Tuesday, November 22, 2011

(41) More Lessons From the Penn State & Clergy Sex Abuse Scandals

Assistant Coach Jerry Sandusky walking off the field after a Penn State loss.

       More will come to the light as the investigation of the Penn State mess continues and could exonerate Joe Paterno. Recently,The Penn State Board of Trustees hired Louis Freeh, a former FBI director, federal judge, and prosecutor to lead a nine member committee in the investigation of how the university handled allegations that former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky sexually assaulted at least eight boys over a period of 15 years.

Mike McQueary was accused of “going to his Daddy for help” instead of stopping the crime in progress. McQueary says he did that and did tell the campus police, but there's no record. Similarly, Paterno said that he reported it to the Campus Security Director. If true, that would indicate a cover-up by Campus Security which would open up another can of worms. They do have a vested interest in Penn State. Why did Jerry Sandusky quit in 1999? Was it of his own accord or did Paterno force him to resign because he knew or heard something? Assistants generally serve at the will of the head coach.

       In the following analysis, my intent is not to justify the many mistakes that were made, but to provide some light and promote some understanding of the badly handled situation by leaders who were loyal to their men and over zealous in protecting the reputation of their organizations and should have known better. Without question, the sex abuse crimes against beautiful innocent children, were evil and despicable beyond rationalization or excuses.

        The children suffer lasting psychological scars and they lost trust in people they looked up to as role models. The victims tend to be cynical, suspicious, and even paranoid throughout life. Wikipedia adds guilt and self-blame, flashbacks, nightmares, insomnia, fear of things associated with the abuse (including objects, smells, places, doctor's visits, etc.), self-esteem issues, sexual dysfunction, chronic pain, addiction, self-injury, suicidal ideation, somatic complaints, depression,[16] post-traumatic stress disorder,[17] anxiety,[18] other mental illnesses including borderline personality disorder[19] and dissociative identity disorder,[19] propensity to re-victimization in adulthood,[20] and bulimia[21]”. According to the American Psychological Association (http://www.apa.org/) , victims later exhibit behavior problems ranging from separation anxiety to posttraumatic stress disorder. No wonder that child sex abuse is not only immoral, but criminal.

        Sandusky founded The Second Mile, a nonprofit that he started in 1977 to help at-risk children whom he put at greater risk. He raised millions of dollars and had the backing of prestigious people. He helped many kids, BUT used his position of trust to attract and abuse innocent young boys. Jim Tressel of Ohio State and Joe Paterno were very successful and powerful icons that the whole Country looked up. They had a Mr. Clean image and even gave talks about ethics. All that was shattered with allegations that they covered up corruption. Now Paterno's legacy is tarnished and he cannot leave and fade into the sunset on his own terms. Now he's in Real Clear Sports' Top Ten Tarnished Legacies (http://www.realclearsports.com/lists/top_10_tarnished_legacies). This brings to mind the maxim:”The bigger (higher) they are, the harder they fall”. Before we judge, let's remember:”But for the grace of God go I”. Given the same situation, the same personality and background, any one of us could fall into similar cover-ups and even sexual abuse. No one is above sin.

       Paterno and Penn State officials first learned about Sandusky's crimes in 2002, the same year that the clergy sex abuse scandal first broke in Boston; so they could not learn much from the mistakes of the bishops. They should not have participated in any cover-up, but that's easier said than done. Jim Tressel, Joe Paterno, the Penn State administrators, and the Bishops are all good men with exaggerated loyalty to the people under them and the institutions they represent.  For example, Joe Paterno, unlike most coaches, placed as much emphasis on preparing the members of his team for life and pushed them to graduate while motivating training them to win games and championships. He gave back much if not most of his salary to Penn State and charitable causes.

       The Mentality of 2002. In the case of covering up by bishops and Penn State, let us not forget the mentality of the times. Solve the problem internally. Don't wash your dirty linen in public. Avoid scandal. Keep it in the family. Don't ruin the family name. Keep it quiet. It's really part of our culture.......don't be a tattle tale; don't squeal. You love those who work for you. You don't want to ruin their lives. What would you do, given the mentality of 2002 if you were a Catholic bishop or a Penn State administrator. Almost any organization, as any family, which it is in a way,  would have handled it internally and cover it up so as to avoid a public relations nightmare.  Most people would have told their boss and thought “lt's out of my hands now”.  Fast forward to 2011.......now we know better.

