My Take: Why is NCAA taking sex abuse more seriously than Catholic Church?
Crews work to remove the Joe Paterno statue at Pennsylvania State University on Sunday.
July 24th, 2012
11:04 AM ET

My Take: Why is NCAA taking sex abuse more seriously than Catholic Church?

Editor's note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

(CNN) - As a resident of the most Catholic state in the nation (Massachusetts), I have watched for more than a decade as the Roman Catholic Church responded to charges of priestly pedophilia with a troubling combination of procrastination and obfuscation.

Far too often, Catholic priests, bishops and cardinals have identified not with abused children but with their “band of brothers,” their fellow priests.

In the case of the sex crimes committed by former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky, officials at Penn State also looked the other way.

They must be credited, however, with commissioning a no-holds-barred investigation by former FBI Director Louis Freeh, whose report (PDF) concluded that Penn State officials engaged in a cover-up that allowed Sandusky’s sexual assaults on children to continue for years.

They should also be applauded for removing a statue of head coach Joe Paterno, who for far too long was revered as a demigod at Penn State.

On Monday, however, the NCAA took the higher road. In a shocking departure from the foot-dragging in Rome, it sided quickly and definitively with the victims.

In a harsh ruling, the NCAA banned the Penn State football team from postseason games for four years and took away 20 football scholarships per year for the same period. It also ruled that the university will not receive its portion of conference bowl revenues for those four years. And it fined the school $60 million.

Equally significantly, it turned all of Penn State's football wins from 1998 forward into losses, stripping Paterno of his claim to fame as the winningest football coach in NCAA history.

These penalties did not include the so-called “death penalty,” which would have shut down the football program for a year or more. But, in truth, this penalty is worse.

The NCAA acted boldly to send a message to collegiate athletic programs elsewhere in the United States that neither the sex crimes of Sandusky nor the “see no evil, hear no evil” response of Paterno and other Penn State officials will be tolerated.

Still, I wonder whether the message will reverberate even further, perhaps even to the hallowed halls of the Vatican.

I was not raised a Catholic, but in my youth I admired the Roman Catholic Church for taking clear stands on the major moral issues of our time - on abortion and war and poverty and capital punishment. I have watched with both sadness and horror as this venerable institution has squandered the moral capital it accrued over centuries in a misguided and un-Christian attempt to wish away a problem that was staring it in its face for decades.

Although the Vatican has undertaken nothing like the independent Freeh report to unearth how its institution lost its way, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops did commission an outside report delivered in May by researchers from John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York. It also weighed a parallel report by lay Catholics of the National Review Board in June.

Neither of these documents read anything like the hard-hitting Freeh report, however, and the Catholic Church did not respond to its crisis with either the speed or the firmness of the NCAA.

In the Gospel of Luke, at the end of the Good Samaritan story, Jesus tells his followers to “go and do likewise.”

That is the NCAA's message to the Vatican.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Opinion • Pennsylvania • Sex abuse • Sports • United States • Vatican

soundoff (1,118 Responses)
  1. what???

    Because the Football brings in more money to the individual schools than a few wayward priest takes away from the overall Catholic Church!

    August 21, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  2. theanxiouschild

    I'm not Catholic, but I've had close friends who are and isn't it part of the culture of Catholics to overlook peoples bad habits? Is it the act of asking for forgiveness in such a ritualized fashion that deludes the Catholic into believing that they can continue to sin again and again and get away with it? Well fortunately for us this is not the way of our law and not the way of the NCAA.

    August 20, 2012 at 10:13 pm |
  3. Moses

    You really need to ask this question? Because the Catholic Church has been aiding and abetting the degenerates in its midst for centuries. Heck, it's a veritable pedophile training acadamy!

