Dan Shea, the Man Who Sued the Pope, Sounds Off on Joe Paterno

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Penn State and the Catholic Church
Bella figura can mean many things, but at its core is presentation...how one looks, how one comports oneself, how one makes the best possible impression in all things. That such a concept is hardwired into the Italian psyche is no surprise: what else could be expected from a country that's been creating beauty for centuries? Beauty is revered in Italy, whether expressed grandly through art and architecture, or more simply by the perfect cut of a suit.
-- EyeItalia.com

For decades those Penn State Nittany Lions sure looked good in those perfect suits. Few Italian artists ever pieced together a life's work that moved more people than Joe Paterno's football program.

In a rotten sport built on a lie -- that the game is all about "student-athletes" and not fattening the bottom lines of massive institutions on the backs of free labor -- Joe Paterno's program stood aloofly apart. JoePa's boys were not the thugs at Miami or Oklahoma, the semi-pros at USC and SMU, or the blunted-out stoners at UT.

Paterno once told a reporter that he couldn't retire and leave the sport to sleazebags like Barry Switzer, Jackie Sherill and Bobby Bowden. He and he alone stood as a paragon. His kids mostly stayed out of trouble. They made their grades. They graduated, and most importantly of all, they did all that and won conference titles and national championships.

The Nittany Lions were the good guys. Their home was called Happy Valley, and they even wore white. Unless your judgment was clouded by regional rivalry, in a game that would feature Penn State against some other random team, most college football fans rooted for Penn State. The stadium looked majestic in the gloaming of November coal-country evenings. The team looked cool in their blinding white jerseys and helmets and throwback black cleats.

And there was JoePa on the sidelines in his tie and tinted glasses, as retro today as Tom Landry was in his Fedora in the 1980s. It was feel-good Americana in action, big-time college football's Norman Rockwell portrait these last 40 years.

And now it looks as though the whole thing has been undermined and all-but-entirely discredited by an immense sin of staggering, knee-buckling, soul-vomiting proportions. It's hard not to draw comparisons between what has happened in Happy Valley and the sexual abuse scandals that have swirled around the Vatican these past few years.

Both institutions serve as religions, one literal, the other figurative but no less potent and even sacred to its initiates. Both the Holy Roman Church and Penn State were extremely adept at magnificent pageantry.

But tragically, when a snake appeared in their gardens, the revered leaders of both institutions chose not to cut off its head, but instead to bury it with straw and tell it to stop biting people.

Local attorney Dan Shea sees all those analogues. "In these highly ritualistic environments, there's a suspension of belief that goes on. Paterno was this mythic figure and people suspend good judgment in these kinds of situations. The Church is exhibit A."

Shea says that we saw in the years-long cover-up resulted from the "same emotionally/culturally-driven conduct that drives the [Roman Catholic] bishops."

A few years ago, Shea, a former Catholic deacon who trained in part at the University of Louvain, attempted to put Pope Benedict XVI in the dock in federal court here in Houston based on his alleged role in covering up a scandal. (We covered those efforts here, in "The Man Who Sued the Pope." )

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Dan Shea sees parallels
"It's all about protecting the institution, and bella figura, keeping a good face on everything, don't make any waves," Shea continues. "That's the kind of culture you have up there in Happy Valley. Well, that Board of Trustees didn't run with bella figura, did they?" he continues, a smile audible in his voice over the phone.

Shea is immensely heartened by one key difference between Penn State and the Roman Catholic Church. Until last night, both institutions were headed by men who believed themselves to be infallible, immune to the slings and arrows of all below them, no matter how righteous the cause of those doing the slinging. Both were revered and thought, as Shea puts it, that they would "only exit the scene on their own terms or with death."

No such luck, JoePa. You are not the Pope of Happy Valley.

To Shea, not even the Pope should be the Pope. To him, if any shred of decency can be salvaged from this monstrous affair, it is this: Paterno's unceremonious dismissal should make apparent the benefits of living in a civil society.

