New York's Roman Catholic Church is trying a novel approach to alert children to the danger of being sexually assaulted by a priest, with an abuse-themed coloring book, officials said Tuesday.
"Being Friends, Being Safe, Being Catholic," was distributed earlier this year to several hundred schools in the New York area as part of the church's Safe Environment Program, a spokeswoman from the city's Archdiocese said.
One image in the book features a guardian angel hovering over an altar boy with a priest lurking in the background.
"For safety's sake, a child and an adult shouldn't be alone in a closed room together," the angel counsels. In another, the angel warns of a sexual predator attempting to chat with a child over the Internet.
David Clohessy, head of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, cautiously welcomed the initiative, but said it did not go far enough.
"We applaud the intent but worry a bit about the approach... it does still feel like almost every step taken by the hierarchy is one that's been prompted by external pressure," he told AFP.
The scale of child abuse by priests remained hidden in the United States for years until the Archbishop of Boston confessed in 2002 to protecting a priest he knew had sexually abused young members of his church.
According to the group "Bishop Accountability," some 3,000 priests out of the 42,000 across the country have since been denounced, some of whom have been investigated and convicted.
Since the scandal broke, US Catholic authorities have paid out close to 2.8 billion dollars in damages, forcing many dioceses to sell off their assets.