This week we're all getting "treated" to detailed reports from the testimony in Penn State deity Joe Paterno's old assistant coach Jerry Sandusky's trial for the sexual abuse of ten boys. I don't know about you, but I really didn't need to have the first thing I saw on the morning news crawl this morning be an account of Mike McQueary describing a "skin-on-skin smacking sound" about what he saw. I mean, we all know what this trial is about, can't some things just remain in the courtroom?
There's clearly a prurient interest in the Sandusky trial, and I'm not sure why there's so much fascination. To me it's sort of like passing a car wreck on Route 80 -- do you REALLY need to see the mangled guy by the side of the road? I'm one of those people who keeps eyes front and center when passing an accident on the highway because I DON'T want to see blood, gore, and body parts not attached to bodies, so maybe I Just Don't Understand. But the relentless coverage, some of it no doubt designed to create a false parallel between Jerry Sandusky and gay marriage; some of it simply a question of "If it bleeds, it leads", makes me think about the double standard of child sex abuse.
It wasn't all that long ago that we heard about the massive scale of the child sex abuse scandal in the Catholic church. It's obvious to anyone who has a brain that this was clearly a cover-up on a massive, massive scale -- and yet how many perpetrators were actually put on trial in a civil, not church, court? Sure, there have been lawsuits, but a lawsuit is not the same as a criminal trial.
At a time when the Catholic Church is trying to hold undue influence over American health care policy regarding contraception, and when politicians from both sides of the political spectrum are giving this church all kinds of unwarranted deference simply because its clergy and its history claims some kind of direct conduit to the Great White Alpha Male in the Sky, I think it's worth asking what kind of moral authority a church hierarchy that has behaved like a massive criminal enterprise where child sex abuse is concerned can claim to have, and why anyone is even considering building policy around what these people want.
I'm not defending the loathsome Jerry Sandusky, nor am I defending Joe Paterno, whose own blindness to the dictates of authority allowed him to think that it was sufficient to just tell his boss and then forget about it when crimes against children were being committed. But there's something wrong when a simple claim to have a direct line to God allows Cardinal Timothy Dolan to appear on TV
, all smiling and twinkly, to rant piously about the tragedy of birth control and hold the fate of millions of American women in his hands, when as Archbishop of Milwaukee, he authorized the payment
of, yes, let's call it bribes, to abusive priests who agreed to leave the priesthood.
I understand that people who are Catholic have a strong tie to their church. I know the intellectual hoops that people jump through in their efforts to retain what comforts them about their faith while separating it out from the more heinous actions of many of those in the Church's hierarchy. But while we react, as we should, with disgust and horror over the allegations in the Sandusky trial, we should also fight back against those who aided and abetted crimes no less heinous than those allegedly committed by Jerry Sandusky and now want to claim moral authority in their attempt to control the sexuality of all American women, Catholic and non-Catholic alike.