Who is going to be the next Penn State?
Well, it took about a minute for the media to drag the Catholic Church into the sex abuse scandal at Penn State. And as usual, they are missing the main point. In Kansas City of course, the media has been in a frenzy for months now, seeing in “L’affair Ratigan” their big chance to rid themselves of Bishop Finn – a man who stands for everything they stand against. One moronic observation in the Kansas City Star (yes, I know that is redundant) said,
Penn State football and the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph had in common that they were run by all-male, insular hierarchies that mistakenly thought their position and mission placed them above the obligations that bind ordinary citizens.
The only redeeming value of this absurd comment is that the writer is not yet collecting unemployment and so I’m not helping pay her to write. In fact stupid, agenda-laced comments like this confuse the real issue and contribute to the further abuse of children.
I’m not even going to address the insanity of “all-male hierarchy” as a factor nor will I comment on the attempt to draw equivalency between a priest with inappropriate photos on his computer who was turned in, and a coach who allegedly raped young boys in a shower who was not.
Spotlight finally on the bigger problem
As I have stated here before, kids are MANY more times likely to be abused in the public schools and elsewhere then they are in the Catholic Church. This is not said to reduce the seriousness of any crimes committed by Church members. It is said to protect the vast numbers of kids who are going unprotected due to their parents only hearing about alleged abuse at the hands of priests. Charol Shakeshaft’s research suggests public school kids are up to 100x more likely to be abused. And yet, the media, the lawyers and certainly public school leaders remain silent. If they TRULY had the childrens‘ interests at the forefront, this would not happen. What we are seeing at Penn State is likely common, we just don’t hear about it because it usually does not involve a famous college football program and a legendary coach.
A Double Crime
The real lesson from Penn State
Go to any Diocesan, parish or Catholic school website and you see links everywhere to abuse hotlines, ombudsmen, reporting policies, etc. All designed to protect kids. Yet go to a public school, university, major youth group or protestant denomination site and look for the same thing. For years, child abuse research data and insurance industry risk data have indicated that these institutions are more likely to have problems and yet they offer nothing in the way of acknowledgement or protection. So if they know they have as big or likely a bigger problem with child sexual abuse than the Catholic Church and they’ve seen the Church deal with these issues and develop systems and training to protect kids, why haven’t these other institutions done the same or similar to protect their kids? The heavy lifting so to speak, has been done for them. They could simply copy it. This is nothing less than willful negligence.
Schools need to finally wake up and put policies in place like the Church has. It’s inexcusable for these institutions to make the same mistakes the Church made when they have the lessons learned so visible to them. To some degree, this willful negligence is as criminal as the abuse crimes themselves and is a betrayal of the public trust. In addition to those in the schools in positions of responsibility, the blame for this again rests on the media and the lawyers who have done an excellent job of hanging this issue almost exclusively on the Catholic Church. These other institutions know they enjoy a certain level of immunity from liability and public scrutiny. The Penn State scandal exploded because it was “Penn State” and “Joe Paterno.” The same story at some small college in Iowa would get zero coverage outside of the local newspaper.
The abuse-enabling agendas of media and lawyers
The media does this because it is run by those who entered the profession right after Watergate in the mid-70s. A US president had been brought down by two reporters and a newspaper and the industry shifted from one that prided itself on educating the public in-depth on the issues to one that sought trophies in the form of destroying the powerful. And the population, ever entertained by the spectacle of people being dragged through the mud (and preferring a quick headline and summary to any sort of in-depth article) have been all too happy to accomodate. Add to that recent mass-layoffs of the most experienced and well paid reporters and you can add a measure of incompetence to the mix. So it’s not about facts and serving the public, it’s about personal agendas and serving them.
The lawyers, despite all their protestations that they are only trying to protect kids, are simply in it for the money. They don’t go after the schools due to sovereign immunity laws that prevent them from making any money by doing so. They don’t go after the protestant communities because they are too small to generate a payout large enough to bother with. The 40 million dollar settlement in Kansas City likely yielded a 3-4 million dollar paycheck for Rebecca Randles and who knows how much afterwards to her SNAP sales force. And since lawyers provide the bulk of SNAP’s funding, SNAP goes where the lawyers want them to go.
And so kids continue to be abused because no one is looking for abuse outside the Catholic Church. The responsibility for this rests squarely on the media, the lawyers and SNAP.
So as the horror stories continue to come out of “Happy Valley” consider asking those responsible when they are going to set aside their personal agendas and start protecting ALL kids or at least stop enabling the abusers. Until this happens, the Penn State nightmare will play out over and over again.
We just won’t hear about it unless it involves someone rich or famous.