Penn State Compared to Catholic Church


Click to read, “Why the Catholic Church is (and isn’t) like the Catholic Church,” by David Gibson, The Washington Post, On Faith, November 10, 2011

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38 Responses to “Penn State Compared to Catholic Church”

  1. This article was emailed to me yesterday and several Archdiocesan priests were also included on the email.I took the opportuinty to respond in a “reply all” email,hopefully something I said registered to theseWhen a child is sexually violated it is a true horror,whether that abuse takes place at the hands of a teacher,coach,parent or clergy member.

    When a child has suffered sexual abuse within the Church, many obviously are angry at the abusive priest,but the real anger and disgust is directed at the hierarchy and fellow clergy who participated in the cover up and left children at risk resulting in more abuse,more victims. That is the breaking point for most people, I know it is for me. I have said to Fr Chris a few times, that I wonder if there will be any outrage from the clergy in Philadelphia if it ends up that some of the suspended priests really did pose a risk to children and were left in ministry with access to children for many,many years. Even if 13 of the suspended priests are ‘cleared” of wrongdoing,what about the other 13 who could have been abusing children up until this past February? As a Mother it horrifies me that even one child could have been at risk.

    I have dealt with so many victims of clergy sex abuse in the past 9 months. While the actual sexual abuse was horrific,the response by the Church, including,hierarchy,clergy and laity,is what has left them completely destroyed. They understand their abuser was a sick person,they don’t understand why the church has treated them like the enemy in many ways ,when they are the one who has suffered so much. What type of healing can ever take place for these victims when they feel so alienated and abandoned? The stories I have heard about the response of the hierarchy across the U.S. and the way these victims were treated when they reported the abuse,sought assistance etc…is heartbreaking.
    At Penn State we have seen the house of cards fall quickly,no institution wants to be looked at as being sympathetic to the offenders rather than the victim. Whether those moves were genuine or simply good public relations,they were necessary. I was in a meeting yesterday and one of the participants was from St Joe’s in Downingtown. She said “The Penn State Hierarchy” was destroyed in a matter of days,but meanwhile Monsignor Lynn is still technically the pastor of my parish and he put thousands of children in harm’s way.”

    So Penn State realized what needed to happen. In Phila. we have an Archdiocese that has not moved on implementing the Grand Jury report recommendations,many of these recommendations similar to 2005. We have Archbishop Chaput remaining completely silent on the crisis since his arrival, with just a mention of it here of there. We have many parishes that have never held meetings for their congregations to address the crisis. We have an entire legal “dream team” made up of high powered Phila. and Denver attorneys working for the Archdiocese.

    We have a Priest Association that is focusing on their own needs rather than the needs of the children and victims whose bodies and souls were shattered. We are not Penn State, we are the Church. We don’t follow a playbook for a football game, we are supposed to be following the Gospel. Kathy

    • Thanks so much, Kathy, for your moving, heartfelt and pointed remarks.

      David Gibson’s article here needs to be challenged and balanced. He calls Catholicism “…very decentralized…”. He, in effect, praises the bishops for putting so “..many safeguards in place…” for defenseless children. He ascribes the current media attention on the sexual abuse of children crisis to Americans’ interest in “… sensationalism about sexual abuse of boys by men…”

      Is David Gibson serious? No wonder he is often criticized on a
      Catholic “elite” blog for his steady defense of the US bishops, whose goodwill apparently has at times helped his journalistic career.

      For a more balanced view, please see the article by a Wilmington, DE reporter entitled, “Echoes of Catholic Church scandal at Penn State” , that includes favorable remarks about the Pa proposed SOL reform bills from Charles F. Gallagher III, former senior Philly sex abuse crimes prosecutor, accessible by clicking on at:

      http://www.thetowntalk.com/article/20111112/NEWS/111112004

  2. Fr. Chris,
    Where are you?

    Initially, when the Penn State story broke, catholics were pointing fingers, “Seeeeee! It happens everywhere!!!!” I had 2 close relatives say to me, “Well, at least the reporting will be more balanced now that the secular world has been exposed too!” Don’t even get me going on that topic…media reporting and the victimized catholic church…as if this is what they need to be worried about.

