Hiring contract players
  • Donnaswan
    Posts: 585
    I need some help on a very serious matter. Our Human Resources person has told me that all musicians hired, even the very occasional ones, such as brass players for Midnight Mass, must now be considered part-time employees and as such must undergo Virtus Training and background checks before they can be hired. Is this true? I can understand the example she gives of a part-time organist who has been playing every Mass for two years, but the occasional Brass player or string quartet? I will never be able to have instruments again if this is true. Can't see someone who plays once or twice a year sitting through a Sat. Virtus training which I think they may have to pay for?
    Where should I go for some good info ont his?
  • incantuincantu
    Posts: 989
    If your electrician and plumber, need to go through this, then yes musicians probably have to as well. But I can't imagine anyone who has no more access than any number of visitors in the pews on any given Sunday would be required. Talk to your pastor.
  • This is also the newly revised policy in my diocese. I believe it takes effect after $600/yr of contract work. This covers instrumentalists who play a couple times a year, but certainly does not cover ordinary subs.
  • David AndrewDavid Andrew
    Posts: 1,193
    I'd contact your diocesan HR people rather than take your parish HR person's word for it.

    While I'm not suggesting that it's the situation in your case, I've had personal and second-hand experience with parish HR people who for whatever reason like to monkey around with policies when it comes to the parish music program (such as imposing Virtus training requirements on one-time instrumentalist hires for public celebrations of the Mass or fiddling with how paid choir section leaders, etc., are dealt with).

    I'd also document everything this HR person says to you, get it in writing if you can, or communicate via email as much as possible, so that there's a "paper trail" of the conversations. Don't ever let something as serious as this get a pass on word-of-mouth. Also, check with other staff members to see if this same kind of requirement has been imposed on their program.

    Adam: Really? Guess that means that every sub-contracted person who gets paid more than $600, down to the lawn service personnel, will have to go through Virtus training?
  • "Adam: Really? Guess that means that every sub-contracted person who gets paid more than $600, down to the lawn service personnel, will have to go through Virtus training?"

    I'm not sure about this, but I know that it applies to musicians in the liturgy. But again, this might be unique to my diocese.
  • Chrism
    Posts: 829
    In my area, this is limited to those who actually have contact with minors.
  • Donna's diocese recently put into effect a policy that everyone under the age of 18 must be accompanied by parent or guardian on trips to a restroom during Mass, I understand. This would seem to fall in line with this latest rule.
  • OMG.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,787
    It might be worthwhile to discuss the concern with the diocesan Office for Worship, to see if they could arrange a suitable rule that would make a distinction.
  • Because the abuse crisis began here in Boston and we’re paying dearly for it, the over zealous application of Virtus rules is a common gripe. For example, older choir members who never come in contact with parish youth outisde of a liturgy commonly complain about the required training.

    As you might expect, at the choir school in Cambridge there is an abiding sensitivity toward the interaction between the men in the schola and the boys. The bathroom example noted in an earlier post is not quite as absurd as it may seem. On the school’s fourth floor, where the rehearsal room is located as well as the lockers of each chorister, there is only one bathroom. During our Wednesday night and Sunday morning rehearsals a parent is stationed in the hallway and monitors who goes in and out of this bathroom. Because all are acutely aware of the possibility of mistaken perceptions, there is almost no conversation between the men and the boys.
  • DougS
    Posts: 793

    That is a very sad situation indeed--trading away role models for "protection" of the boys.
  • From my own experience, the choir members who complain about the training are often the ones who need it. There is a lack of reverence among many Catholics for the Sanctuary and offensive joke-telling and off-color comments in a choir rehearsal, even in a choir that has to rehearse in the church proper, are often a problem.

    No one is perfect, but there used to be an attempt by people when in church or in a parochial school to try and rise above common life.

    I wil say that at a local Catholic high school I have been extremely impressed with the total lack of joke-telling, off-color comments and bad language both among the students and faculty. I would say that this has a lot to do with the continued success of this school. When one is in an environment like this, one does strive to be a better person. We all like to think that we can be better than we are.
  • Priests have always been "the" role model for youth. I know that was true for me as a child and also now as an adult. Unfortunately, some in the clergy seem to have failed to police themselves. And as a result, "protection" is now the only way to handle what IS a sad situation.

