Tuesday, November 15, 2011


A quick reflection during a busy time and full day. I have been following with bemusement and disgust the situation at Penn State University in the United States. During the past couple of weeks the football program has been in the spotlight because of allegations that one of the coaching staff sexually molested boys. While another university employee saw and reported an incident it was never reported to the police or adequately addressed. The head coach knew what had happened, as did university officials, but the vaunted football program was protected.

If these allegations are true this is a chilling abuse of power and trust, with the vulnerable being sacrificed again. As soon as I heard I thought of the years of cover-ups in the Roman Catholic church. Often college football in the States is described as a religion and if there ever was a college game pope it was now fired coach Joe Paterno. In his eighties Paterno has been at Penn State forever and there were riots after his firing by those who supported him despite the disturbing allegations. The abuses are disgraceful, if true, but so was the response of students.

The nickname Joe Pa is chilling because it suggests a paternal trust that was apparently not warranted. I have always struggled with terms such as Holy Father or "father" to describe religious leaders for similar reasons. Respect for authority is reasonable as long as that authority is reasonably exercised.

Incidents such as these point out the terrible outcome of vesting unlimited power in certain individuals whether they be priests or the pastors of megachurches or sports coaches or political leaders.

Have you been paying attention to this story? What are your thoughts?


IanD said...

I'm not so sure Paterno was 'vested with unlimited power,' so much as he was just there so long inside a vaunted community presence that he took on an aura of untouchability. I guess because of his age, his record and his accomplishments ... it's just about the same thing.

That said, the parallels to the various international church abuse scandals are as obvious as they are chilling. True, Paterno DID report what he learned to the school, but neither he nor the school took the proper steps. This story also reminds me of the ring of child abusers who used to work and operate out of Maple Leaf Gardens. In that situation, Ken Dryden (then Leafs President and GM) did follow the proper course once the story unfolded.

As a parent, it just reaffirms for you that you can never feel safe enough when your kids leave your four walls. As a male teacher, it's infuriating that people like Mr. Sandusky put men who work with or volunteer with kids under unfair scrutiny as well.

sjd said...