Vatican Will Create E-Learning Center To Combat Sexual Abuse

By Philip Pullella

ROME (Reuters) - The Roman Catholic Church, often accused of dragging its feet on sexual abuse scandals, will turn to the Internet with a new e-learning center to help safeguard children and the victims of molestation.

The Vatican presented the move at a news conference on Saturday flagging an international conference on sexual abuse of children by clergy to be held next February at Rome's Pontifical Gregorian University with church backing.

"The e-learning center will work with medical institutions and universities to develop a constant response to the problems of sexual abuse," Monsignor Klaus Peter Franzl of the archdiocese of Munich.

It will be posted in German, English, French, Spanish and Italian and help bishops and other church workers put into place Vatican guidelines to protect children.

"We want people to know that we are serious about this and that we think the Church has to be at the center of a solution," said Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi.

"This is not a flash in the pan initiative but something we are committed to in the long-term.

The e-learning center will offer guidance to those who have to respond to abuse cases as well as information for victims.

It is set to go live early next year during the conference in Rome called "Toward Healing and Renewal," which will draw top experts on sexual abuse of children by clergy.

Baroness Sheila Hollins, an independent member of Britain's House of Lords, said she hoped the conference would help bring the victim's point of view to the forefront of debate.

"Victims feel a double shame. Shame for having been abused and shame for having remained silent about the abuse," said Hollins, a professor of psychiatry at St George's University, London who will be one of the main speakers a the symposium.

"Some have lost their faith and are unable to go in a church because of the presence of a priest, others have kept their faith despite it all," said Hollins, who is involved in healing programs for sexual abuse victims in Britain and Ireland.

The e-learning center and the conference are the Church's latest efforts to come to grips with the scandal that has rocked it around the world.

Two months ago the Vatican sent a directive to all bishops telling them they must make it a global priority to root out sexual abuse of children by priests.

The Vatican has told the bishops that each diocese must draw up tough guidelines, based on a global approach but in line with local criminal law, to deal with cases of abuse.

(Editing by Mark Heinrich)

Copyright 2011 Thomson Reuters. Click for Restrictions