a strong faith, a love for our children and youth, and a desire to make a difference in the lives of the people we serve,” Father Stubna said.

Ragan will be responsible for coordinating and tracking all interrelated activities concerning the protection of children. He also will oversee the development of a diocesan-wide database to ensure compliance with the U.S. bishops’ “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People” and the diocese’s Safe Environment Policy and Code of Pastoral Conduct.

“I don’t think there is anything that is more important than assuring that we protect our children and our young people,” Ragan said. “The fact that Bishop Bradley wants to move in this direction only confirms how important he thinks this role is.”

The diocese implemented policies and practices for the protection of young people years before the U.S. bishops’ charter was approved in 2002.

The local church has had strict policies for dealing with clergy sexual abuse of minors in place since the 1980s and has regularly refined, updated and expanded them. The diocese has worked closely with victims and families to provide counseling and reconciliation, and a victim assistance coordinator has been in place since 1993.

The Office for the Protection of Children and Young People will also oversee the training of staff members such as teachers, catechetical administrators, youth ministers and all others who have contact with children.

“This office will provide the kind of coordinated oversight for all that is necessary in every dimension of ministry to provide for the safety and welfare of our children and young people,” Father Stubna said.

John Flaherty, associate general secretary for the diocese, pointed out that the establishment of the office is a natural progression in the diocese’s commitment to not only protect minors, but to ensure the faithful and the wider community that the church’s commitment is more than just rhetoric. It reflects just how far diocesan efforts extend.

Flaherty said one of the key responsibilities of the office will be the oversight of the database that will track compliance with diocesan policies requiring church personnel to obtain a background check, complete training in establishing a safe environment for children and acknowledge the Code of Pastoral Conduct.

“It is our expectation that this database, once fully populated, will contain the names of over 25,000 good and faithful employees, volunteers and parents who love our children as Christ does and who join with church leaders in protecting these precious little ones from harm,” Flaherty said.

“Since safeguarding children is not a one-time effort, but a continuous and ongoing initiative, a standing office for this purpose is most appropriate,” he said.

In their “Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People,” the bishops affirmed their own deep commitment to creating a safe environment for children and youth within the church.

They stated their commitment to reach out to victims of sexual abuse and their families.

“The damage caused by sexual abuse of minors is devastating and long-lasting,” they wrote. “We apologize to them for the grave harm that has been inflicted on them and we offer our help for the future. The loss of trust that is often the consequence of such abuse becomes even more tragic when it leads to a loss of the faith that we have a sacred duty to foster.”

Ragan and his wife, Mary Iris, are members of St. Bernard in Mount Lebanon. They have three children and three grandchildren.

Ragan has been a diocesan employee since 1969. Prior to becoming director of Gilmary, he served in several capacities, including diocesan director for youth ministry.

He is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh and its Graduate School of Public and International Affairs. Ragan was a member of the board of directors for Whale’s Tale from 1974-1995 and a board member for the International Student Leadership Institute at the University of Notre Dame from 1986-1995.

He was also a board member for the National Catholic Federation for Youth Ministry from 1986-1989 and a member of the board of directors for the Allegheny County Children’s Council from 1979-1980.

“Ron has dedicated his life to ministry with and for youth,” Flaherty said. “From his days as diocesan director for youth ministry to his many years as director of the Gilmary retreat center, Ron has witnessed to the church’s commitment to children and young people growing up in a safe and loving environment where they can flourish as God’s sons and daughters.”

More information regarding diocesan policies and practices for the protection of young people is available on the diocesan Web site: www.diopitt.org.




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