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The Church of College Football

Nov 10, 2011 — Categories: , ,

A former defensive coordinator for the Penn State football team, Jerry Sandusky (a priest in the Church of College Football), has been arrested and charged with sexual abuse of boys over a 15 year period.

A former defensive coordinator for the Penn State football team, Jerry Sandusky (a priest in the Church of College Football), has been arrested and charged with sexual abuse of boys over a 15 year period. Two top Penn State University officials (assistants to the Bishop of the Diocese of Penn State University), Gary Schultz and Tim Curley, have been charged with perjury and failure to report the allegations of sexual abuse to law enforcement. President Graham Spanier (the Bishop) was made aware of the allegations in 2002.

Football Coach Joe Paterno, known to many as St. Joe because of his stellar reputation and success at Penn State, learned of one allegation in 2002 and reported it to Tim Curley. He did not report it to police nor does it appear that he followed up with Tim Curley. Sandusky continued to abuse boys.

The alleged assaults took place on boys who were part of Sandusky’s foundation, Second Mile, where he had access to vulnerable kids through 2010. Although he retired from Penn State in 1999, he still had access to Penn State facilities and an office there.

So the Bishop and St. Joe have been fired. The Assistant Bishops have been indicted. The alleged perpetrator arrested and charged. More action and more quickly than anything we have seen in the actual church in response to credible allegations by adult survivors against priests.

Last night the students on campus reacted to the firing of St. Joe with a riot. They are angry that this institutional mess has tarnished their school and a beloved coach. But St. Joe himself puts it in perspective:

“At this moment the Board of Trustees should not spend a single minute discussing my status.  They have far more important matters to address. I want to make this as easy for them as I possibly can.  This is a tragedy.  It is one of the great sorrows of my life.  With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.”

The bottom line: no one did enough. Even after a report by a graduate assistant that he had seen Sandusky rape a boy in the shower, no one did enough to protect other kids. Who knows the motivation of the various university officials who had responsibility to act? Fear, minimization, protection of the university, ignorance - - - but no longer are any of these excuses adequate for the failure of institutions to hold their people accountable. Finally the Board of Trustees stepped up and acted.

Some students are planning a vigil Friday night for survivors, hopefully they will express their outrage that the university they love betrayed their trust and allowed vulnerable youth to be abused for 15 years.

Sadly, Penn State University took a page out of the playbook of the Diocese of Philadelphia. Both spent years protecting their institutions at the expense of young children. We can do better. Survivors deserve justice. Our children deserve protection.

Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune
FaithTrust Institute

Document Actions

Sandusky continued

Posted by Gus Kaufman at Nov 15, 2011 01:28 PM
Was Sandusky raised in the church/school system?

Football a man's world

Posted by Elizabeth Soto at Nov 15, 2011 01:29 PM
Dear Rev. Fortune, you are so painfully right in your article. Living in Lancaster PA just a less than two hours away from Penn State we are feeling this incident in our skin!! I am full of anger because as i see it from a feminist perspective the root cause is obvious "patriarchal male system protecting the men's game." I do not like football anyway because I see it as a violence male game (i know there are many female the like the game too) But what this scandal is teaching us in society is "the game above any one else" that is the rule of the patriarchal system that wants control and these main leaders at Penn State did just that. In name of their honor for the god of football they hide the truth. No innocent boys are important enough for them, because the game must go on. Today the god's of football in PA felt down, big time!! And that is a important lesson to learn. These Penn State leaders had too much power and protected themselves to the cost of sexually abused boys. How many other big University leaders are doing the same? and there is not laws for reporting big enough to make them talk. What we need is no more law but honest and trustful leaders that run these learning institutions. I will continue to be angry until we all learn our social lesson in this case. That because we live a in patriarchal society these things happen and will continue to happen unless we repent and transform our souls toward a " Truthful God centered life."

We see - but not really

Posted by Rev. Cynthia Burkert at Nov 15, 2011 01:29 PM
"Even after a report by a graduate assistant that he had seen Sandusky rape a boy in the shower, no one did enough to protect other kids." It doesn't sound like anyone did much of anything! When sexual abuse is not properly seen as a crime in its own category, with the need for specific procedures for reporting and for protecting victims from further abuse (and adults from false accusations) - then nothing happens. When there's no well-known and spelled-out procedure that we see in reports and manuals, and even posted in simple form on bulletin boards, for reporting abuse of any kind in any setting involving children and adults together - but especially sexual abuse - then nothing happens. When every adult who has any responsibility for children is not seen as equally responsible for and equally capable of reporting what they see - then nothing happens. When we only see what we want to see - a legendary football program, a beloved priest or pastor, a charismatic youth leader - and when we are not willing to see what is right in front of us - then nothing happens.