    They have had to eat crow in the past few days as, obviously, things were handled much better in that “secular” institution than their moral one. My die-hard catholic family members, one by one, are becoming more and more disgusted with their church each day…the walls are crumbling.

    I’m answering questions I never thought they’d ask me about how their church treated us. I sent them to Maria’s link…where thousands participated in a vigil for the victims. No one needs a map to figure out where the catholic church failed its victims. We’re watching it all unfold with the more balanced reporting they’ve been crowing about.

    Where are you, Fr. Chris? Where are any of the good priests to “answer” to your laity?

    • The handling of the scandal by Penn State so far is how I wish the church would handle ours. In a way it is sureal as far as what we need and want……….. new leadership and accountability in the church was done at Penn State. Now that I have seen another institution clean up thier act…….it fortifies my resolve that nothing less is acceptable especially from a “Christian insitution”. I emailed my priest the Al Chesley story including why the bills need to be passed. I hope others will do the same.

      • The secular media is now the ‘enemy ‘… Both Penn State students and the GOP candidates have taken the Bishops playbook and have launched a full cross press against the so called media when everyone knows that the internet is now open to all..

    • Penn State had one accused pedophile priest, and fired 5 people in 5 days, almost as quickly as humanly possible, despite the legendary status of one of them.

      Penn State will likely teach the world how to investigate these matters, how to make the guilty be punished, and how to bring the victims forward and pay for whatever therapy they need.

      The Catholic church had 4,392 accused pedophile priests that they admitted to in a voluntary report.

      This week, they are being very, very, very quiet.

  3. Rev. John S. Wintermyer, Retired Archdiocese of Washington Reply November 12, 2011 at 4:44 pm

    As a retired Catholic Priest from the Archdiocese of Washington, these events at Penn State give hope to the many people who are seeking justice from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia for the past history of horrendous crimes against children. These acts were perpetrated by evil and malicious men serving in the Church as ministers of moral responsibility. But clearly, it was those in authority who continued to allow the horrible progression of this culture of protection of institution and fear of scandal which covered up these crimes. We can say that many times the authorities paid out settlements, but always with a “silencing clause” and so the perpetrator was masked and the next parish was not informed of the gravity of the crimes this new associate carried into this parish.
    Auth’s cartoon in the Inquirer on 11/11/11 says it all. Penn State fired even its president as part of the fallout to these crimes yet the pillar for the Church continues to stand with its leadership unscathed by the whole tragedy it continues to cover up..
    The Penn State crime mentions only 8 children, maybe 10 and who knows how many more this one person victimized. But the Archdiocese of Philadelphia stands responsible for hundreds of children victimized. See the DA report of 2002. Pictures and names of priests who clearly were guilty of crimes were presented there.(see Phil Inquirer of that year)
    But those in authority just continue to reside palatially, in apparent unconcern for the children of past violence.
    The statutes of limitations must go!!! Responsible parties must suffer the consequences of their failure to act.
    How come the assistant coach received so many threats of violence and yet the Catholic Church appears unscathed and fearless in public?
    We can give thanks that these events from Penn State are so out in the open. Maybe now, the wall of silence and hypocrisy protecting Sancta Mater Ecclesia Philadelphiensis will be shattered and the truth may rise from the ashes and all those responsible for allowing such crimes will be served criminal justice in this life. We are not too interested in the “next ” life.

    • Thank you for this.

    • Father Wintermeyer, your remarks are very welcome and much needed!

      I am delighted that you commented on C4C…and I hope that other priests may do so, as well!

    • Rev. Wintermyer,

      Thank you for your thoughtful and insightful observations.

