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.Attention also needed to be paid to if, when, and how we listen tochildren, their experiences, and how they and we interpret those experiences.These child-centered issues were rarely in the headlines of theological andethical debate.This dark episode in the church s history has rightly received legal, legisla-tive, and media attention.What had been hidden, festering, needed to cometo light.While addressing the complexity of the sexual abuse of childrenwithin church settings, and the sexual abuse and exploitation of children gen-erally, is beyond the scope of this project, the abuse crisis is necessarily part ofthe atmosphere in which Christians, Catholic Christians in particular, addresschildren s well-being and advocate on their behalf.Rhetoric about our carefor children must be matched not only with concrete practices of justice andcompassion, but also with genuine repentance and desire for reconciliationthat reaches deeply into the corridors of clerical power and broadly to includeall members of the Christian community who, however unwittingly, contrib-ute to children s vulnerability.As the church strives to be a counterculturalwitness to the gospel, we must examine our complicity in the wider culture sdenigration of children.It is my sincere hope that the church s credibility onthese questions has not been irreparably damaged.Our present focus on children s participation in the economic life of theircommunities and the vulnerability they experience in this sphere demandsthat we bracket our just concerns about their sexual exploitation and theparticularly complex task of addressing that with the necessary nuance.Thatbeing said, these two issues are not easily distinguished; we need only think Reading the Signs of the Times 23of advertising that portrays children as sexual objects, that promotes pro-vocative clothing to young girls, the trade in child pornography, the sexualharassment and abuse of children in work settings, and the children involvedin the global sex trade.Harm done to children in churches and church relatedenvironments occurs in this broader context and so attention to this form ofabuse necessarily draws us deeper into an analysis of consumer culture andthe many intersecting and overlapping forms of children s exploitation.It isto these concerns that we now turn, reading the  signs of the times of whichthe sex abuse crisis is but one glaring manifestation.The Children s Defense Fund (CDF) and the United Nations Children sFund (UNICEF) publish annual assessments of the state of the world s chil-dren along a number of different axes.Children are especially vulnerable to theravages of poverty, violence, disease, malnutrition, and environmental devas-tation.When these arise in contexts all too often shaped by sexism, racism, andreligious or ethnic conflict, the situation becomes even more critical.The CDF, founded in the United States by children s advocate MarianWright Edelman, sponsors an institute each year for those engaged in childadvocacy ministry.Their 2004 program booklet opens,  If we believe thatchildren are created in the image of God, then how well are we tending theimage of the One who created us? The answer: not well at all.In the UnitedStates each day 4 children are killed by abuse and neglect, 8 children or teensare killed by firearms, 76 babies die before their first birthday, 366 children arearrested for drug abuse, 1,707 babies are born without health insurance, and2,171 babies are born into poverty.9 The statistics should be sobering for citi-zens of one of the wealthiest and most powerful nations in the world.Otherstatistics reveal a very different set of national priorities.Among industrializednations, the United States ranks first in military technology, military exports,gross domestic product, in numbers of millionaires and billionaires, in healthtechnology and defense expenditures.10In the United States, one in three children will be poor at some point inchildhood, one in five is born poor, and one in five children under the age ofthree years is poor right now.11 Only one in seven children eligible for federalchild care assistance receives it, and two in five children eligible for Head Startdo not participate.One child in eight has no health insurance.One child infourteen children lives at less than half of the poverty level [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]