    August 19, 2012 at 10:55 am |
  4. chief

    Gerald is really Gerald Hunt, he is a fat 53 year old glasses wearing unmarried person who calls himself a "militant catholic"..... he is also the same person as catholiclam, he is also the one called thessalonian..... he is bigot toward woman and most likely a priest, or a ped, or both.... his constant denial of the ped problem with the church and his violent words toward my relatives have made me decide to abandon "chief"..... he is sick and delusional and "chief" takes the path into the woods where there is sanity.... hey ped.... write all you want on here... im not reading it.... you have my email address

    August 13, 2012 at 5:51 pm |
    • chief

      get a good look at him.... i would keep my kids safe....

      August 13, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • gerald

      Chief is a liar and a fascist bigot who hates catholicism and Catholics. He is a coward who hides behind keyboards spewing vile insults at people until they respond in kind. I put up with his assinine crap for over 6 months. He is what he is. Liar, coward, bigot, you name it.

      August 14, 2012 at 10:49 am |
    • gerald

      "you have my email address"
      Funny – chief's email address is preistgerald@ymail.com. Not my address...HIS. So he is admiting in the name of it that he is a priest who's name is gerald. How ironic.

      August 14, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • gerald

      I've NEVER denied the ped problem in the Church you lying son of a b.itch. What does that make your mommy coward.

      August 14, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • gerald

      Chief takes the path in to the woods, dragging a 12 year old boy you mean.

      August 14, 2012 at 10:54 am |
    • chief

      gerald L hunt .... self proclaimed "church militant" known by many other for his dogmatic, unrelenting defense of the catholic church and th peds it hides..... while he calls himself catholic and Godly beyonfd measure, he finds the time to make pot shot attempts to bear false wintess against people i know.... email him at geraldh@usfamily.net or you might find him at the Vianney Renewal Center in Dittmer, Missouri .... btw i dont spew remarks to all....... only to you ped priest protector.... you should be a super hero..... a catholic bible in one hand, a small boy in the other, and of course wearing a dress with a collar.... and dont forget that creeper look on the heros face....... try the raost beef im here all week..... actually this time, i am gone for good.... all you people can deal with him now.......

      August 14, 2012 at 11:26 am |
    • gerald

      More hiding behind the keyboard of obscurity spewing insults like the cowardly ah.ole you are. Lies and distortions. You won't back up your insults you venemous maggot of a woman. You festering pustule of an old fa.rting cow crap eating wife beating redneck prost.itute servicing John boy who cleans toilets for a living at the local mission.

      August 14, 2012 at 12:13 pm |
    • chief

      is it a lie that you call yourself a "church militant"? is it a lie that youve threatened me physically? is it a lie that you bear false witness about those associated with me?

      so is it a lie then that your a priest or a ped or something close based on your viewpoint..... i dont hide behind another login like catholiclown or thessalonian..... the fact is that your pathetic and use multiple logins to make it look like more that one complete moron thinks like you do..... you ever notice that NO ONE backs you up? HA ped protector that you are....

      August 14, 2012 at 12:58 pm |
    • gerald

      produce the quote where I physically threatened you chieftonton or is it chief or is it priestgerald from YOUR email address. Any moron would know that you can't always get the same name on different websites when you sign up. But you of course don't because you are an imblicile, not a moron. My prefered handle is thessalonian. It is not available here. At least I use my first name too. You as coward chief do not. Noone backs me? Really? Man are you stupid. I've had plenty of kudos on here. Not you.

      August 14, 2012 at 1:47 pm |
    • gerald

      You won't even defend those associated with me. All you do is whine and wimper that I'm being mean. Look in the mirror you warthog faced snot eating vermon.

      August 14, 2012 at 1:49 pm |
    • gerald

      By the way if you are such a man and you ha.te peds so much and you think I am one I would think you would try to meet me and back your bull s h .i t up. But you won't because you are a lying tampon sniffing coward.