      If you feel inclined, can you shed light on the following questions:

      1. What do you think when I and other bloggers use your inspiring post to bring attention to and criticize the weak public voices of your fellow brothers in Christ?

      2. How do you see the laity productively affecting the public voices of priests?

      3. Why is it that you seem free, and they seem shackled?

      4. Were you to appear before Fr. Chris and his priest association, what would be your main message?

      Thank you.

  4. I just read about the candleight vigil held at Penn State last night with 10,00 students in attendance to honor the victims. Most importantly the newly appointed PSU President stood with them. To stand with them,acknowledges that this happened.
    While Penn State has a long road ahead with criminal trials,lawsuits and probaly more charges filed,I have not once heard of any Penn State official refer to the victims as liars ,refer to the Grand Jury report as anti-Penn State, or try to distract the attention away from the victims. Wow, what the Church could learn from the secular world.

  5. If you get the chance to read this…it brought tears to my eyes just thinking what the victims must be feeling as the stadium is covered in blue (the color representing child abuse prevention).

    http://rivals.yahoo.com/ncaa/football/news?slug=ap-pennstate-gameday

    • I just want to clarify that Penn States colors are blue and white…and they used to send out the message to “White Out” and all the fans would wear white to distract the opponents. In light of what has occurred, they chose to do a “Blue Out,” in honor child abuse prevention and a show of solidarity at Penn State.

  6. The contrast in response between Penn State and the Church is just so striking. SW… I watched the game today, and read that same article. A few things have struck me today…

    1) As of Friday, $165,000 had been collected by student groups for victims of sexual abuse. Another $22,000 was collected today. Have we even had a collection in the last ten years in any Catholic Church for victims?

    2) The “Blue Out” idea began with a single person, 2009 PSU alumna Therese Jones, who formed a Facebook group on Sunday with the idea to “Blue Out” Nebraska to raise awareness about child abuse. By Sunday night, 2,000 people had joined the group. Today, there are 11,600. Read more about how she made a difference.. http://www.dailyorange.com/news/penn-state-alumni-sell-t-shirts-in-bookstore-to-raise-awareness-of-child-abuse-1.2696234 Last spring, C4C – at the very beginning of its formation – proposed to attend Mass at a local church to show support for a priest who had held a meeting with his parishioners to discuss why his name had appeared in the ’05 report. The intention was to attend mass with blue ribbons fastened to our shirts. Nothing more than that. We were politely asked to refrain from attending.

    3) On Thursday and Friday, professors replaced their tests and lectures with discussions about the week’s events, to process the mulitude of sometimes conflicting feelings the students were experiencing (http://www.worldinconversation.org/2011/11/12/soc-119-lecture-on-the-penn-state-crisis/). How many forums have parishes held for its laity – and clergy – who have been experiencing the same feelings of betrayal, confusion, and anger that the Penn State students are feeling?

    4) Players walked in together, arms joined, and met in the middle of the field with their opponents. Together, they prayed for the victims, then got on with the business of football. In the crowd, I saw ten young men, shirtless, with painted letters on their chests… “For the kids”. These folks got the focus right…. the victims were wronged. The victims were betrayed. The victims need our show of support.

    By doing the right thing, by focusing on the victims… that is how an institution reclaims its role as a moral leader. There is still more to be learned and more house-cleaning to be done at Penn State. But they are far ahead of reclaiming their moral compass than the Catholic Church is at this point, in my opinion. There has been more of a “pastoral response” in one week at Penn State than in ten years in the Catholic Church.

    • When the people in the pews in the RCC accept the wrong that has been done to the most vulnerable among us, then there will be true change and true healing. When will we be able to join together as Catholic Christians and admit the wrongs that have been done in the name of keeping up the pretense of holiness?

    • Thank you for sharing all that has occurred for victims, students, and and an institution.

      In one week…more than all the years combined in the rcc. Absolutely true.

    • Makes me cry just reading this-both for what the PSU community is doing in response and in shame for the lack of response of the RCC community. Thank you for sharing this Laura.

