Loyalty is one human trait that is responsible for some of the greatest achievements in history whether it entails devotion to an individual, government, or familial relationships. Conversely, some of the worst atrocities mankind has experienced are a direct result of misguided devotion that results in seemingly decent people concealing criminal activity to preserve a reputation. The invention of instant communications and twenty-four hour news reporting has allowed the public to learn of despicable actions of respected organizations and individuals that may have gone unnoticed in the past and some of the world’s most revered institutions have been rocked by scandals that insult the sensibilities of nearly any person. What makes some scandals more egregious than others is when men in positions of authority conceal child abuse to protect an institution’s reputation.
The recent revelation that a Penn State University assistant coach molested young boys with the knowledge, concealment, and approval of legendary head football coach Joe Paterno is more than just a case of loyalty to an associate, it appears to be endemic to wealthy high-powered patriarchal organizations. Obviously, child sex-abuse is not unique to men, but there is a pattern that suggests male-dominated and controlled organizations are unique in protecting criminal abusers to preserve their organizations’ prestige and power. The Penn State scandal is similar to the Catholic Church’s practice of protecting priests who are serial sexual predators and nearly identical to reports of Boy Scouts of America leaders covering up sex abuse in their organization. The Catholic Church, Boy Scouts of America, and Penn State Football share more than just covering up child rape; they are all dominated and controlled by men who feel it is more important to protect their reputations than the children who were sexually molested.
The pedophilia scandal at Penn State has a direct relationship to the Catholic Church’s sexual abuse scandal because at some level, college football is “a religion of America” and, like the Catholic Church, is a bastion of male power, wealth, and hypocrisy. Joe Paterno achieved saint-like status for his prowess as a nationally respected football coach, but instead of exposing his assistant’s sexual abuse, the “powers at the top decided to protect the brand rather than the kids.” The details of Jerry Sandusky’s perverse behavior is still unfolding, but the prescient point is that even after a parent reported Sandusky to school officials, he was allowed to retire and retain access to the school’s locker room where he continued molesting young boys using his charitable Second Mile foundation as a twisted recruitment tool. According to reports, after being allowed to retire, Sandusky continued using Penn State to abuse children even after another assistant coach caught him anal raping a 10-year-old boy in the showers. The assistant, Mike McQueary reported what he saw to Paterno in 2002, but to preserve the school’s reputation, Paterno decided to “keep the lid on, because this was a story that could look bad for everyone.” It was not just that a coach raping a young boy would look bad; it would certainly have cost the school money that drives this entire mess.
A similar set of circumstances in the Boy Scouts of America involved a Canadian pedophile who preyed on boys in the United States. The pedophile, Richard Turley, molested at least 15 boy scouts dating back to the 1970s and although he was kicked out of the organization, Boy Scout leaders followed Catholic protocol and instead of reporting the molester, moved him to different areas so he could continue raping young boys. One former Scouting executive said, “You do not want to broadcast to the entire population that these things happen. You take care of it quietly and make sure it never happens again.” However, it did happen again; several times over the next two decades. Turley was not an isolated child rapist in the Boy Scouts because there are more than 5,000 suspected child molesters listed in confidential documents aptly named “the perversion files” that include admissions of guilt as well as unproven allegations. A lawyer representing former boy scouts likened the Boy Scout’s handling of sex abuse to the Catholic Church and said, “It’s the same institutional reaction: scandal prevention.” Although, the lack of responsible intervention was more to do with the money the church, Boy Scouts, and Penn State football program earn.
The institutions that allowed sexual predators to have carte blanche access to children will eventually lose money as they settle lawsuits against priests, coaches, and scout leaders, but for powerful paternal organizations, it is a drop in the bucket compared to the ongoing support from fanatics whose loyalty supersedes concern for the victims. One would think any one of the scandals would be sufficient to cause supporters to abandon these institutions, but with religious conviction and potential earnings involved, the groups maintain widespread support that suggests the people who continue supporting the Catholic Church, Boy Scouts, and Penn State in the wake of child sex abuse scandals are as guilty as the predators. It is unbelievable that any decent human being would continue supporting an organization after knowing the leaders were complicit in abusing children. And yet, there are dysfunctional people whose loyalty to an institution supplants basic humanity that says protecting children from rapists is more important than protecting a church, school, or the Boy Scouts of America.
When an organization is more interested in maintaining their power and wealth than protecting children, bad things happen. It is especially likely to occur when patriarchal institutions amass unbridled wealth and influence over their adherents, and despite monetary judgments and stains on their reputations, groups like the Boy Scouts and the Catholic Church continue to prosper. These groups deserve everything coming to them in criminal and civil proceedings, and they should lose any standing in society as well as their tax-exempt status as charitable non-profit organizations. However, losing wealth and power is not sufficient recompense to society or the children whose lives were destroyed by rapists and trusted institutions. One thing is perfectly clear; the Catholic Church, Boy Scouts of America, and Penn State are as guilty as the rapists and warrant all the shame, imprisonment, and castigation they allowed their leaders to subject on the children in their care.