      August 14, 2012 at 2:42 pm |
    • gerald

      I miss chiefy 🙁

      August 16, 2012 at 4:56 pm |
  5. Squeezebox

    You're asking the wrong question. The correct question is why is the NCAA taking child abuse more seriously than Penn State did? Pedo's will infiltrate any organization they can, whether it be a church (including the Protestants. Haven't you heard that "elders can do no wrong"?), the boy scouts, or the public schools. Instead of covering for one, Penn State should have booted his ax so fast that his head would still be spinning today.

    August 13, 2012 at 12:49 pm |
  6. Sylar

    Being an Atheist makes me a better person then most. Why might you ask? I hold doors open for everyone, I help my neighbors with snow removal, changing flat tires, finding their lost pets etc. I do this not to get into heaven, I do this because I feel its the right thing to do in my heart. If your only motivation to do good is to get into heaven, you are selfish. I'm a little selfish though. I do like getting a thanks from the people I help.

    August 11, 2012 at 12:40 pm |
    • chief

      as i heard once.... if you do what you do to avoid hell.... your there already

      August 12, 2012 at 7:45 am |
  7. Sylar

    Its because the NCAA cares about children. Thats the difference.

    August 11, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
  8. Club68

    I know this has been a big debate, but the NCAA is really not punishing anyone but the fans and players. The coaches are stil making their big money and even Sandusky, Paterno's family and former president Spanier and athletic director Curley are still receiving some sort of payment from PSU either through a pension or in Curley and Spanier's case they are still on the payroll and I can guarantee that the money from this fine will not be taken from them...because the NCAA did not demand it and they really don't seem like they want to punish those actually responsible.

    August 10, 2012 at 9:45 am |
  9. dominiquerc94

    Even though I do enjoy college football and imagine the hell the Penn State faculty, players, and fans are going through I have to stand up and applaud what the NCAA did. Not only did they hopefully set a precedent in their penalties for failing to follow the rules, but boy did they beat the Penn State program down to the ground and threatened them to never do something like this cruelty again. For me, their message was clear and simple, "the law of the land is ALWAYS more important than any sport, show, or any type of entertainment no matter how famous or adored the perpetrator is. Like Steve says I do think the Catholic Church can learn one or two tricks from the NCAA.

    August 6, 2012 at 4:31 am |
  10. B Schmitt

    Hello? The Catholic Church is not a university! It's has been around for thousands of years, and started by St. Peter (a deciple of Jesus). Obviously this article doesn't know what the Church is! CNN you should do your research on the history of the Catholic Church.

    August 1, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
  11. Jay Nelson

    Efforts have been made to look into the Church like the Louis Freeh Penn State investigation. In 2003, Frank Keating, a former FBI agent and prosecutor was put in charge of the National Review Board by the Catholic bishops. His investigation went precisely nowhere, being mysteriously blocked, and he was forced to resign because he dared to publicly compare the Roman Catholic hierarchy to the Cosa Nostra. The Church has long proven it cannot reform itself; only the State has the power to reign it in. Unfortunately for victims, one's about as useless as the other.

    August 1, 2012 at 1:08 pm |
  12. Troy Montana

    I appreciate Stephen Prothero's good intentions in his article but I am miffed by his belief that the Roman Catholic papacy has "moral capital it accrued over centuries." I would encourage Mr. Prothero to research the history of the papacy from 538A.D. onward from a historically protestant perspective. (Not the modern Protestants, they've lost the perspective of their forefathers). Countless babies born to nuns were sacrificed throughout history in order to keep up the papacy's “holy” image. It mercilessly tortured and slaughtered literally millions of other Christians (“heretics”) and even dared to ban lay people from owning or reading the Bible in their own language on pain of death. The papacy is saturated with countless pagan rituals, symbols and dogmas that have absolutely nothing to do with Christianity and in fact are opposed to it.

    The only reason the papacy doesn't use coercion in western countries today like it did for more than a thousand years is because it can't at the present time get away with it. But its aims and principles have not changed. It still wants religious and political hegemony on a global scale. That is its goal and that is why it seeks to cover up and downplay its crimes no matter how many innocent children get hurt in the process.