  7. The horror of sexual abouse of children and vulnerable adults is real. What Penn State has done in this past week not only will enhance awareness of the tendancy of the strong to overpower the weak, but will demonstrate that these abuses must be dealt with by the civil authorities.

    Apologies, resignations, pay offs are not enough to stop these abuses. Criminal convictions, fines, probation, and jail time are what is needed to make humans aware that crimes against the weakest among us will not be tolerated.

  8. Here is the link to Tony Auth’s cartoon that Father Jack referred. From the Inquirer on 11/11 pretty much sums up what we are all trying to say -brilliantly http://www.gocomics.com/tonyautht

  9. Sorry wrong link -here is the correct linkhttp://www.gocomics.com/tonyauth/2011/11/11

    • Wow Kathy-Imagine if we could fill the Parkway with a vigil like this-or St. Peter’s Square in Rome?

    • Kathy,

      Under the Candlelight Vigil video, a student posted this comment: “This shows we are not bad people.”

      In Laura’s great post (above), she notes how professors at Penn State interrupted their course syllabi last week in order to discuss with students questions like “who are we”?

      I ask the clergy, what shows your are not bad people?

      I ask the clergy, who are you?

      • Sadly, we already know the answer to those questions hadit. We know who they are.

        BUT, it’s not too late to do the right thing.

        Several weeks ago I called out Fr. Chris (and others) for using the “I’m available” approach. I listed ways the victims and laity would need pastoring from them.

        Penn State did every suggestion, and the church? Nothing.

        Things are not over by a long shot with Penn State (or other colleges) where this has happened. I’m sure there will be missteps along the way, but in a short time, at least the victims know they were believed and given some show of support.

        I am so excited there are positive things happening for the victims of Jerry Sandusky…that when I shared my excitement with my husband, all he could say was, “It makes me want to crawl out of my skin. Sure, I’m ‘happy’ the victims are getting support. As sick as this sounds, if Penn State had mishandled this entire situation, it would have been easier to write off all institutional systems. Instead, we have to process why some are given support and some aren’t. Why the church didn’t do what was right. It’s glaring how obviously evil the church’s purposeful isolation of the victims has been. For all those who thought it was a lapse in thinking, or they just didn’t know what to do and therefore mishandled the situation. I want people to know.. The church had a purposeful, contrived way of silencing us, isolating us, blaming us, abusing us all over again. Maybe that’s selfish of me to not want to have to deal with it anymore, but that’s where i am right now. Sure, I’m ‘happy’…”

        I just thought it might be helpful to know how one of the clergy abuse victims feels right now.

        I, on the hand, can see this as more of a long term process…each good step that Penn State does is like heaping hot coals on the church. I find it shaming for the church to still remain silent.

  10. Ah fr. chris just as I suspected all along you were ‘all gab and no jab’ just like the rest of the pedophile protecting moral hypocrites that call themselves ‘men of GOD : -( !

  11. I have been thinking so much about the response of Penn State compared to the Church. Penn State did not make itself out to be the victim -at all. I have seen nothing reflected in their actions or statements that reflect anything of the sort. Yes,they have spoken of all the good the university has to offer and will continue to offer, but not in the way that we have seen this done by the Church. With the church it seems like more of a “how dare they,after all the good we have done” With Penn State it is more of a “we will continue to do good and emerge a better institution by lessons we have learned”
    When I have attended the first Friday vigils it has always amazed me how invisible we are. We stand with signs that say” protect children” Victims stand with pictures of themselves as children. Archdiocesan employees walk right through the line on there way out to lunch.Priests literally have turned in the other direction when they see us. At Penn State the administration will work with the students to organize these type of vigils. There will be fundraising events for victims,meetings on public education and awareness of child sex abuse. All of this will happen because they recognize the true victims in this scenario -the children who were abused

    • Penn State has done what the church for some reason thinks it can’t do. I think the church has been going in the wrong direction for so long they have some how convinced themselves it is the right thing to do despite the fact the church is falling apart all around them.

