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The price of silence. July 15, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Our friend Ben isn’t alluding to Silence Dogood in the title of today’s post, but to the topic that’s been dominating our local news here since at least January. I don’t know if your news has spent as much time on the dual sex-abuse scandals that have been on trial here in Pennsylvania as ours, but we can’t open our newspaper without being bombarded by the latest in the Jerry Sandusky case and Monsignor Lynn’s trial and conviction in Philadelphia.

It makes for very grim reading. But I hope the relentless coverage has driven the point home: Collusion is as much of a crime as commission.

Monsignor Lynn, after all, wasn’t accused of being a pedophile; he was accused—and convicted—of covering up the activities of pedophile priests in the Philadelphia area, moving them from parish to parish where they could continue their unholy and unnatural activities until it became too hot for them, and then transferring them again before an overt scandal broke out. Monsignor Lynn would doubtless say that he was acting to protect the reputation of the Church. Monsignor Lynn is now in jail.

Jerry Sandusky was a primary offender, and will hopefully rot in jail for the rest of his life for his monstrous behavior. (He went so far as to create a charity for underprivileged kids so he could lure in and cherrypick his victims.) But in light of the just-released Freeh report, which investigated the actions—or lack thereof—of Penn State officials when repeatedly confronted with evidence of Sandusky’s behavior, I suspect the chips are just beginning to fall there.

Legendary coach Joe Paterno, who was fired and driven to his grave by the scandal, was just stripped of his halo by the artist who had painted it on a mural at Penn State, and Nike has removed his name from a daycare center. Penn State’s ex-president Spanier, who was forced to resign in the wake of the Sandusky scandal, made it clear in e-mails that he was in favor of keeping Sandusky’s behavior quiet to protect Penn State’s reputation. It wouldn’t surprise me if he faces further repercussions, along with the other university officials who decided not to go to the police when confronted by the evidence. There’s been talk of suspending Penn State’s cherished football program. (Sandusky was an assistant football coach.) 

The point couldn’t be more clear: Trying to protect a cherished institution by shutting up and allowing atrocities to continue within it is ultimately going to backfire bigtime.

Penn State will ultimately recover; the people who committed the crimes and covered them up are gone, and it’s the state university. But it may lose a lot of the contributions that gave it such a healthy endowment, and students from other states may think twice before applying, especially if they plan to play college football. 

I’m not sure the Church will be as lucky. It has taken a body blow that may prove to be a death blow. Because priests were revered as icons of chastity and goodness, their betrayal is a gaping wound in the soul of every Catholic (including yours truly).

And the efforts of higher-ups to conceal the horrors and minimize the damage have made it infinitely worse. Where fine men like my local monsignor spoke up at once, roundly condemning the atrocities, others said horrendous things, like a powerful monsignor invited to speak to a group I was a part of, who said that pedophilia in the priesthood was no greater sin than premarital sex. In other words, what’s the big deal? Shut up and keep suppressing nuns who try to fight for social justice for the poor and disenfranchised, or attempt to divert attention onto abortion so social justice—and the atrocities perpetrated by priests—fade into the background.

Jerry Sandusky was just one sick man. The men who covered up for him are criminals, but no one assumes they’re pedophiles. The Catholic Church faces a different, and heartbreaking, problem: No one knows if their parish priests are pedophiles or not. Who can you trust in the face of such a widespread scandal? It’s a certainty that most men have entered the priesthood, and sacrificed any hope of a normal human life, for the best of reasons, to serve their fellow humans as Christ did. Now they’ve all been tarred with the brush of their deviant brothers. I can’t imagine how mortifying it must be to get up before your congregation and have to wonder what they’re thinking about you, or to know exactly why parents have kept their kids from becoming altar boys or joining the choir, when you’d as soon die as harm a child in any way.

This is the ultimate tragedy. In Jerry Sandusky’s case, he possibly occasionally thought about the effect his behavior might have on his wife and adopted kids (at least one of whom he also purportedly molested). But I doubt that he ever gave a thought to the consequences of his actions on others, like Joe Paterno and his family, Penn State, his charity, The Second Mile (which has since closed), and the Penn State football players, past and present, who must all be asking themselves how they missed the signs. Clearly, Sandusky never gave a thought to the damage he was doing his victims and their families; in his mind, it was just good fun. 

Pedophile priests, who’ve been trained in morality and taught all there is to know about sin, doubtless have very different feelings. Not one of them could possibly justify his behavior on any grounds at all. No doubt more than one of them resorted to flagellation or other forms of self-punishment for their crimes.

What astonishes me is that apparently none of them were willing to give up their so-called vocation to the priesthood in light of their inability to be chaste. You—or at least I—would think that when it was apparent to someone that his sexual urges were beyond his ability to suppress, and he was in a vocation that required sexual suppression, he should get out of the job. If he still has a call to the priesthood, the Episcopal Church allows married priests and sanctions gay priests. The Catholic Church allows its deacons to marry, and nothing’s stopping you from expressing your love for religion by teaching it in a university. If you don’t have what it takes to be celibate, and the Church demands that its priests be celibate, get the hell out! Don’t start molesting kids as an outlet for your frustrations.