"Nobody can fire Benedict, but they can sure as shit fire JoePa," Shea says. "Everybody in our civil system and our criminal jurisprudence is accountable somehow, some way. JoePa is accountable to the president, but the president is not the boss either, he's accountable to the Board of Trustees, and I'm sure the Board of Trustees is appointed by the governor, and the governor's elected by the people. So ultimately we're always answerable to the commonweal, one way or the other. There's some circuit to get you there."


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27 comments
NancyF Drew
NancyF Drew

What a horrifying thing to be brainwashed from birth to worship a man....~shudder~

NancyF Drew
NancyF Drew

Clearly that flesh and blood man called 'pope', thinks he is a 'god'. Is he a Nephilim? I'm really wondering...

Diy Catholic
Diy Catholic

All teachers do is pass exams and get certified by the state they are in.  There is no morality included in the mix and all teachers truly have to do is abide by state and federal laws.  Otherwise, their lifestyle is their business.

On the other hand, the priests are supposed to be ordained by the Holy Spirit.  One would think this would actually have some effect on how they behave, but time after time, it doesn't.

Comparing a secular, government position to one that supposedly bestowed by God, is beyond comparing apples to oranges---it is the reason that the Masses are filled with mainly old people and once they are gone, the churches will be empty as well.

Read "Render unto Rome" by Jason Berry.  While the sex abuse scandals are egregious, the scandalous ways the faithful have their money taken and spent on luxuries for the hierarchy, indicates a huge disconnect between their lifestyles and their supposed "mission" here on earth.  It is a terrible thing our Church's clergy has done----and the "millstone around the neck and being thrown into the sea" should only be the start for them.

any catholic planet earth
any catholic planet earth

"Nobody cares what you think". and "What are you going to do about it".  These are things a priest said to me. If it were true that nobody cares what one (in this case I ) thinks he would not have said it. / The priestly cast from seminarian to the Bishop of Rome is taught that they and they alone act in the person of God on earth. Their term, as a deacon you well know is," en persona Christi", in English, "In the person of Christ", or "alter Christi", another Christ. They are at all times, in all ways to be shown the respect a Christian would grant to God. / In this particular way,the guy from the Catholic League is simply being a good Catholic. We as practicing Catholics have a right to a Mass within the rubrics (which we might or might not get). Other than that one right we are to; sit down, shut up, pray, pay and obey. Oh, and,"Do whatever, He, tells you".  He, naturally IS, the ordained minister on hand. / There is no way for a parent or teacher or lay minister, even a board member of the abuse prevention council or even another ordained minister who cares, to get a, 'wolf in sheep's clothing'', removed from the among the sheep.  Indeed the predator is more likely to get promoted than the ewes (mothers) or lambs (children) are to receive that justice which is merciful and brings peace./ As for the ,"everybody else is doing it", excuse, it is true, all fall short.  But nobody else welds the power these guys ( apostles of THE Church ) do.  The powers of the Secrets of The Holy Office. These are the gifts we protect even at the expense of the dignity of the human person. Thus have we exalted the gifts above the Gift Giver. 

Tony de New York
Tony de New York

SarahTX2, Here the source:

SECRET SHAME OF OUR SCHOOLS: SEXUAL ABUSE OF STUDENTS RUNS RAMPANTRead more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/i...

===================================================================

 Educator Sexual Misconduct:

ASynthesis of Existing Literature

http://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/re...

=============================================SECRET SHAME OF OUR SCHOOLS: SEXUALABUSE OF STUDENTS RUNS RAMPANT

DOUGLASMONTERO

Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/i..."Sexual Victimization in Juvenile Facilities Reported byYouth”SECRET SHAME OF OUR SCHOOLS: SEXUALABUSE OF STUDENTS RUNS RAMPANT

DOUGLASMONTERO

Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/i..."Sexual Victimization in Juvenile Facilities Reported byYouth”

ASynthesis of Existing Literature

http://www2.ed.gov/rschstat/re... SHAME OF OUR SCHOOLS: SEXUALABUSE OF STUDENTS RUNS RAMPANT

DOUGLASMONTERO

Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/i..."Sexual Victimization in Juvenile Facilities Reported byYouth”

DOUGLASMONTERO

Read more: http://www.nypost.com/p/news/i..."Sexual Victimization in Juvenile Facilities Reported byYouth”

http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/conte...