    July 31, 2012 at 9:57 pm |
    • SRA

      I don't think he's saying that this 'moral capital' is genuine, only that it is perceived moral capital (in other words a cultivated reputation).

      August 9, 2012 at 4:02 pm |
  13. kjrussell

    Maybe the reason it was taken more seriously by the NCAA is because those investigating were outside Penn State University. The RCC investigated itself, destroyed proof, and made everyone involved swear to protect the church from everyone else.

    July 31, 2012 at 1:51 pm |
  14. chief

    hey gerald.... are you and catholicclown the same ped protector?

    July 29, 2012 at 11:16 pm |
    • gerald

      Hey chief, it must be pretty good living off your wife's nite job. How many of your kids are actually yours? Doesn't really matter does it. As long as you can sit back in the easy chair while the working girl goes out.

      August 8, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • chief

      does the name larson mean anything to you ped?

      August 9, 2012 at 11:52 am |
    • gerald

      Who are you addressing? Your brother? Father? Are they peds? No larson doesn't ring a bell. Sorry. Is it your last name? Does it somehow make you important? Larsons can be stupid too. So that explains it. Hey I think I saw one of your kids on a poster at the post office.

      August 9, 2012 at 1:11 pm |
    • gerald

      Hey chief, any of your daughters kids yours? Might want to go on the maury povich show and find out.

      August 9, 2012 at 1:16 pm |
    • gerald

      Hmmmm.... Larson and Windows... might have to check that out. Did a search on larson and peds. There's alot of articles about that name and that "hobby".

      August 9, 2012 at 1:17 pm |
    • chief

      gerald.... man you are twisted right now.... just because i am not a fan of peds or those that protect them, you invoke the catholic manner of demeaning me by attacking my family..... get some help dude

      August 10, 2012 at 12:12 pm |
    • chief

      hey gerald, i was going to come over and go to mass with you but there are 50 catholic churches in you area...... what a howl..... i cant imagine how many priests there are there..... are any of these you ?
      bishop accountability.org/member/psearch.jsp

      August 10, 2012 at 12:21 pm |
    • gerald

      No imbicile. It has nothing to do with your decrying child abuse and wanting peds punished. I completely and wholeheartedly agree with that much as you have lied and said I do not. It is because of your belittling me, lying about me, distorting what I have said, insulting me, and generally being an a s s hole. I put up with it for a long time. Now I hear your daughter is a real s l u t and has every ve ne rial disease in the book. Your wife too. Being a ho ok er and all. You living off the money she makes. And your mom...well you know because you watcher her growing up. Now that's a riot.

      August 10, 2012 at 5:11 pm |
    • gerald

      Chief still haven't told me where you live. Coward that you are. More smart a s s comments that you can't back up because you are a feeble old man who sits in his sh it all day long till your wife comes home and cleans you up. I heard your son has scars because you grabbed his weenie when he was under 12.

      August 10, 2012 at 5:14 pm |
    • chief

      hey gerald.... im coming over to st paul, i was thinking about coming to mass and meet you. .... which of the 50 churches is it?
      i imagine it would be hard to identify you from all the other priests ... i guess i would look for the one surrounded by boys..... right sandusky

      August 10, 2012 at 7:42 pm |
    • chief

      hey gerald ... i imagine your about 40-45 overweight, glasses with a stupid look on your face like the priest in the picture.... the funny thing is i am right.... you can reach me at priestgerald@ymail.com

      August 10, 2012 at 7:50 pm |
    • gerald

      Chief, I hear your daughter has every venerial disease known to man.

      August 11, 2012 at 9:30 am |
    • gerald

      So Chief, you have an email "priestgerald"? How coincidental that we have the same first name and you really are a priest. Life is funny, isn't it. I heard your daughter was out all night with the next charles manson last night.