Gack. What a sickening state of affairs on all counts. Why didn’t anyone who saw Jerry Sandusky abusing boys just call 911? Why didn’t higher-ups in the Church demand the resignation of priests who had resorted to pedophilia as a way to counter the imposed rule of celibacy? Blowing the whistle, and clearing the air, would have certainly brought these scandals into the open. But it would have saved Penn State and the Church from the far worse stigma of covering them up and, by doing so, letting them continue. 

May Christ have mercy on them, and on us all.


Who killed Joe Paterno? January 22, 2012

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Today, former Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno died, ostensibly of complications associated with treatment for lung cancer, at age 85.

Prior to this past fall, Paterno—affectionately known as “JoePa”—was known as the winningest coach in major college football, with 409 wins, 37 bowl games, and 2 national championships to his credit. “He will go down as the greatest coach in the history of the game,” according to Urban Meyer, head coach of Ohio State’s football team and a strong contender for the title himself.

Paterno had coached for Penn State for 61 years, 46 of them as head football coach. A starring quarterback and cornerback at his own alma mater, Brown University, he had plans to go on to law school before his Brown football coach convinced him to come with him to Penn State as an assistant coach. Paterno never looked back, devoting his life—and millions of dollars of his own money—to Penn State.

But he never lost his own drive for academic excellence, and passed it along to his players, insisting that they pursue their academic studies along with their football-glory aspirations. As a result, more of his players graduated including 49 academic All-Americans. “Besides the football, he’s preparing us to be good men in life,” former Penn State linebacker Paul Posluszny summed up. And what did his millions go to build at Penn State? A stadium? How about a wing of the university library?  

So why does his AP obituary notice read “Fired Penn State coach Joe Paterno dead at 85”? Why did the Big Ten ignominiously strip his name from its championship trophy, and Penn State drop plans to honor him by naming its football field after him? Why did columnists like TheAtlantic.com’s Andrew Cohen feel free to make statements, days before Paterno died, like “College football legend Joe Paterno gave his first interview about the sexual-abuse scandal at Penn State last week, portraying himself as a confused, sick old man… Sorry, Joe, no one outside Penn State is buying it.” 

Well, our friend Ben is buying it. And I think Penn State’s treatment of Paterno is disgraceful. This man gave up his personal dream and devoted his life to his teams and his adopted university. He has never been found guilty of a single shred of wrongdoing. Yet, after 61 years of whole-hearted service, he was summarily fired by Penn State’s Board of Trustees because of monstrous acts committed by another man, a man who, as far as I can discover, was not personally close to Paterno in any way. It’s as though President Obama was summarily impeached, dismissed from office in disgrace, and stripped of all his achievements because one of his staff members had been discovered molesting interns.

This really burns me up. There is absolutely no excuse for molesting anyone, ever, be they political interns or very young boys, the chosen prey of the sexual predator Jerry Sandusky, Joe Paterno’s defensive coordinator. Sandusky’s perversions not only extend over decades, but extend to helping himself to a ready-made supply of helpless boys via adoption and foster-homing boys himself and establishing a nonprofit, The Second Mile, specifically to, uh, assist homeless boys to “better” their lives. Assuming Sandusky’s definition of “bettering” meant being raped by him on numerous occasions, even while screaming for help in Sandusky’s own home while his suddenly-deaf wife lurked on the floor above. 

Is Sandusky a monster? No, not in our friend Ben’s opinion. From everything I’ve read, he’s a Peter Pan, an eternal little boy who loves the company of other little boys, but unfortunately developed the hormones and hormonal reactions of a grown man and turned them onto his little buddies. He’s one of those people society should have identified as a danger and controlled.

And in this case, society’s failure is everyone’s failure, not just Joe Paterno’s failure. JoePa was focused on football, on giving back to the university that had given him a job and a name. How likely was the devoted husband, father, and grandfather to have perceived that one of his subordinates was totally, hypocritally, tragically perverted? I suspect he had a few other things on his mind.

Critics of Joe Paterno will blame his death on lung cancer, ignoring how quickly it came on, how quickly it killed. Others may blame it on modern medicine’s shortcomings, since his official cause of death was from complications from treatment. But our friend Ben has two other suspects to propose: Jerry Sandusky, whose completely selfish, childish, childlike behavior failed to take into consideration the consequences to his wife, his family, his boss, and his college. And the Penn State trustees, whose cowardice in pinning this tragedy on Joe Paterno rather than taking responsibility themselves is not just inexcusable and unacceptable but makes them the true moral monsters, and cowards, of the story.

Shame! Shame on them! I pray that every one of them may be dismissed from their posts, and forced to spend their lives wondering if their own children have come to grief because of their personal cowardice. What have they done for Penn State compared to what JoePa has done? Hateful, craven, miserable bastards. Shame!!!

May we all try to see our way clear in this crisis. May we all learn from it. And may we all say a prayer for Joe Paterno, who in my opinion died from a broken heart and deserved better from us.