Tony de New York
Tony de New York

This is an ANTI-CATHOLIC article, disguise about sport.

SHAME!!

DaveB
DaveB

As for the Anglicans, even the Archbishop of Canterbury has a boss. "A lady is in charge and her name is Elizabeth," Shea says. "She can recall the Archbishop whenever she wants. The more I think about it, Henry VIII was right."And the Queen is accountable to?  Nevermind.  Nice try, Dan.  I'm sure Dan's real beef with the Catholic Church were its policies prohibiting women priests, contraception, etc.

Dan's lawsuit against the Pope went nowhere, by the way, since it had no basis in reality.

trapblock
trapblock

Studies show a student in the public school system is 100 times more likely to be sexually assaulted than in church... where is the outrage there? Should we shut down the school system?

CER1940
CER1940

Good article and I agree with Mr. Shea.  The Sexual Abuse of children problem is not the only chink in the pope's and the church's armor... It may be the most obvious today.  I walked away years ago because walking away is the only option given until there are structural changes in the RCC.  The Kool Aid is very addictive when you have been raised from youth in the RCC and trained thru their schools but like any addiction it can be licked if one is determined. 

I wondered how many Penn State students who rioted last night are ashamed of their action today.  I am sure many parents and alumni were aghast at what occurred. 

Craig
Craig

Boomer Sooner

Darkstar83642
Darkstar83642

Prove to me about the way money is spent on in the church... The church does more for the poor than any other church on this earth

John Nova Lomax
John Nova Lomax

The Queen is accountable to Parliament, which is accountable to the British people.  

STANLEYJEZIOR
STANLEYJEZIOR

SORRY CHARLIE,BUT  THE CATHOLIC ABUSE IS FIRST WRITTEN OF ABOUT THE YEAR350.  NO PUBLIC SCHOOLS THEN . THERE IS NO DEFENSE FOR THE CATHOLIC CHURCH!!!!!!

John Nova Lomax
John Nova Lomax

Pedophiles are everywhere. The thing that troubles me the most about those in the Church is the pattern of concealing them and covering up their sins. And yeah, source please.

SarahTX2
SarahTX2

Source please.  But if it's the Catholic League, don't bother.

H_e_x
H_e_x

Oh wait, I found the problem. You didn't quote the New York Post (New York's paper of record, fyi) enough.

H_e_x
H_e_x

There you go, injecting facts into the discussion. It's not as if the English had a civil war over power or anything.

