Separation of Church and Penn State: A Lesson for Catholics

By Guest Blogger, Rev. Robert M. Hoatson, Ph.D., Co-founder and President of Road to Recovery

The Board of Trustees of Penn State University has provided a lesson in courage and righteousness tonight that should restore Pennsylvanians’ (and others’) faith in higher educational leadership and administration.  The only just solution to the heinous crimes of sexual abuse against young boys that occurred on the Penn State campus over the course of nearly twenty years was the firing of President Spanier and Coach Joe Paterno.

What happened at Penn State tonight is a lesson to officials of the Catholic Church.  The only just solution to the clergy abuse scandal of the Catholic Church is the wholesale removal of bishops.  Cleansing the Church of leaders who covered up crimes against children by priests and other religious figures would accomplish what the Penn State Board of Trustees accomplished tonight; namely, a new beginning with fresh and, hopefully, morally-conscientious leadership.

President Spanier was fired.  This week, several priests and bishops attended an 80th birthday party for Cardinal Bernard Law in a fancy restaurant in Rome.  This disgraced cleric, instead of being fired and relegated to a place of penance and prayer, was given a cushy job in Rome, where he enjoys diplomatic immunity.  Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City was indicted by a grand jury for not safeguarding the lives of children by keeping secret the existence of child porn on the computer of a priest.  He remains as Bishop of Kansas City – St. Joseph, Missouri.

Joe Paterno was fired last night.  Not even a 61-year career at Penn State prevented the Board of Trustees from firing him for not doing the right thing when it came to protecting children.  Hundreds of Catholic bishops are still in their jobs despite their cover-up, obfuscation, and transferring of pedophile priests from parish to parish, school to school, and institution to institution.  It is time for Pope Benedict to fire the bishops and start all over. But wait, Benedict is one of the bishops.  He has not done the right thing either.  He must go too!

It is time for the Board of Trustees of the Catholic Church (lay Catholics) to fire the men who have ignored the cries of the injured and damaged, covered up charges of sexual abuse, and placed children at risk of harm.  Lay Catholics must fire their bishops.  How?  By withholding funds, not “feeding the hierarchical beast,” and not allowing “bully bishops” to continue their evil ways.

The beginning of the cleansing of Happy Valley had begun with bold leadership and decisive action.  It is time for Catholics to do the same.


Road to Recovery, Inc.

P.O. Box 279

Livingston, NJ 07039


(serving childhood victims of sexual abuse by religious and authority figures)




35 thoughts on “Separation of Church and Penn State: A Lesson for Catholics

  1. Everyone please call AND email Rep. Ron Marsico’s office TODAY! A one sentence email saying you support 832 and 878. Call the office and state that you support 832 and 878. Even if you are from outside of PA. still make the call. Tell them the eyes of the nation are on Pa. and these bills must be put on the agenda for hearings. We ALL must work for the protection of children. As adults it is our responsibilty.
    Hon. Ron Marisco, Republican Chair, 717-783-2014 ,

  2. Someone should recruit Paterno to the fight on the bills we need passed. If Paterno would like to rehab his image and be the man we all thought he was, he would jump on board and get some legislation passed. Does anyone know anyone who could approach him or at least float the idea out in the news. Lets face it – if Paterno got behind the bills – they fly through the legislator.

    1. Dave… I had the same thought. He made an awful, awful mistake that has lasting consequences for the victims first and foremost, as well as for his own legacy. I can’t help but think of drunk drivers who have caused irreparable harm by one foolish and irresponsible decision. By listening to their stories and the stories of victims’ families, I made a promise to myself not to repeat their mistake. Joe Paterno could do the same thing for reporting abuse.

      I also believe that lessons are learned when people – particularly those in leadership positions – are held accountable and responsible for failing to report. After what has happened so swiftly this week in response to last weekend’s grand jury report, I can only hope that anyone who finds themselves in a similar situation as these men will be quick to make the right decision to report suspected abuse.

      Clearer guidelines for madated reporting, and more serious consequences for failing to report, are also needed in the fight against abuse.

      As far as our own Church goes, I think we suffer for not having our own “Board of Trustees” who would oversee and have some authority over the actions of our Church leaders. There is little, if any, authoritative oversight in the current hierarchal structure.

      1. Laura it would help a LOT if the bishops were NOT using their State Catholic Conference lobbying arms to remove or lessen Mandated Clergy Molestation Reporting Requirements throughout the US. They do NOT want the clergy to be required to report abuse.

        Their track record on this matter is appalling. Marci Hamilton has addressed this issue many times in her FindLaw articles.

  3. ‘Cardinal’ Paterno had both the love and respect of the student body yet he’s out and damn quick too.and the students riot in support of him.
    Bishop Finn who never had a winning season in his life remains. Can anyone imagine rioting lay people in KC if he was forced out? I see a bitter jury……..
    The Philly msgr and two priests had better plead guilty and hope for only a 4 year lockup with Bubba.