       Or do we know better?  Rightfully so, the Catholic Church scrutinizes and orients all people, lay or religious, who work with kids as in Catechism classes. Today every bishop would immediately suspend the abuser of his priestly duties and report him to the police by law even when in many cases there is little or no evidence.  Now we're at the other extreme.......guilty until proven innocent, A disgruntled person on a vendetta or out for money can destroy a priest's career, simply by making an accusation. The accused priest remains in limbo pending the results of an investigation, which may take years. Child protection is primary while due process and the priest as a possible victim of a false charge are secondary.

       Were Paterno, the administrators, and the bishops aware that they had an obligation to report the crime to the police? They should have sought legal counsel with their organizational lawyers and ignorance of the law is not an excuse. What were Paterno's obligations? He told his boss and it's not clear whether he reported it to the campus police. He like most people probably thought that after telling his boss, it was out of his hands. Sandusky was forbidden from taking kids to use Penn State's athletic facilities. Did Paterno think that Sandusky's crime was a one time event or something that he would have repeated with another kid.   If it is the latter, Paterno clearly should have done something to stop him.......tell Campus Security and off campus police, push that he be banned from the Penn State campus. Better would be to push for a court injunction that would forbid Sandusky from being with kids at all anywhere, but the guy should be prosecuted and put in jail.

       And don't forget.......Tressel lied in his cover-up; Paterno did not. The Grand Jury said he was a cooperative and honest witness. He was not a first-hand witness to the Sandusky incident. He passed on what he heard to his boss and to the head of Campus Police. Any more action on his part would have risked charges of libel by Sandusky if the charges turned out to be false. Paterno has surely earned the benefit of the doubt until the truth of all of this comes out in the investigation. Paterno's press conference was probably cancelled for fear of jeopardizing the trial of Sandusky. The Grand Jury only determines if there is sufficient evidence to warrant a regular trial.

       I hope that some good comes out of this whole evil mess. Perhaps people will now be more understanding of the Catholic Church and the bishops, as wrong as they were in mishandling their messes.  Nevertheless, even considering the mentality of the times, it is inexcusable to continue employing perverts. But the Church has always believed in the possibility of repentance and changing one's life around.

      The Bishops, after giving the accused priests a severe chewing out and sending them away to a retreat house and treatment,  also confided in so called expert psychologists and shrinks who treated the wayward priests and determined that they were ready to go back into active ministry. Few if any knew at the time that pedophilia and sexual addiction, like chronic alcoholism, are never really cured by human means.  Of course, hindsight is 20-20.  The point is to understand the problem, knowing the mentality of the times and learn so that future evil abuses may not occur again. 
        According to a John Jay College of Law study http://www.usccb.org/nrb/johnjaystudy/incident3.pdf, 80.9% of alleged victims were males and 62.7% of the total were age 13 or over, i.e., adolescents. This shows that most of the guilty priests were not pedophiles but homosexuals. Sandusky was a bonafide pedophile.

       A Hofstra University researcher on the subject, Charol Shakeshaft looked into the problem and noted that "The physical sexual abuse of students in schools is likely more than 100 times the abuse by priests.”  But you can't sue the public schools (www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/08/24/.../main1933687.shtml). She estimated that about 290,000 students were victimized between 1991 and 2000. The John Jay Study concludes that 4 % of all priests serving between 1950 and 2002 have been accused of sexual abuse.
These findings and the Penn State sex abuse scandal show that the problem is not only Catholic priests, but the entire American society. Of course, priests should know better and God will judge them for it.

        Reform. The incidence of clergy sexual abuse is much lower now. Seminaries routinely give applicants rigorous psychological screening and those who have acted out any homosexual tendency are generally eliminated. Seminaries have been reformed with more intense spiritual formation. Episcopal oversight has been been built into the system especially in programs involving youth, and there is a general tightening. Accused priests are not given the benefit of the doubt until clearly shown to be innocent. During the 1960s and 1970s seminaries became very liberal and sin was de-emphasized. As a result, almost all of the clergy abuse occurred before 1985.

        Has clergy sex abuse been eliminated entirely? As long as human beings are weak and sin exists while the evil one lurks, preying upon everyone trying to be faithful to the Lord, particularly priests, there will be temptations and men will fall. Fallen men in a fallen world sin.  Thus it is imperative that vigilance and oversight never be relaxed. Priests must have an intense prayer life throughout their careers.  For example, the required daily prayers and readings of the divine office or breviary are so long and beautiful that I cannot imagine a priest being faithful to it and falling into serious sin. In any event, one incident of clergy abuse is much too much. The entire Church and Society in general must have a vigilant and prayerful attitude: NEVER, NEVER AGAIN anywhere adults work with vulnerable youth!

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