November 14th, 2011
02:41 PM ET

Your Take: Comments on Penn State, Catholic Church abuse scandals

By David Michaels, CNN

(CNN) - On Thursday, we posted a story that pointed to various parallels between the Penn State and Roman Catholic Church sex abuse scandals.

The question of whether those are valid comparisons became a hotly debated topic in our comments section, opening up a discussion about the ways the two cases might help shed light on one other.

Many readers agreed that there were similarities in what offenses allegedly took place inside each institution, but saw differences in how the two organizations handled the fallout.

JesusThe parallel is there. JoePa kept the abuse allegations in-house as did the Pope. Both didn't turn things over to the Police. The Pope went a step further when he was a Cardinal in sanctioning and transferring Priests so accused (before it became known to the public that the Church was doing so). Both are guilty, but JoePa at least has an out ¬– he had a purported higher authority that he reported the wrongdoing to...the Pope has no such excuse!

DominiIn the Catholic Church, the police have only arrested one bishop. None have been fired, and there's little accountability to force bishops to follow the church's recommended rules on how to handle abuse. The Pope himself is tainted by the scandal. Paterno and others tainted by this scandal are being fired (Cardinal Law was never "fired", prosecuted, etc.) Penn State is handling this situation far better than the catholic Church ever did. I say that as a still-practicing Catholic trying to change the church from within.

One reader pointed to the Penn State leadership’s accountability to the state and ultimately to voters, as opposed to the private power structure within the Catholic Church, as a reason for the disparities in how the two institutions handed out repercussions.

fred schumacher
This incident points out a great weakness in Catholic Church structure: the lack of external oversight with power. Catholic governance is a closed circle, a feedback loop where popes appoint bishops of like mind and bishops, as elector cardinals, elect a pope of like mind. The laity are left on the outside, with no recourse to correct bad judgment on the part of the hierarchy.

Penn State regents are appointed through a public process and have the needs of the people of Pennsylvania as their primary concern. Through the election of public officials, the "laity" of the state of Pennsylvania have ultimate control. The regents, as a result, acted quickly and decisively.

In addition, the Catholic Church's handling of priest pedophilia was hindered by its long-standing labor shortage, a self-inflicted wound resulting from an unwillingness to ordain married and female clergy. Denominations not faced with this problem have been quick to get rid of their own pedophilic clergy, unlike Catholic bishops, who merely reshuffled the deck, moving priests around, with the hope the problem would go away by itself.

Penn State's "bishops," Joe Paterno, the athletic director, and the vice president, did not act appropriately when given the information; Penn State's "archbishop," the university president, did not act appropriately. In the Catholic Church, there was no external mechanism to correct the errors of its bishops. The State of Pennsylvania did have such a mechanism, its board of regents.

But not all readers agreed that it was fair to use Catholic priests as the go-to comparison for a child sex scandal. Some said that using the Church as a baseline for examining the Penn State case unnecessarily singles Catholicism out for a problem that is not unique to that institution.

Commenters pointed to incidents of sexual abuse against children by teachers at schools and in the Boy Scouts to argue that such offenses – and their cover-ups – can occur in almost any institution that serves children.

JJ in CT
It's not just the Catholic Church. Abuse of children has occurred in all religions. Abuse is a crime of power, and religions certainly hold power over their flocks.

I like the comparison of apples to oranges – must be the same! right? Nobody looks into the school systems, especially New York, for the abuse. Catholics are being persecuted.

Seems you could run a parallel with about any organization that covers up crimes inside its membership... cops, cults, military, PTA, banks, etc etc. Singling out the church, (also guilty as sin) is pretty easy when you could envelope society as whole as a parallel.

Some saw the comparison of the Penn State and Catholic Church cover-ups as an attention-grabbing gimmick to generate more reader interest, much in the same way as some thought the media unnecessarily dragged Joe Paterno into the spotlight of the Penn State story.

Paterno is the big name in the story to bring sensationalism. If he wasn't the big name, his name wouldn't be in the headline even though the part he played in the events was little and legal…The same goes for drawing the parallels that "abound" in the Penn State case and that of the Catholic church. Two very general parallels. Perhaps we need to start investigation of all male dominated-hierarchies that are also revered by millions. But once again the headline gets viewers despite the logic involved.

Other readers focused on the difference in public response to the revelations at Penn State compared to the priest scandals.

One stark difference is that in the Church scandal, we didn't have Catholics and parishioners protesting and rioting to protect the Church officials (cardinals, etc.) that knew about abuses, but didn't do anything about it. At Penn State, we have hundreds and hundreds that are still supportive of a "heroic" coach that also did not do much about what he knew, with some even rioting in support of the sports "hero". If this was a priest in a position of power that failed to act, I don't think the reaction would be the same. Just shows how much we elevate sports to this mythical level where there can be no wrong done in so many fan's eyes.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Catholic Church • Sex abuse • Sports

soundoff (35 Responses)
  1. salah.hossni

    we must stop all these misconuct to live in good more pure community

    October 7, 2013 at 4:26 am |
  2. Demi Lovato Lyrics

    I believe this is one of the most significant information for me. And i'm satisfied reading your article. However should statement on few general issues, The website taste is ideal, the articles is in reality great : D. Good job, cheers

    August 14, 2012 at 10:45 pm |
  3. D.B

    The catholic church is a disgrace and they should be all put in jail for life.

