Virtus/Safe Environment


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What are the VIRTUS® programs?

VIRTUS is the brand name that identifies best practices programs designed to help prevent wrongdoing and promote "rightdoing" within religious organizations. The VIRTUS programs empower organizations and people to better control risk and improve the lives of all those who interact with the Church.

Who created the VIRTUS programs?

The National Catholic Risk Retention Group, Inc. (National Catholic) created the programs. Monsignor Kevin McCoy, past board chairman of National Catholic, asked whether child sexual abuse could be prevented and, if so, how? In March of 1998, National Catholic invited prominent national experts—experts in many disciplines—to discuss these questions at a forum in Washington, D.C. From those discussions, the initiative for the VIRTUS programs was created. The National Catholic Board of Directors selected an Ad Hoc Committee to oversee development of the programs. The Ad Hoc Committee was assisted by a steering committee of nationally known experts and program and service providers.

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Who is The National Catholic Risk Retention Group, Inc.?

The company was conceived in 1985, licensed in 1987, and commenced operations June 30, 1988, in response to a commercial insurance market instability which had resulted in limited availability of coverage, limited underwriting capacity, and unjustified premium increases. National Catholic is owned and ultimately managed by its shareholders. Company policies are therefore established by shareholders for the benefit of shareholders. The company currently has 60 shareholders consisting of 59 archdioceses and dioceses and one risk pooling trust. Our vision is to be leaders in pursuing solutions for financing and managing the liability risks of the Catholic Church through cooperative approaches. Our mission is to provide financially stable and cost-effective excess liability programs to address the needs of Catholic dioceses and religious communities throughout the United States. For more information, visit our company website

Why did National Catholic select VIRTUS as the brand name for the programs?

The word virtus derives from Latin, and means valor, moral strength, excellence, and worth. In ancient times, virtus denoted a way of life and manner of behavior that always aspired to the highest, most positive attributes of people and aspects of human interaction.

VIRTUS Programs: Our Concept and Methodology


The VIRTUS programs are a platform that provide the foundation, and also, the superstructure, of all the risk control (loss prevention/loss control) initiatives undertaken by National Catholic on behalf of its shareholders and the Church.

The VIRTUS programs constantly and consistently employ several elements as the cornerstone of their methodology. These are (summarized):

  • they target both institutional change, and also, individual behavior modification, with appropriate products/services.
  • they provide both reactive/responsive and proactive tools, often assembled as "toolkits," to address the exposure areas confronting our insureds.
  • they employ multiple modalities (written materials, web training modules, audiotapes, videotapes, training manuals, seminars, etc.), to reach our audience.
  • they utilize a "Think Tank" development model, including engagement of an Expert Consulting Team that assists with the development and implementation of our products/services.
  • they are "constructed" and deployed in phases or components (Phase I of the VIRTUS programs deals with child sexual abuse and other inappropriate sexual behavior; we intend for Phase II to address violence prevention/mitigation; etc.).
  • they exist as an ongoing process—phases are never "finished," but rather are continuously refined and updated, and constantly available.
  • all activities are designed to ensure a constant product/service "pipeline."
  • they seek and engage outstanding professional service providers for product development and training, whom we manage synergistically.
  • they are committed to measurable results and continuous improvement.
  • they adhere to a "best practices" standard.

Through the VIRTUS programs, we are committed and dedicated to the task of constantly providing National Catholic’s shareholders, and indeed the broader Church, with the absolute finest, most cost efficient, and effective risk control measures available anywhere.

How is the best practice standard for risk control applied to the VIRTUS programs?

Best practice is a standard. For risk control, it is a standard of effective protocols, procedures and methods for preventing and responding to risk. The standard requires an organization to demand and enforce "no tolerance" for wrongdoing and open communication channels with employees, volunteers, and others who interact with the organization. When risk is identified, the best practice standard requires the organization to move quickly to eliminate or diminish the risk—fairly, effectively, and professionally. The VIRTUS programs follow this standard.

How is the best practice standard for training applied to the VIRTUS programs?

The best practice standard for training requires an organization first to develop awareness through authoritative facilitator-led awareness sessions (preferably utilizing facilitators who are part of the organization). In-depth training is provided on a regular basis to reinforce the knowledge established in the initial facilitator-led training session and to introduce new points—particularly as the laws change. The best practice standard also requires frequent monitoring of the training to determine effectiveness. The VIRTUS programs meet and exceed the best practice standard.

The VIRTUS Programs Expert Consulting Team 

The original VIRTUS programs Expert Consulting Team (Experts) advised and consulted with program developers in two significant areas:

    1. The Experts created a framework for developing a comprehensive program to deal with the issue of child sexual abuse-both proactively and reactively.

  1. The Experts also consulted with the program developers to ensure that the very best research and practical experience was included in creation of the VIRTUS programs for the prevention of child sexual abuse and the Church's response to victims.

The hallmark of the Expert's recommendations was the development of programs with flexibility and choice that would help bishops and the Church respond effectively, and would assure that the VIRTUS programs avoided the one-size-fits-all paradigm that can undermine programs. The objective was to give the bishops extraordinary program content, proven delivery instruments, and a program that each diocese can adapt to meet its individual needs.

Months were spent on due diligence and review of other programs in order to assure that the VIRTUS programs are the best examples of successful solutions and make the best use of resources. Then, consistent with the VIRTUS continuous improvement model, the programs are regularly reviewed, revised, and upgraded to utilize new information and research in an effort to keep expanding our prevention methods. After all, prevention is our ultimate goal.

Please note that each original Expert was called upon for his or her knowledge and guidance as it related to specific portions of the development process. Not all of the Experts were involved in every aspect of the development. Some of the original Experts continue to advise National Catholic, while others do not. Plus, National Catholic has consulted with and continues to consult with additional Experts as required by our ongoing program development needs. Based on the types of services provided, National Catholic compensates some Experts for their professional contribution to our programs.