I was catching news of the NCAA and self-imposed sanctions against Penn State football before hitting the road today. The list includes more than $70 million in fines and lost revenue, no bowl games, removal of a statue, and reduced scholarships for four years. There’s that “vacating” of wins for fourteen years. I think that’s an appropriate measure for the coach’s record. But it’s otherwise a silly gesture, even for a scandal like this. It strikes me as akin to a rewriting of history, erasing the public memory of events for a political purpose. Joe Paterno won more games as a coach than any other. He also allowed a sex predator to continue to molest and used the almighty power of college football to have his way. Maybe that’s embarassing for the NCAA to have Coach Paterno at the top of the heap, but that’s the culture they’ve long-encouraged in big time college athletics. I hope they don’t think there aren’t other culture-of-football challenges ahead.
If the Catholic Church ever imposed sanctions on a diocese, let’s say Philadelphia, I was wondering today what that would look like.
Removal of the JoePa statue would sort of be like removing the burial remains from the cathedral crypt and putting them in an unmarked grave.
No bowl games for four years and an extra year of probation on top of that is like a generation in college sports. For a diocese, a generation would be like the active ministry life of a priest. No red hat and no metropolitan status for thirty to forty years.
Scholarships and fines … well, I don’t think you can take seminarians, priests, and money away from a diocese. Penn State will have a hard enough time paying fines without dipping into academics or women’s sports. Losing a bishop’s burial spot and a red hat? Man, that would hurt big time and there’s no money involved with that whatsoever. I guess the courts are already mandating abuse settlements, and dioceses are doing what PSU won’t be allowed to do: take money from innocent people.
Penn State football avoided the “death penalty.” Geez, what would that look like for Philadelphia? The actual archdiocese would be chopped up and reapportioned to Allentown, Harrisburg, and maybe even Camden, Trenton, and Wilmington. I think that’s under consideration in Ireland, though, a radical reduction in the number of bishops and dioceses.
There are still people who say that Penn State got off easy in all this. And many respected sports commentators are saying these were a little too strong. I’d have to concede that the NCAA and Penn State itself were far more serious about the eradication of the culture of silence around protecting sex predators. The Church would have to do a lot of distasteful things before it approached the impact of these penalties.