      August 11, 2012 at 9:34 am |
    • gerald

      The coward chief gives me a phoney email to reach him. That just proves he is more of a coward. Keep it up. You do that name chief real proud. The indians would shoot you.

      August 11, 2012 at 9:35 am |
    • chief

      actually thats a real email address..... try it priest..... what church .... im coming to st paul.... i will buy you a coffee

      August 11, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
    • chief

      btw,,,, catholics murdered about 10 million kids in canada

      August 11, 2012 at 9:28 pm |
    • gerald

      Catholics murdered 10 million kids in Canada? Man are you wacked.

      August 13, 2012 at 11:22 am |
    • gerald

      If it is a real address then you just singed up for it. It didn't work when I tried it Friday (Sat?). Tried it again.

      August 13, 2012 at 2:06 pm |
    • chief


      August 13, 2012 at 2:14 pm |
    • chief

      hey gerald.... why is it you always take shots at ones mother or daughters..... are you sicker than i imagine or some jesuit offshoot thats a eunich and mad becasue of it..... what right do you have representing Christ to make such comments...... just because your a ped or wanta be ped doesnt give the the catholic right to be like that or does it priest? .... google this .... catholic canada children murdered

      August 13, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • gerald

      There is no sicker bast.ard on the web then you. And yes you are a bas.tard. That says something about your mom. BTW I've moved to Grand Forks recently. Might come down to have that coffee though.

      August 13, 2012 at 4:55 pm |
    • chief

      thank you for your kind words catholic brother..... you are a fat blob just like that priest named lynn.... you just about 15 years younger, with that ped look, and glasses, right ped? so you really dont live where you said? your full of it....

      August 13, 2012 at 4:59 pm |
    • gerald

      "10 million kids in canada"

      Even if ths Kevin Annet is right, he says 50-100,000. Where do you get 10 million.

      August 13, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • chief

      so gerald ... why did you move? did all the parents in your building realize what you are and make you move or is it on of those offender registration things? why did you move oh catholic brother?

      August 13, 2012 at 5:00 pm |
    • chief

      i had one too many zeros.... i guess since its only 100,000 it doesnt matter with your catholic math....

      August 13, 2012 at 5:03 pm |
    • chief

      hey gerald.... does it make you more christian or a better catholic by defaming another mans relatives? i havent done that? what part of the catachism is that in? or is that just some militant catholic taliban mentaility you sport?

      August 13, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
    • chief

      btw.... where i live. ..... i was afraid to say it because its right up your alley but 2 words .... go packers..... and i mean football not what your thinking

      August 13, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • gerald

      Common coward d u m s. h i t – Pr.. i c k. I sent you an email. Answer it you pu.ss faced son of a hoo.ker.

      August 13, 2012 at 5:21 pm |
    • gerald

      And I know you are afraid to say it chicken s h.. i t. That's what I've been saying mr. c r a..p in your pants all day and let the wife clean it up after she has serviced 10 men that day.

      August 13, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • chief

      next time you send something to that email address, put in a right address and a phone number.... i was coming to st paul for coffee....

      August 13, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
    • chief

      that ped protector at tha vatican wouldnt be proud of your comments about people you dont know.... arent you the false witness guy? your a fake and fraud hiding behind a religion to disquise your pathetic self

      August 13, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • gerald

      Your inability to do simple math shows what a moron you are. 100,000, 10 million, what's the difference you say. The difference is you wouldn't know the truth if it kicked you in your dumb a..ss and will believe any conspiracy theory you come acrross it if fits your bigotry. Now a s s f a ce dead skunk breath respond to my email shi...t for brains.

      August 13, 2012 at 5:28 pm |
    • gerald

      Why won't you respond to the email I sent chiefy. Common chicken mommy's boy.

      August 13, 2012 at 5:30 pm |
    • gerald

      I know you and that's all that matters. You are satan's spawn. Which says alot about your mother too.