    This has to be especially hard on those priests who are good people, through and through....it si good that they vastly out-number the weak ones.
  • DougS
    Posts: 793
    "it is good that they vastly out-number the weak ones."

    Not only that but I read somewhere that the % of abusive priests is smaller than the % of child abusers in the general population--a point lost in all the discussions about letting priests marry, etc. etc. (if the statistic is indeed accurate). Even if the numbers are close, "average" child molesters just aren't newsworthy, so our perception is distorted. Don't get me wrong, though, even one abusive priest is disgraceful...
  • Donnaswan
    Posts: 585
    David Andrew et al. This did come from the Diocesan HR person.

  • mjballoumjballou
    Posts: 990
    I did my training a couple of years ago and was astonded at how clueless most of my fellow trainees were about molestation.

    After the training, we started a children's choir and my lead volunteer told me a simple rule - "No adult is ever alone with a child. Ever."

    However, I often play as a contract player on the harp, occasionally topping the $600 mark, and I would be truly annoyed if someone wanted to put me through all the clearances and training for being stuffed in the corner with the adult choir. (Harps generally end up near the basses.)
  • Donnaswan
    Posts: 585
    That's my point exactly, MJ. I don't believe I pay over $600 each during the fiscal year, which in my case runs from June30. I just an't see brass symphony players who are extremely busy taking time out to sit through a Virtus movie.

    We'll see. I've got a lawyer looking into the ins and outs of this.
  • PaixGioiaAmorPaixGioiaAmor
    Posts: 1,473
    In my previous diocese and I believe the current one as well, Virtus was required for any adult who routinely has interaction with children and volunteers with them MORE than a set number of hours - hence a brass player who plays a few times a year with the adult choir wouldn't qualify under any case.

    It's time for the silliness to end - the policies that were in effect in the 1980's and 90's WERE sufficient - they just weren't followed. THAT was the problem. Period.
  • To enter another branch of the subject, do some research on the background of Virtus. Who started this? Who are those insisting on it now? I know this is a comment about musician extras and the adult instruction class, but do you all know what Virtus requires for young children in religious ed.?
    Stay informed, and if all else fails have the trumpet play loudly outside.
  • "if all else fails have the trumpet play loudly outside." ... as Praetorius suggests in 1619.
  • @Michael I am cracking up.
  • @pipesnposaune

    VIRTUS creeps me out, and I am not ok with it for my own children. It is essentially a watered-down public school knockoff of sex-ed, and sadly is now required for all religious education classes in Catholic parishes. Now I not only have to worry if orthodox doctrine will be taught in my children's parish education; I have to worry whether the explicit nature of 'protective education' is going to harm their innocence. It's interesting that they include an opt-out policy when pushing VIRTUS on the kids, just like the public schools - apparently I am not the only one who finds some of the material offensive. What if the opt-out is someday removed? Are we going to get to a point where children have to learn about sexual abuse from a stranger in order to receive the sacraments?

    Because VIRTUS is ostensibly about protecting children (I have had the adult training myself, by the way, although there are no children involved in the music program right now), people mindlessly accept it without any filters. This post makes me wonder what ulterior motives and methodologies lie behind the program itself, and how easily it could become a political tool and weapon. I'm reminded of the 'scientific' psychological tests that were often used politically to keep orthodox men out of the seminary. Maybe most Catholics don't want to think about this because they would rather relegate these important (nay, critical) discussions with their children to strangers...

