Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Paterno and Pedophile Priests

"And we all covered up in it too. Ain't nobody clean." - Denzel Washington, Glory

If you don't follow sports, then you perhaps haven't heard of the imminent firing/"retiring" of long-time Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno. Paterno, still coaching today at the age of 84, has been in the role of "college football grandpa" for the past 10-15 years. Penn State, under "Joe-Pa's" leadership, has had a sterling record of academic excellence and overall program integrity even as many other college football programs have spiraled out of control and into the abyss of scandal. Somehow, under Paterno's guidance, Penn State had managed to steer clear of disaster.

Or so it seemed.

This week it was revealed that long time defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky was caught in a Penn State locker-room shower with a young boy. The offense was brought to Paterno, and Paterno passed on the information to his superiors. That's the right thing to do...the problem was that he never followed up, and when Sandusky continued to be with the program, Joe-Pa apparently did nothing.

You can find all the commentary and breaking news elsewhere. Of course as a Catholic priest I can't help but think of the scandal that continues to hang over the Catholic Church in America when I hear all of the news on Sandusky and Joe Paterno.

As I've been listening to sports talk driving around town these past few days, the anger and rage are palpable, and rightly so. What I've also been thinking about is this: 70% of 18-24 year old men look at porn at least once a month. Another study suggests that 14% of men visit a strip club regularly. A lot of the guys calling in to the shows are in that same age range.

When people feed the sex-ploitation industries, we can't be shocked when some people in our society go wacko. Some guy out there peeved about Sandusky might say, "I look at porn, but I'm in control, I'm not like that Jerry Sandusky nut house." Obviously Sandusky's crimes are heinous, but anyone who helps fan the flame of the over-sexualization of our culture ought to realize that they had a part to play in these horrible crimes as well. This is not to in any way rationalize Sandusky's (or any other child abuser's) actions, but while we're sewing a nice big scarlet letter for Sandusky, many of those who are so outraged ought to also be looking to see if perhaps they helped feed the flame that led to these horrible crimes.

Some might say, "Yeah, we heard this line of arguing in the 1920's during prohibition - since some can't control alcohol, let's ban it all." But that line of reasoning could apply to anything - somebody can go wacko over anything. Somebody can abuse food, prescription pills, alcohol, TV, the internet, etc. Sexuality is a different beast. Unlike other things that people can abuse, there is no such thing as responsible porn use. Our culture is over-sexualized right now by any standard, and none of it is good.

I'd like to address two possible objections at this point: 1) "I'm a priest so of course I think everything is over-sexualized." I think this is pretty ridiculous; many sociologists and psychologists agree that this has reached previously unseen levels. 2) "Are you saying we need to have women wearing burqas and we need to have the government legislate sexuality?" No, I'm not; I think change is always up to lots of people making individual choices to start doing the right thing. News-flash: the government will never fix anything besides roads - real change starts with us.

A phenomenon I've noticed on this blog is that some people today think "what I do doesn't affect anyone else, and what other people do doesn't affect me." This is a REALLY dangerous mentality to have, and it is also flat wrong. Of course the things I do affect others. If I choose to patronize one company over another, my patronization of said company might make the difference in them being profitable vs. them closing up shop. Every second we spend on a website is a dollar sign for someone, every penny we spend is a vote for one company over another. Do you patronize those who utilize overly sexual advertisements? Do you look at porn, thus fueling an annual 12 billion dollar industry (greater than CBS, NBC, and ABC combined)? How do you let your kids dress?

Sandusky (and guilty priests and bishops) need to be punished to the fullest extent of the law, and all of us, in addition to following the Sandusky story, need to take a long look inward as well.

"And we all covered up in it too. Ain't nobody clean."