    1. Jerry…

      Did you email Marsico and get a response from him as I did, today? I’d love your point of view on his message. Thanks.

  4. Great Article. Now when I hear that Penn State is suffereing shame, etc. I can say Not now because someone had the guts to stand up and protect the integrity of it’s name and oust those who forgot their moral conscience. Too bad the heirarchy does not feel the same about the RCC.

  5. This leaves me very confused:

    Victims’ Lawyer Attacks Penn State Board

    Updated: Thursday, 10 Nov 2011, 9:08 AM EST
    Published : Thursday, 10 Nov 2011, 8:52 AM EST

    STATE COLLEGE, Pa. – The Penn State Board of Trustees opened a huge can of worms in its firing of Joe Paterno, as it is now under attack from the lawyer for victims in the sex-abuse case.

    “The board of trustees got it wrong. They should have consulted the victims before making a decision on Mr. Paterno,” attorney Ben Andreozzi said in a statement released to the Harrisburg Patriot News.

    “They should have considered these victims watch TV and are aware of the students’ reaction and may not want to be associated with the downfall of Mr. Paterno. The school instead elected to do what it felt was in its own best interest at the time. Isn’t that what put the school in this position in the first place?”

    Andreozzi does pro bono work for a group of victims in the case based in Harrisburg.

  6. its too bad that lynn didnt work for penn state,he would have had those involved transferred to ogontz campus or perhaps another of the big ten.they could have kept this under wraps for 30/40/50 years of so.

  7. Charles… this is just my opinion, but think about how much it took to stand up and speak out against Sandusky – he was well-known and respected in the community, a leader in his field, and a strong presence. For that matter, how hard it is to speak out about any abuse. Think about the kids who knew that someone else was aware of the abuse, yet nothing was done to go public with it. Now take one of the most beloved coaches in the sport, one of the most respected sports leaders in our state, and make him accountable for their abuse. Not that I agree with it, but these victims believe that some/many are going to hold them responsible for Paterno’s removal.

    For the record, I think people are holding the board of trustees at fault for Paterno’s firing, and that the victim’s are not at fault for anything. In my circles, there is solid support for the victims, and divided opinion about whether Paterno should be held responsible… though it definately leans toward him being wrong in his actions.

  8. This Penn State scandal has really affected me for reasons I do understand and for other reasons I can’t quite begin to understand. On so many levels this is similar to the sex abuse scandal within the Catholic Church – those who knew about it, covered it up. Those who saw it, called their daddies. Those with a legal and moral obligation did nothing.

    Just as students protested and rioted on the campus of Penn State last night, I have all too often dealt with lunatics who believe the sanctity of religion is superior over the innocence of a child, or in this case, the importance of sport. Penn State students solidified themselves as uncaring, arrogant, and foolish aligning themselves with those Catholic parishioners who spit in our faces and insult us for trying to protect children.

    I am so angry about the way these college students have reacted to this crisis. I feel heartfelt sympathy for the boys, many now men, who have lived through abuse and now watch the news to see a campus full of college idiots supporting those who could’ve protected children from Sandusky. So, so sad for Joe Paterno? Well wasn’t JoePa a little curious why Jerry Sandusky was still on campus after he reported the allegation to the school’s administration? When he saw that nothing was done, why didn’t he do more himself? Anyone who knew about it, saw it, or even heard a rumor about it should’ve been investigated, charged, and fired.

    People are so worried about the image of a football team or a religion that they seem very passive about the life of a child. It makes no sense at all. I will forever hate Penn State College. I hope that every scumbag that was out on those streets rioting last night can never get a job after graduation. They should be expelled! The allegiance to Joe Paterno is more sacred than protecting a little boy from being raped in a shower? Shame on Penn State students, administration, and coaches.

    1. Victims4Justice,

      Every word you say, over and over, went through my mind, today.

      I am so sorry that football, college bravado and false idols occupied the minds of Penn State students, today– NOT the victims.

      I implore the professors at the institution to address with their students this moral failure.

    2. I agree. Most of it is uncaring……some of it is pure stupidity……none probably get or read a newspaper or watch the news all they knew was Joe was fired and since they knew Joe he couldn’t possibly do anything wrong it was the medias fault……….besides what can be more important than loyalty to the football coach…………

      1. I am thrilled to see this!!!!

        This is a beautiful step toward helping victims heal!!!! Rich, I know you’ve been upset and hurt and angry at the college students rioting about the firing of Joe Paterno. If you get the chance to visit Marie’s links, I think you may find it …? well, I don’t know…it could make you realize what you never got…but, at least we know there are people capable of doing something despite the ugly around them.

        At the same time, I don’t want to be the rain on the parade…but we needed this from the laity. We needed the people in the pews to rise up and create space for us to heal. Those victims of Jerry Sandusky (and there have to be more than what’s listed) deserve every measure of healing possible…and so did the clergy victims. Where were the good people in the pews when we needed you? It’s such a mix of emotions as this unfolds.