    December 20, 2011 at 2:13 pm |
  4. David McCage

    Yes, The RCC has a to offer. But can the Church help? Let the RRC get its house in order. The Pope can not visit the USA since he has a court in Massachusetts to sit for a deposition. I believe he has an arrest warrant in Ireland waiting for him. Celibacy is unnatural and unGodly. The Cluniac Reform in he 13th continues to damage the RCC. Allow priests and nuns(let's do not forget the celibate church women) to marry (straight and gay). Let the RCC become a church or all people.

    November 16, 2011 at 5:07 am |
  5. E. Ponymous

    All of these men, in all their sordid roles in the Penn State "scandal" are closeted pedophiles. They had their hands between their legs rather than on the phone.

    November 15, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
  6. Passive Aggressive

    Comment 24

    November 14, 2011 at 9:42 pm |
  7. Jenna

    Stop Persecuting Gays,Let them join the church openly.Allow All Priest to marry. AND HARSHER PENALTIES FOR Rapist And Molesters

    November 14, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
    • KeninTexas

      Jenna said "Stop Persecuting Gays,Let them join the church openly.Allow All Priest to marry. AND HARSHER PENALTIES FOR Rapist And Molesters" ... I agree that there should be harsher penalties for the criminals who molest kids. But the church does not persecute gays. It only points out that their activites are in conflict with God's law. As far as priests being allowed to marry, that has nothing to do the molestation problem. You're combining your personal aggenda with the issues hoping to further them.

      November 14, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • HAHAHA

      "It only points out that their activites are in conflict with God's law"

      No it's not, nowhere in the bible does it condemn the saved loving partnership of a gay couple, which is why many churches have opened their doors to gays and lesbians.

      November 14, 2011 at 4:10 pm |
    • Nonimus

      "The church," which one would that be?
      The one that financed the anti Prop 8 campaign or the one that protests funerals to shout "God hates fa.gs" or the one that fights se.x. ed in school or the one that fights for teaching religion in science classes or the one that bombs abortion clinics?

      November 14, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
  8. TruthPrevails

    Has anyone noticed that none of the aliases are from the regular bloggers?

    November 14, 2011 at 3:37 pm |
    • BRC

      I recognize JJ, but you're right other than that. Not a very consistent pool.

      I find it funny that they actually used the comments from someone going by Jesus.

      November 14, 2011 at 3:39 pm |
  9. hippypoet

    i want to see quotes from my posts one day as an article... and does anyone else see how lazy cnn is getting by posting a so called article which is just made up of the bloggers posts on another article – its like staring at a blank piece of paper with a pencil in your hand and then say "i'm drawing a complete blank" Its just not creative at all!

    November 14, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
    • J.W

      I agree. If they can't think of anything to write why don't let some of the bloggers write their own article?

      November 14, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • John Richardson

      There are at least 20 people here of varying beliefs who could write an article better than 90% of the stuff this blog publishes.

      November 14, 2011 at 4:04 pm |
    • hippypoet

      i completely agree.. and there are those with the uptight lets correct the spelling thing so we would even have a better spelt article as well as a more interesting one! This is the third time we have had a tini convo over such ideas... i will start writing the article tonight – any ideas on what it should be about?

      November 14, 2011 at 4:08 pm |
    • J.W

      Yeah that's a good idea. We will just ignore that article on here and just someone will post our own article and we talk about that. lol

      November 14, 2011 at 4:13 pm |
    • John Richardson

      The first article should be on bobsledding. Definitely bobsledding.

      Ok, ok, scratch that. How about you finally do that definitive article on Buddhist influences on Christianity, HP?

      November 14, 2011 at 4:20 pm |
    • hippypoet

      i like where your head is richardson, i do have a lot to say about it but i would need alot of time to get it together in a nice and neat article type format... but i don't think that would be for everyone, just those like us and some off track folks... i wanna do an article that would touch the hearts of every reader! Like that article about the trash kids, there were over 400 people living in a trash dump somewhere in africa!!! that made me cry.

      November 14, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
    • Vern Ackular

      hippypoet, I am frankly skeptical of your writing abilities, but then the bar is set pretty low, considering...

      November 14, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
    • hippypoet

      i agree, so then lets work together for a grand article for the bloggers, something a select group will find horrific, and another will love... it will a great piece to wage argument war! or you could just insult...

      November 14, 2011 at 6:38 pm |
    • Vern Ackular

      An argument war? Insults have their uses, you know, like letting others know that at least one person considers them deserving of such insults.
      Negative feedback can be useful too.
      Arguing in a blog is like wasting time painting over graffiti. If you don't know how to stop the graffiti, it will likely happen again.
      CNN has only posted articles from "published authors", not anonymous people for some silly reason.
      Who's your demographic? What's your message? And how can you think CNN gives a rip when they are part of the problem?

