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

Categories: Crime, Sports

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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

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