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What is St. John Bosco's 'Preventative System' and why is Pope Francis promoting it?

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By Marshall Connolly (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
7/22/2019 (2 months ago)
Catholic Online (

The Salesian System is an effective system for raising children and preventing abuse.

Pope Francis has invoked St. John Bosco as a guide in the fight against abuse. St. John Bosco was known for his work with troubled youth, and his novel system of pedagogy.


LOS ANGELES, CA (California Network) - Pope Francis has published a video offering advice to Catholic leaders who will be responsible for fighting back against abuse in the Church. 

The video was shown by the Center for Interdisciplinary Research and Formation for the Protection of Minors. That agency is using the video in training sessions for various leaders in the Church, including vicars generals, religious superiors, and mental health professionals. 

In the video, Pope Francis explained, "The protection of minors is a serious problem. It is a problem, the shame of which we all know, that it has brought to the Church, that our members have intervened, have acted in these crimes." 

Pope Francis went on to compare the fight against abuse to the fight against drugs. He explained that it is better to prevent a person from using drugs than to work to cure them once they are using. He mentioned St. John Bosco and his Salesian Preventative System as a solution. 

St. John Bosco was a 19th century priest and educator who worked extensively with troubled youth in the city of Turin, Italy. He developed his own method of working with children, inspired by other holy men of the Church before his time. His method has become known as the Salesian Preventative System and it works to prevent abuse and to prevent children from misbehavior. 

The basics of the system include the use of impeccable instructors who understand they are to maintain a professional distance from their students. They are never to be alone with students. The instructors are to avoid physical or harsh punishments. Instead, they are to monitor their children consistently so they never have the opportunity to misbehave. Children are given ample opportunity to play and engage in activities which are healthy and keep them occupied. They are free to make noise and to be themselves. The chief rule is merely, "do not sin." Finally, frequent confession, Communion, and daily Mass. promote their spiritual health. Children raised in this way have no need of harsh punishment, since a mere look, or a disapproving (yet kindly spoken) word is enough. The effect of consistent use of this method is the children mature and become well-behaved, even when unsupervised. 

The entire purpose of the approach is to prevent sin and the need for punishments which can breed resentment, anger, and revenge. And above all, it provides rules for instructors which prevent the opportunity for abuse. 

It is a tragedy that the Church has had these proven methods for training leaders and students, but has not used them to the extent it should. It is a blessing that Pope Francis is promoting their use. Whether at work, home, school, or our parish community, St. John Bosco's method is something we should all know and use. 


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