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Report card: Responding to pedophilia scandals

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The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) on Monday, slapped Penn State with a $60 million fine and penalties for covering up the rape and abuse of children by assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. The penalty, the stiffest penalty in NCAA history, includes:

  • A $60 million fine. The fine will fund programs that help child abuse and rape victims.
  • An additional $13 million over four years, the Big Ten, Penn State’s conference, fined the school.
  • A four-year ban on playing in the postseason. This means a significant loss of revenue from bowl games and no chance at a national championship.
  • The loss of scholarships to entice athletes to attend.
  • Five years of probation.
  • Any Penn State player may transfer and immediately play for other schools. This gives opponents an opportunity to cherry pick the players they want from the Nittany Lions. Although at least 30 have promised to stay, Silas Redd, the Lions’ star running back and leading rusher, is contemplating a transfer to the University of Southern California.
  • All Penn State victories since 1998 have been vacated. The vacated wins drop former Head Coach and the late Joe Paterno from 409 career wins down to 298 wins. Paterno is no longer the winningest coach in NCAA football history.
Joe Paterno by Frances Sonne. CC2/.0 via Wikicommons
Joe Paterno by Frances Sonne. CC2.0 via Wikicommons

There is little doubt that a cover-up was orchestrated at the highest levels of Penn State, including Paterno. An independent report, conducted by former F.B.I. director Louis Freeh, found that Paterno wielded power disproportionate to his office and was intimately involved in the child-rape cover-up.

According to the Freeh report, the cover-up stretched back more than a decade and, “in order to avoid the consequences of bad publicity, the most powerful leaders at Penn State University — Spanier [Pres.], Schultz [V.P.], Paterno and Curley [Athletic Director] — repeatedly concealed critical facts relating to Sandusky’s child abuse from the authorities, the Board of Trustees, the Penn State community, and the public at large.” Freeh Report at 16. Freeh continued, “[t]he avoidance of the consequences of bad publicity is the most significant, but not the only cause for this failure to protect child victims and report to authorities. The investigation also revealed: a striking lack of empathy for child abuse victims by the most senior leaders of the University.” Freeh Report at 16. Emails quoted in the report show that officials were concerned with treating Sandusky, the criminal, humanely, but demonstrated no care for the victims. For instance, in a statement to Freeh’s investigators, former PSU President Graham Spanier said, “it would be humane to offer counseling to Sandusky if he didn’t understand why this was inappropriate and unacceptable to us.” Page 76.

By now, this should sound familiar. There is another organization that cares more about its image and the well-being of child-rapists then it does about the victims of rape, that believes itself about the law: the Catholic Church. The similarities in the cover-up are striking, but the differences even more so.

The Penn State debacle lasted only about a year after the allegations came to light. Sandusky was convicted, everyone involved at PSU was fired, and the NCAA handed down its harshest penalty ever. There will be additional criminal prosecutions for those who helped in the cover-up, but it is mostly over. The NCAA discovered a serious moral and criminal crisis in one of its subordinate bodies and acted swiftly to contain the crisis and punish those responsible.

Contrast this with the response of the Catholic Church in the face of decades of unremitting pedophilia scandals and institutional cover-up. The Catholic Church, which claims a monopoly on teaching morality, commands absolute obedience from its parishes, dioceses, priests, bishops and cardinals. These underlings actually believe the Church controls their souls. Rome has the ability to dictate virtually any outcome to their subordinates. Ratzinger (a.k.a the Pope) could order his predatory priests to do literally anything: turn themselves in to the civil authorities, for instance. Apparently obeying divine law is less strenuous than acting in accord with secular law.

The Catholic Church is in a unique position of absolute authority over its subordinates. I can think of only two reasons why the Church hierarchy hasn’t fixed this systemic problem: (1) the Church cares more about its image and keeping its pedophiles well-stocked, than it cares about children, or (2) the hierarchy in a position to fix the problem is the problem. No doubt it is a combination of both.

But, the civil authorities are just starting to crack down, however belatedly. After a three-month trial Monsignor Lynn, 61, formerly of the Philadelphia dioceses, will spend the next three to six years in prison for concealing the crimes of rapist priests. According to the New York Times, “prosecutors presented evidence that he had shielded predatory priests, sometimes transferring them to unwary parishes, and lied to the public to avoid bad publicity and lawsuits.”

Lynn’s sentencing statement makes it clear that he still does not accept responsibility for his crimes: “I have been a priest for 36 years, and I have done the best I can. I have always tried to help people.” What temerity and self-delusion! Allowing children to be raped is not helpful, indeed few things are more ruinous. Given his complete failure to assume responsibility for his actions, he got off easy. Finally, the secular law is going after what the judge called the “monsters in clerical garb.”

If there are any Catholics reading this, know that the NCAA, an organization governi­ng athletes, is far more ethical and upstanding than your church. The beliefs you cleave to and the tithes you give contribute to the rape of children and the cover-up of that abuse. You paid Lynn to do the “best he could.” You paid Lynn to “help” these children. That is the hard truth, but this is not: It’s time to quit the Catholic Church.

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