    And a thought from a die-hard cynic and pragmatist: Is there someone out there naive enough to think that spending 2 hours watching a movie about child abusers and taking a lame quiz is really going to stop this problem? It is a deep spiritual problem, and a problem of not knowing or taking the time to know the people around you. It's easier to trust your child with strangers (who are VIRTUS certified and therefore 'safe') than to spend time in community with others getting to know them to the point where you could vouch for them. THat a program like VIRTUS even exists and is in wide use may simply be a final sign that we have given up as Catholics and as parents.
  • Your post creeps me out, since VIRTUS is not sex ed, but instead learning to recognize signs that people may be abusers and also to be able to identify adults and children who may be victims.
    Thanked by 1R J Stove
  • @frogman

    VIRTUS has an adult and a children's component. The children's component involves a (gradated by age) discussion of body parts, good and bad touch, and so forth. For example, when I taught First Communion the kids would be taken out a couple of times during the year to have the VIRTUS presentation. My point is not that this is hard-core public school sex ed, but a watered down version that I and other parents still find offensive and inappropriate for children. My suspicion is that many of the same 'experts' who would like to decide what my child should be hearing about in public school are behind the VIRTUS program, which has completely taken over the Catholic parishes and schools in this country.
    Maybe some people don't know that this kid's component is compulsory in religious ed now, and must be opted out of by a signed document from the parents.
    VIRTUS creeps me out for my kids, and posts like this thread make me wonder if it is good that it also dictates all parish policy now (even for substitute musicians and regular choir members in some places). My point is, we should ask more critically what VIRTUS is and what ideology and mindset it saturates the parish and school with (and dictates policy with). Is it really a holistic, Catholic approach to this problem of abuse?
    Please, please nobody respond to this with the illogical leap that because I dislike VIRTUS I am not interested in protecting children or ending the abuse scandal. It is precisely because I do care about those things that I am critical of VIRTUS.
    To bring it back to music, if I want to protect my kids from VIRTUS (in the parish where I work), will this attitude affect my employment? If I want to avoid insulting friends and colleagues who may be collaborating with my choir, will I get fired? These kind of questions are what make me nervous as a father and a music director. And I still don't know what VIRTUS really is, even though I'm VIRTUS certified...I guess I need to start investigating.
  • This discussion is about VIRTUS as it applies to hired musicians.
  • DougS
    Posts: 793
    I see Kirchenmusik's point that the Virtus "monopoly" should be approached with a critical eye, but maybe that deserves a discussion of its own under the General Catholicism heading.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,471
    I have long suspected that someone is making big bucks out of Virtus. There's nothing in the adult component that could remotely stop anyone bent on abusing a child.
  • Donnaswan
    Posts: 585
    Has anyone who has to answer the monthly 'training' bulletin NOT been able to choose the correct answer without reading the article?

    What a waste of time.
  • "My point is, we should ask more critically what VIRTUS is and what ideology and mindset it saturates the parish and school with (and dictates policy with). Is it really a holistic, Catholic approach to this problem of abuse?"
    Exactly. In no way shape or form should we blindly accept this program and force others to use it merely for participation in musical services. No matter how much we want to hear a trombone. (joke) Do the research, folks. In all seriousness, most of these extras are probably non-Catholic as well. Is that the way we want to introduce them to the church?
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,787
    Good questions: what is Virtus? Who's behind it? Is money involved? So let's go to the source:

    Virtus is a set of safety training programs presented by an insurance cooperative that covers (and is owned by) 66 dioceses.

    Here's a description of their program for children. Apparently, it consists of two presentations a year. Here's their program for adults. You can play a video preview of it on-line.
  • don roy
    Posts: 306
    a highlight for me was when a difficult child in my boys choir ran half way through a parking lot to give me a bodacious hug. thank God it was in public and although it represented a real breakthrough with this kid nevertheless i was mortified that someone would just raise the possibility. one whiff of that and my career would be ruined.
    sad when one cant even get a hug from a student now and then. but thats the reality virtus or not.
    heck, i dont even go into the church bathroom if a child is in there.
  • Donnaswan
    Posts: 585
    The same thing happened to me this week- not a difficult child, just a sweet normal little girl. and thank goodness her mom was there to see her turn around and give me a hug goodbye. I thought later about it though. What if someone saw it and put the wrong interpretation on it.grrr.
  • VIRTUS not important?

    I challenge everyone who has responded without referring to the VIRUS page to answer this question:

    When is violence in a school most prevalent?