      November 14, 2011 at 7:06 pm |
    • hippypoet

      well i think such a thing as an argument war is possible... each person has there personal views and hold to them, then we pose arguments against topics brought up by the author...I don't think arguing in a blog is pointless, its just another way to express oneself and some of us have the hope that others will think upon our thoughts and post further into the depth of the original idea... and so a conversation can begin thru differing points of view – an argument ! As far as insults having a use, i agree... but when there is only an insult with no real point to the time used but to insult than i think its very sad and speaks volumes on the creature who did the insulting. I am a published author, i have 5 poems published and a book being considered. I am working on 2 plays, 3 books, and a tv series...and i am very well read, i just have little care for grammer and spelling. My demographic is at times, everyone, others adults who are learned, at other times, for kids – thats the book i have. And i think cnn would like to see an article posted by a random blogger, it would be a center piece for cnn and for bloggers to look at those who are on cnn and how those think and feel.

      Negative feedback is still feedback and one can't grow without being told of there faults....being told of the successes are like self-worshipping...something i think more people should do, but with understanding that being high on ones ego is pointless...so being understanding of faults as to grow from them.

      Who's your demographic? What's your message?

      November 14, 2011 at 7:24 pm |
    • hippypoet

      this is one of the first poems i had published – its called "the kiss of the butterfly"

      Like caterpillars of yesterday women come of age
      and so men come to put these beautiful butterflys behind a cage
      there these beauties grow with every new moon
      they hope and dream that true love will come and save them soon
      with the fantasy of a prince who will magically appear and open the door
      to show them love in a world they've never known before
      and now they posses the freedom to do with what they wish
      but all they ever wanted was a p@ssonite kiss

      i wrote this in 2006, your thoughts?

      November 14, 2011 at 7:36 pm |
    • Vern A

      Nice poem. I agree with much of what you say. Arguments can be fun, and all we can hope for is the possible influence that arguments can bring on a person's thinking and opinions.
      I come here to fight instltutionalized response patterns in anyone who comes across my words. Every post is a message.

      As for CNN taking what we have written and using it as an article, I can say with considerable certainty that they have hundreds if not thousands of posts to choose from were they so inclined. I have written article-length posts that could stand alone as articles easily enough, yet CNN does not ever choose from these or any other blog posts here.
      They will sometimes print an article that appeared elsewhere on the web, even blog posts, but not from their own blog even though they own all the rights to them already.
      I guess there's some "influence" that must be brought to bear, as nothing else seems likely to explain this silly state of affairs.

      November 14, 2011 at 9:07 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      hippy, just an FYI, CNN won't post any of your crappy poems or the stupidity of the almighty sun worship. It would also help if you brushed up on some elementary school English. Lastly, if you posted anything of importance for a change, it might help.

      November 14, 2011 at 9:57 pm |
    • hippypoet

      tom tom, i sure hope this is an evil double tom... cause i;m not sure... you have been posting things not so nice lately, so i am lost... rather you are lost to me...later dude.

      November 14, 2011 at 10:04 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You're the one that's lost. Go ahead, write another terrible poem about how downtrodden you are, then post it for everyone to laugh at. Not that everyone is laughing, some people probably feel embarrassed for you after reading that drivel. Your posts are like miniature bad Ben Stiller movies, only worse. And less thought-provoking. Do yourself a favor. Stop now. You'll never get ahead.

      November 14, 2011 at 10:51 pm |
    • hippypoet

      oh how i wish you were atleast creative fake tomtom, at least then we would be able to have a mean yet entertaining convo... but no, you make me sad.

      November 15, 2011 at 9:45 am |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      You were right, hippy. None of those posts were mine. Uncouth Swain or herbie or some other worthless pos is master ba ting.

      November 15, 2011 at 8:14 pm |
  10. The Jackdaw

    This has little to do with the Catholic Church and everything to do with the fact that our society puts athletics, and all those involved in the sports world, on a pedestal, and that its participants are deemed infallible. Athletes need to stop receiving special dispensation in life because they can throw and catch a ball.

    November 14, 2011 at 3:07 pm |
    • claybigsby

      this has nothing to do with the athletes of the school and everything to do with sick people preying on young children. This article was intended to bring to light the similarities between the church and the PSU scandals. The only difference is that PSU only protected this scu..m bag for 10 years while the catholic church has been protecting sc..um bag clergy for centuries. Time to lock up these sick people (everyone, including priests) or give them the death penalty for the things they have done. No one should be protected

      November 15, 2011 at 9:42 am |
  11. Reality

    Failures to follow two phrases of good human conduct, "Do No Harm" and "Call A Cop" define the current "vomit inducing" situation at Penn State, the Boy Scouts of America, the RCC, the Southern Baptist Convention, Seventh Day Adventists, Judaism, the Citadel et al.

    No Christian god or other god(s) required, needed or desired !!!

    November 14, 2011 at 3:01 pm |
  12. J.W

    I can't seem to see the rest of the article where it shows quotes from my posts.

    November 14, 2011 at 2:51 pm |
    • BRC

      You must be a CNN Gold Member to see the full article.

      November 14, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.