mference
mference

PRESS RELEASEFor more information, contact:Mike Ference412-233-5491mike@ferencemarketing.com The Last Call: Second Protest Announced Pittsburgh, PA — November 10, 2011 — On December 5, 2011, well-known local activist Mike Ference will stage the second in a series of “Last Call” protests targeting local institutions and individuals tied to cases involving the abuse of children and young adults. The protest will take place at 10:00 AM in front of the Allegheny County Detectives Bureau in Dormont. Ference is targeting the bureau for failing to take action after he presented detailed information about alleged clergy sex abuse, cover-ups and other criminal behavior to them several years ago. “Detectives Dennis Logan and Keith Andrews basically blew me off. They weren’t the least bit interested in asking me any questions or following up on anything,” Ference says.  He adds that Assistant District Attorney Laura Ditka also showed little interest, although she did help him secure the police report on the attempted murder of his son in 1989 — the event that inspired him to begin his work as an activist. Ference says he had been unable to obtain the report directly from the McKeesport Police Department, and that then-McKeesport Mayor Jim Brewster remained reluctant to release the files, even though they are considered public record. Ference initially began investigating the attempted murder of his son because he felt the case had been botched and prematurely closed by the McKeesport police. William Scully, then Public Safety Director in Clairton, gave Ference notes on the case and encouraged him to continue investigating on his own. A central issue was whether the shooter had been sexually abused and encouraged to study the occult by a local Catholic priest. In more than two decades of work since then, Ference has uncovered and written about numerous related tales of child sexual abuse and cover-ups in the region. “What has happened in the Mon Valley is every bit as disturbing as Cardinal Bernard Law’s cover-up in the Boston Archdiocese and the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse case unfolding at Penn State,” Ference says. “What I’ve found again and again during my investigations is that such abuse can’t happen without various community stakeholders ‘looking the other way.’ My Last Call protests are an effort to expose some of the individuals and institutions we need to hold responsible.” Ference’s December 5 protest will concentrate on one specific report of clergy sex abuse, cover-up, and possible intimidation by persons associated with the Pittsburgh Diocese. Based on an interview and email exchanges with the alleged victim, telephone conversations with the victim’s parents and interviews with other individuals in community, Ference summarizes the case as follows:            In 1988, former Catholic priest John Wellinger fed drugs and alcohol to an 18-year-old college student from the University of Pittsburgh at the student’s apartment. According to the victim, Wellinger also gave him a “Mickey” which knocked him out for several hours. Upon waking, the youth called 911, ran down his apartment steps and met the Pittsburgh EMS squad at the bottom. The EMS took him to the emergency room of Presbyterian University Hospital, now part of University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. The young man was given a bed. Wellinger followed him to the hospital and into his room. The victim asked Wellinger to get his nurse. When the nurse entered the room, the young man informed the nurse that Wellinger was the person who harmed him. The nurse ushered Wellinger out. The parents of the victim were summoned, but the victim claims that he was never seen or treated by a doctor and that the police were not called. Ference also quotes from emails sent to him by the alleged victim: “My dad did report Wellinger's behavior. Did you forget the excommunication letter he received from the diocese that I told you about? Did you forget about my dad being forced off the rectory grounds by West Mifflin police? Or maybe you forgot that I told the nurse in the ER that night that a priest did this to me. Or maybe you forgot how my family was ostracized from the neighborhood. We weren’t quiet, Mike. We were ignored. Just like you and everyone else. I was abused.” In correspondence with Rita Flaherty from the Pittsburgh Diocese, Ference has been told that the Diocese is not aware of any allegations concerning this individual. In an email dated November 9, 2011, Flaherty writes: “If someone has come to you with information that they have been abused, please have them contact me directly at 412-456-3060 or through our hotline number 1-888-808-1235. We would want to meet with that person and hear their story first hand and see what assistance we could provide to them. After dealing with the person directly, we follow our policies of reporting any alleged abuse involving a minor (no matter how old the alleged victim is now) to the appropriate civil authorities in the area where the abuse allegedly occurred. It is certainly my desire to assist any victim of abuse with their healing to the best of my ability.” Ference says this email represents a positive change from the “deny, stonewall, cover-up and hush up” tactics that he has found to be common in cases involving clergy. However, he also feels the time for patience and gradual change is long past. “For two decades I have called on certain institutions and individuals to come forward and take responsibility for their roles — active or passive — in child sex abuse,” he explains. “This is the last call — those who don’t do the right thing will be ‘outted’ at a series of protests where I will publicize incriminating details from my 22-year investigation. Abusers who have harmed children and those who knowingly covered up the crimes will be named — I want everyone in our community to know who the bad guys are.”  Additional protests are in the planning stage. Ference says UPMC Hospital in Oakland is a likely site because of its ties to the clerical abuse case discussed above. He is also considering the police departments and municipal buildings of McKeesport, Clairton, and West Mifflin, due to their involvement in the mishandled investigation of the attempted murder of his son. District Attorney Stephen Zappala’s office and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette were also mentioned as stakeholders who have been more interested in protecting the church hierarchy than punishing abusers and defending children. Ference says, “apparently in western PA the rules to protect children do not apply.” For more information on the December 5 protest or other upcoming events, call Mike Ference at 412-233-5491, or email mike@ferencemarketing.com.  