      2. Thank you, Marie, for bringing these websites to our attention.

        Hopefully, the healing actions of Penn State students and alumni will inspire Catholics in the pews to recognize their moral obligation to the victims of priestly sexual abuse.

        Thank you.

    1. Thanks, Charles. Please scroll down to the second page of comments to the “” article you have just linked to above and read my comment under the comment heading, “PENN STATE AND ROME”. I have tried to lay out how the Penn State bombshell impacts the pope’s overall strategy and where I at this point think the Church will end up. For those that have an interest in these broader questions, you may find my extensive comment of interest

  9. A check with Marsico’s office and staff today reveals that Judiciary Committee hearings are scheduled for next week and, yes, you guessed it, HB 832 and 878 are NOT on the agenda.

    If you check Marsico’s website, you will see a video with him sitting next to Caltagirone, the former Judiciary Committee Chairman who destroyed the previous attempt with these bills, alleging that all the victims were after was the money.

    1. Marsico does not support House bills 832 and 878. He made that clear to me in an email I received from him, today. I assume others who emailed him, today, received the same response. In the email he articulated his history supporting victims, and he outlined why he cannot support House bills 832 and 878.

      1. We all recieved the same reply. Will be posting a response soon. If these bills are unconstitutional then why were they passed in California and Delaware? Why are they pending in Hawaii and Wisconsin? Does Pa follow a different constitution?

  10. In a great quote by Heath Evans about the Penn State fans supporting Paterno, “their loyalty made them insane”.

    Wonder what he would say about supporting Catholic bishops? This is where there is no separation of church and State.

  11. Listen to the governor’s quotes at the press conference, like these exact quotes at

    “When it comes to the safety of children, there can be no margin for error, no hesitation to act.”

    “I’ve seen many instances where people of power believe they were beyond the law.”

    God just made it easier to pass the two bills, and you can bring up these two quotes for every election he has in the future if he doesn’t get them passed.

    Passing the two bills is just the beginning.

    Thank you, God.

  12. And here in Philly, the standard attire for Sunday Mass Sept through January is a green EAGLES jersey. What a perverse game of connect the dots……..Philly Catholics, Religion, Football, Penn State, sexual abuse of children, complicity with evil, self preservation, avoidance of scandal, and grandiose Narcissism.
    This is so the hand of God at work in exposing the sins committed against God’s children.

  13. Do not be discouraged by Marsico’s email response. Call and email AGAIN today. We must move these Bills forward. Let him know that you are not giving up -we sure aren’t.
    Everyone please call AND email Rep. Ron Marsico’s office TODAY! A one sentence email saying you support 832 and 878. Call the office and state that you support 832 and 878. Even if you are from outside of PA. still make the call. Tell them the eyes of the nation are on Pa. and these bills must be put on the agenda for hearings. We ALL must work for the protection of children. As adults it is our responsibilty.
    Hon. Ron Marisco, Republican Chair, 717-783-2014 ,

  14. After failing miserably, Penn State displays “best practice” for dealing with criminal child sexual abuse. I wish the media would connect the dots between the Catholic Church (especially Philadelphia) and what has happened at Penn State. One of my “witnesses’ who concealed my continuing 7+ years of cyberstalking by a high ranking priest died last week. His wife continues to cover up the crime. When I pleaded for help he told me to “take it with a sense of humor”…. and she told me to “hold on for just a few more months and it will be over.” That was over 6 years ago. Where do these people end up when they die? If I try to talk to practicing Catholics, they don’t want to hear it. The sin of omission is great.

    For many, there is no justice.

  15. I can see how you would applaud Penn State for JoePa’s firing; choosing. to see it as a “lesson in courage & righteousness” is very very generous of you.

    I, on the other hand, view it simply as damage control. The board of trustees needed to provide some semblance of sanity in a crazy media frenzy, so – let a big head fall to try to make Penn State look good. JoePa was on his way out anyway.

    If in fact anyone was motivated by doing the right thing, why did they wait so long to release the story? Why did they wait until AFTER Paterno beat Eddie Robinson’s career win record of 408 victories by getting win #409???? From PSU website 10/29/11: “Paterno secures NCAA Division I-record 409th career victory”. Sandusky’s arrest could have happened at any time … yet magically it was the week after Paterno set the record.

    Sure, Paterno is out – but not until after he became THE winning-est coach on record. How nice of the entire Happy Valley crew to time all of this so well. How nice that Penn State U has one more record, a pretty incredible one, to attract future students.

    Penn State U is a business trying to control a crisis. On their timetable, in a way that serves them best. Oh and as an afterthought, they offer lip service: sorry about those little boys.
    Righteous? As they say in football, “C’mon, man!!!”

    1. Ms. Clare,
      I don’t think the victims were an afterthought…but I completely agree about the timetable you describe. I have no idea about the 409th win theory, but I absolutely agree that it’s “business” at any institution. Was it as orchestrated as you may suggest? It’s a strong possibility.

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