      August 13, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • chief

      did you becoming catholic make you talk about people you dont know in such horrible ways? or are you just a sick fat lonely man who hides behind his religion to make himself feel superior? like a i said next time you send something to that email address, put in a right address and a phone number.... i was coming to st paul for coffee....

      August 13, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • gerald

      No chief. My religion hasn't made me this way. You being a complete as.ss for about a year did. You've flapped your mouth long enough. Where should we meet for that coffee. Send me that date and time. You supposedly have my email.

      August 13, 2012 at 5:40 pm |
    • gerald

      And nothing I have said is more horrible than calling someone a ped you sick b a s.tard moron retard.

      August 13, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
    • gerald

      I sent you an email. Send me a response so I know you are there sh i t for brains.

      August 13, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
    • gerald

      2211 N 13th St. is all you need to know.

      August 13, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
    • gerald

      What's your phone number man who sleeps with his mommy.

      August 13, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • chief

      i got your email........... wasnt worth responding.... phone number?

      August 13, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
    • gerald

      The coward strikes again. Give me your phone number first.

      August 13, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
    • gerald

      I am done insulting you. You won't defend the honor of your children, wife, father or even your mother. You are truly a coward of the worst kind. A pathetic sniffeling wimp of a man incapble of backing his own insults up. Hiding behind a keyboard spewing the worst kind of vile crap. Accusing me of being a ped. Well I outdid you to see if you were really a coward and you are. All can see. To all I am sorry for the vile tirade I have gone into against this lothsome creature who calls himself chief, bringing dihonor to something honorable and brave, an indian chief. He is no more a chief than a back alley cur dog is. He will spend the rest of his days knowing what he is.

      August 13, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
    • chief

      hey gerald you ped.... if not fighting over words to defend comments that come from a delusional self proclaimed church militant make me a coward.... then so be it... i would be more of a fool to deal with some double digit iq catholic who thinks he is a jesuit ...... and what about comments i made about your wife and kids? ... i made none because you have none.... just keep bouncing from town to town, from ID to ID and keep away from kids.....

      August 13, 2012 at 8:51 pm |
    • gerald

      See you in hell low life.

      August 14, 2012 at 8:19 am |
    • gerald

      easy to flap your mouth behind a keyboard. I have 8 kids you moron coward pathetic piece of human sh.it. Sorry I lied when I said I wouldn't insult you any more.

      August 14, 2012 at 8:21 am |
    • chief

      8 kids.... whos your wife helen keller? must be ... your the mini-me of priest lynn.....

      August 14, 2012 at 8:34 am |
    • gerald

      So much for not taking a shot at my family.

      August 17, 2012 at 11:32 am |
  15. Hardy

    Hey Jesus, what does your comment have to do with anything? Nobody's talking about 19th century prayer studies. IDIOT.

    July 28, 2012 at 8:06 am |
  16. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    July 26, 2012 at 7:56 pm |
    • Jesus

      Prayer does not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!|

      July 27, 2012 at 2:31 pm |
    • Sylar

      Ha ha ha. That was a joke right? You are right though. My cat is distraught because of Atheism. He just can't wrap his mind around the fact that there might not be a God.

      August 11, 2012 at 12:27 pm |
    • Sylar

      You better never take anything for a headache or go to the hospital. If you have a headache, its because God wants you to and taking anything for that headache is going against Gods will.

      August 11, 2012 at 12:29 pm |
    • beall

      As an Atheist I have to agree with you that prayer can change things-It can change the person that prays as many forms of meditation can,But I donot agree that just prayer can influence the actions of others.The statement "prayer changes things"implies that all that needs to be done is to pray-If that were the case all that would have needed to be done to accomplish the goal of the Crusades was to pray-And as you know that was not the route the Church took.And it wasn't to spread the word of Atheism-It wasn't to spread the word of God either-for that matter.

      August 13, 2012 at 2:07 pm |
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