Church of College Football

Posted by Roslyn Macgregor at Nov 15, 2011 01:29 PM
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Protecting coaches not kids

Posted by Gary Schoener at Nov 15, 2011 01:29 PM
Sadly the Penn State case is far from unique. Athletes and coaches -- especially successful ones -- have protection against accountability at all levels. At the high school level the same is true,and even at the level of international competition this is true -- e.g. the cases involving USA swimming and the longstanding pattern of sexual exploitation of young female swimmers by male coaches. However, the "good news" about the Penn State case is that in many jurisdictions this has cause a review of child abuse reporting rules and whether they explicitly list "coaches". The Minneapolis Star/Tribune had a front page story and very much in-depth discussion of this which I found quite encouraging

Church of college football

Posted by James E. Roghair at Nov 15, 2011 01:30 PM
Thank you Marie for this blog. This is such an apt analogy and sums up the issues for institutions which protect themselves not the children. Jim

football vs church

Posted by Peg Coleman at Nov 16, 2011 03:19 PM
I understand the point and the issues and the comparative points. I think naming the abusers bishops and making direct correlation to church abuse waters down the concept of power and control. This was not a church abuse. Why distract from the organization and people who did this. They should be held accountable for who they are and what they did and did not do. Football, University, Men in Power excusing the behavior, turning the blind eye and a culture that colludes in protection of perpetrators. When we cloak them in invisible church garb, we risk a loss of clarity.

Church of College Football

Posted by Jim Kintz at Nov 16, 2011 03:19 PM
I feel that this is an unnecessary slam against the Catholic Church. Very uncalled for. It is not a religious problem but a problem of society that protects the institution at all costs. Theft, fraud, harrassement,as well as sexual contacts. The educational community is notorius for hiding problems as well as ALL religious denominations. I am rethinking my support to Faith Trust Institute..

Church of College Football

Posted by Scot Graham-Raad at Nov 16, 2011 06:06 PM
I think it is very interesting that the comment posted by Jim Kintz on Nov. 16, 2011 states that he believes Rev. Dr. Fortune has 'slammed the Catholic Church unnecessarily' when she mentioned but one Diocese of Philadelphia in her comments. While I agree that the sexual abuse of children and those who are vulnerable is a societal problem, any institutional system, be it a college/university, or any/all religious denominations/faith communities on earth, business, government, sports team, etc., I believe Mr. Kintz needs to take a second look at the allegations, lawsuits, and monetary payouts that many Diocese's across the United States, including: Fairbanks, AK, Tucson, AZ, Bridgeport, Hartford, Norwich, CT, Wilmington, DE, Washington, D.C., Los Gatos, Monterey, Oakland, Orange, Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Bernardino, Stockton, Santa Rosa and San Francisco, CA, Denver and Pueblo, CO, Boston, Springfield, and Fall River, MA, Portland, ME, Lansing, MI, Indianapolis, IN, Philadelphia and Altoona-Johnstown, PA, Cincinnati and Toledo, OH, Louisville and Covington, KY, Portland, OR, Seattle, Spokane, WA, Dubuque and Davenport, IA, Rockville Center, and New York, NY, Oklahoma City, OK, Savannah, GA, Bellville, Chicago, and Rockford, IL, Providence, RI, Kansas City and St. Joseph's, MO, Patterson, Metuchen, Newark and Camden, NJ, Charlotte, NC, Charleston, SC, Manchester, NH, Lafayette, LA, Winona, St. Paul, and Milwaukee, WI, Omaha, NE, St. Petersburg, Orlando, St. Augustine, Miami FL, Dallas, Ft. Worth, TX, Jackson, MS, Burlington, VT, Memphis, TN, [] along with several countries including Ireland, Germany, Chile, and Canada, to name a few have paid out in recent years. Might I suggest that Mr. Kintz consider rethinking his support of The Catholic Church and instead continue to support the work of the Faith Trust Institute?

Anonymous Comment

Posted by dsorin at Nov 21, 2011 10:37 PM
“Saw your blog on the Penn State case. This story has been disturbing me a lot, forcing me to think about the many failures of both individuals and institutions. And it's led me to want to say thank you for all the education that FaithTrust Institute has provided over the years. Here's why a "thank you" is in order.
I am ashamed to say that in thinking honestly about what I would have done (or not done) in the same situation as the Penn State coaches, I had to admit I too might have failed to do the right thing. For example, if someone told me close friend or family member was seen raping a child, my denial of such an unthinkable thing about someone I knew and trusted and loved, would have been very powerful. My first instinct would not be to call the police; it would be to call a close friend or family member. I don't write this to excuse the failure of the Penn State men. I write this because it makes me see, again, how critical the educational work of FaithTrust is in stopping abuse. It's because of what I've learned from my work with FaithTrust Institute that I hope I would be able to understand my emotions, understand the dynamics of abuse and therefore be able to overcome my denial and do the right thing. So again, thank you for the educational work you are doing. Our institutions need it. Our teachers need it. Our coaches need it. Out police officers need it. Our leaders need it. We ALL need that education around these issues.”