    • Kathy, in some ways the Penn State vs Church approach to gross child abuse, is a management issue.

      Penn St is a single institution, with a Board who acted relatively promptly and responsibly to deal with abuse, and fire appropriate individuals. The present concern of students and Administration for victims is heartening,

      The Church has 5000 bishops worldwide, hundreds of thousands of priests, and a very small staff in the ‘Holy Office’ to deal with abusive priests. It has been said that the Churches approach is to leave individual bishops in place to clean up their own messes.

      And we have all seen what a disaster THAT has been in the US, a cosmetic Dallas Charter, annual SELF reporting, clergy appointed Review Bds, that are a sham, and some abuse prevention training, that has been helpful. Concerted efforts by the bishops through their lobbying arms to eviscerate mandated clergy reporting requirements and SOLs so as to protect ‘the Church’ NOT the victims.

      I believe the Philadelphia Archdiocese has consistently reported itself to the USCCB, as in compliance with the Charter norms year after year after year, including this year, indeed when the AD was a cesspool of abuse complete with two horrendous Grand Jury reports in 2005 and 2011.

      To ‘manage the abuse crisis’ there had to be a scapegoat. Tragically, it was the victims. In the last ten years I have never heard a sermon, or a prayer of the faithful that addressed the victims tragedy and needs. Essentially the victims didn’t exist, except in news accounts of settlements. Implicitly, the victims were the enemy, depleting church coffers, from ‘good works.’

      It’s no wonder, Kathy that you are treated as almost invisible.

      Penn State has changed that. For folks in PA and the nation, the information that ten year old boys are sodomized by a famous football coach in the showers at Penn. Even the Church In Philadelphia can’t ignore that. And it has lots of abusers!

      I genuinely believe that Church folks need a major mental shift, from viewing victims as expensive scapegoats to seeing those who have been abused by clergy as present church member’s NUMBER ONE MORAL CONCERN, before ANY OTHER CHURCH ISSUE/PROJECT!

      The thing is, the church has committed very ugly crimes. And they are guilty, before God and man.

      These crimes require both punishment and restitution. ALL of us who are Church members have a huge debt that needs to be paid to victims. It needs to be paid in many ways. Certainly with our understanding, concern and support of victims and their needs.

      BUT this PRIMARY DEBT also needs to be paid in the courts with the opening up of those Statute of Limitation windows. An additional advantage of the SOLS is that many other ‘unknown’ predators will be revealed thus protecting children. (300 unknown predators were identified in CA )

      Bottom line…Church ‘good works’ COME AFTER debt to victims has been paid in full!!!

  12. Rev. John S. Wintermyer, Retired Archdiocese of Washington Reply November 13, 2011 at 5:41 pm

    Please, I would like to respond to “haditCatholic” above. You asked 4 questions and I would like to respond to all of them now.

    1) I am happy to share any of my responses with anyone, that is why I am writing. A very dear friend of mine was sexually abused by a priest in the late 50’s and when he was asked by another abused friend in 2005, he suddenly was aware that he was not alone and that the priest had accosted multiple boys in the parish and then was actually transferred to a boys orphanage. We went to talk with the Cardinal (Rigali) in 2006 and the Victims Abuse Director, who actually had “lied” or at least misconstrued important evidence about Paul. A very useless meeting, and nothing came from that encounter. These authorities had only one motive, discredit my friend, even though Msgr. Lynn had told my friend that he truly believed his story.

    2 The Laity must stand up to challenge those in authority esp. on such issues as sexual abuse and even further on issues such as divorce and remarriage and reception of communion in such a state of marriage after divorce.
    The Laity have the spirit of God within them and are informed by that spirit as well as the living struggles of this world with children, job security, family problems, economic crises, and they are the ones who really reflect and put into action God’s love in the world.
    The Laity must be listened to and not just insulted by answers which appear dogmatic but make no sense when authorities attempt to explain and/or confuse them.