Ronvanwegen
Ronvanwegen

Charol Shakeshaft is a Hofstra University professor noted for her studies on school staff sexually abusing students...

According to the 2004 study “the most accurate data available at this time” indicates that “nearly 9.6 percent of students are targets of educator sexual misconduct sometime during their school career.”

“The sexual and physical abuse of children and young people is a global plague” in which Catholic priests constitute only a small minority of perpetrators.

Tony de New York
Tony de New York

'So why do you choose to ignore the abuse in the church?'U don't make sense! I have NEVER ignore abuse by priest, as far i am concern the priest that committed the abuses and the bishop that cover up and help them should be in JAIL!

Sexual abuse is IGNORE when is not the catholic church, just read this article.

At Penn State’s stadium, profanity, scorn greet one father’s protesthttp://www.washingtontimes.com...

H_e_x
H_e_x

So why do you choose to ignore the abuse in the church? Just because people talk about the rampant, and it is rampant, abuse by Catholic priests does not mean they ignore abuse elsewhere. That kind of crap is a straight up logical fallacy that any highschooler could recognize.

Tony de New York
Tony de New York

"I was raised Roman Catholic"

So??

"Fuck the church and their pedophile hiding ways."Your HATE against us catholic does NOT help stop sexual molestation.

Sexual predator are EVERYWHERE, universities, schools, families churches etc.

H_e_x
H_e_x

Link doesn't work.And I was raised Roman Catholic. Fuck the church and their pedophile hiding ways.

cdisco
cdisco

Not replying to myself here, but noting my reply should have been placed under trapblock's post.

As to Ronvanwegen's post, Shakeshaft's research is often cited in opposition to church statistics by mixing apples and oranges. There are three million public school teachers in the US compared to 45,000 priests, and you quote her percent of students. There is no obvious way to quantify the number of children reached by Catholic priests through church membership in the community, in addition to Catholic schools and other organizations. Church stats have instead focused on the percent of accused priests, which is all you can reasonably measure.

Another major difference is that public school records are available to the public, while church records are kept tightly secret, requiring brave survivors to sue endlessly in court for document releases. The accountability models in government versus church are night and day.

Saying others are worse is a common way of excusing and minimizing abuse by clergy, while ignoring the whole religious dynamic that places priests next to God. All abuse is horrific.

cdisco
cdisco

The statistic cited by trapblock is invalid, despite being made byArchbishop Timothy Dolan on his blog.Dolan observed. “In my home town of New YorkCity alone, experts say the rate of sexual abuse among public school teachersis ten times higher than that of priests, and these abusers just gettransferred around.”

Prof. Mark Silk at Trinity College demolished that argument: "That’s a striking statistical rebuttal, butlet’s just say that it doesn’t bear up well under scrutiny. According to thearchdiocese, it’s based on a report that found 78 substantiated abuse cases byNew York teachers in 2009, and 73 such cases last year. Did Dolan mean thatthere have only been seven or eight substantiated abuse cases by priests overthe past couple of years?

There are almost 50 times as many public schoolteachers in New York City as there are priests in the New York archdiocese. If“cases” refers to abusers, then on a pro rata basis 75 public school caseswould be the equivalent of 1.5 priest abuse cases; one-tenth the rate would be.15 per year–i.e. almost none. Is Dolan saying that there have been nosubstantiated cases of priest abuse over the past two years? If there were sevenor eight per year, that would in fact be five times the rate of sexual abuseamong school teachers.”A lawyer added: "Doing the math from the other direction as well,if there are 50 times as many teachers as priests, then 10 times as many casesof abuse means the PS system actually has a much better record than the Churchdoes."

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