    3. I am 75 years old and 50 years a priest. I have learned to listen first to people. I read, read, read. My spiritual life embraces the world in which we live and I attempt to reflect those values, not simply “tradition” alone, as handed down, without the evaluation of modern knowledge and understanding.

    4 My main message to all priests would be: a) read, read, read, not novels but New Cosmology,The Big History, Thomas Berry, Hans Kung, Jason Berry, etc.,
    b) learn about today’s world. c)”question Authority” 4) The Theologian Bernard Haring says it best: “the core concept of Moral theology would be ” not obedience but responsibility, the courage to be responsible, which is true obedience”.
    The new translation of the liturgy is a perfect example of blind obedience without serious reflection with priests and people. We are “trapped” by this new document because of a failure to understand what is truly happening here in the liturgy. To be “authentic to the Latin liturgy” is a weak argument to what is really behind these changes. It appears that we are avoiding the “real” issues of our church today. Millions of dollars will be spent in the printing of the new version of the liturgy, and, for what?, and, may I ask, “where will that money come from?

    • Rev. Wintermyer,

      Thank you for your insightful and candid response.

      1. The experience of your friend entails all of the atrocities cited by other victims of priestly sexual abuse– your friend was abused, other children in his parish were abused by the same priest, the priest was reassigned to a place where other children were available to him, and your friend was discredited by Ragali and the panel formed to hear his accusation, in spite of Lynn acknowledging the truth of his accusation! I admire how you accompanied your friend through his disturbing journey for justice. I admire how you speak on his behalf, and on behalf of all victims, through this blog.

      2. The clergy must learn new forms of communication with the laity. When communication is dogmatic and confined to “the party line,” there is no communication. Many remark that the clergy don’t “get it.” Were they to come to view the laity and people in the secular world as a body able to inform them, meaningful communication could transpire.

      3. When you say that you do not live by tradition, alone, you say to me that your faith is informed by reason. When you evaluate matters of theology, church authority and religious faith, you test them against concrete experience and empirical evidence, as opposed to relying solely on divine revelation. Because you blend faith and reason, when you ponder religious issues and questions, divine revelation AND what is real and what exists matters. This permits you to walk in the shoes of others, to feel what others feel, and to know deeply the human condition. While this approach humanizes you, overall, the clergy’s response to the sexual abuse crisis has been dehumanizing and cold. They should revisit the works of St. Thomas Aquinas.

      4. Few priests, today, are familiar with the relevant and significant literary works pertaining to the issues in the Church, today. Their contact with reading material is often limited to the popular, Catholic, orthodox publications that land on their rectories’ doorsteps, including the inane diocesan newspaper. Seminary education does not permit or foster an appetite for critical thinking and opposing points of view. Anyway, many priests argue that they have little time to read due to their enormous workloads. Minds, under these conditions, suffer greatly. Imagine were our priests to have the time to “read, read, read”… imagine how it might change their lives, change their points of view, foster their courage, and change the way they engage with a laity that IS reading!

      Rev. Wintermyer, I look forward to your next post on this blog.

      Thank you.

      • Thank you, Hadit, for your sound and generous comments. It is clear to me that more Catholics would be happier if they had just “hadit” and spoke out like you, instead of continuing to just genuflect and contributing each week thereby propping up a corrupt Church hierarchy.

    • Rev. Wintermyer,

      When I read your online testimonial regarding The Ascendancy by John Weiskopf, I couldn’t help noting its prophetic edge.

      You wrote: “… the author challenges us to live in reality rather than the fantasy of our present world which offers us such an illusion of security. The illusion of security only leads to destruction.”

      Something that members of the priesthood and the sheep in the pews should think long and hard about…

    • Thank you so much, John, for your courageous and prohetic witness. I have been and still am hard on clerics, given their overall record in the child sexual abuse scandal. Your openness to C4C gives us some a flicker of hope.

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