Friday, January 24, 2014

A Tale Of Two Joes

This is Joe Paterno.

Joe Paterno was a long-time football coach. His job was a high-profile one, made so mostly by his tenure. He was a highly influential personality and developed a significant coaching tree. He was one of the most beloved figures in all of college football for thousands, perhaps millions, of people, whether fans or peers. He also had an assistant coach who was a child rapist. He covered up this man's crimes and eventually lost his job when this was discovered.

This is Cardinal Joseph Bernardin.

Cardinal Bernardin was a long-time prelate in the Catholic Church. His jobs were a high-profile ones, made significantly moreso by his tenure. He was a highly influential personality and saw many of his friends and proteges also chosen for the episcopacy. He was one of the most beloved figures in the entire American church for thousands, perhaps millions, of people, whether Catholic or not. He also had multiple priests in his diocese who were child rapists. He covered up these men's crimes but never lost his job over it, despite the evidence that at least called for an investigation into the matter well before the Cardinal's death.

That last sentence and Cardinal Bernardin's far more exalted role on both a temporal and spiritual plane notwithstanding, what is the main difference between these two? I would suggest that it relates to the legacy of each man. Paterno, while still staunchly (and creepily) defended by members of the Penn State community, retroactively forfeited all his wins going back to 1998 and was fired. His statue outside of the football stadium was removed by the university of its own accord. Most people, outside of the Penn State hardcore, now view Paterno with disgust.

The revelations about Cardinal Bernardin's activities in not only covering up, but in some cases promoting the predators involved, have met with deafening silence. I guess there might be people out there calling for at least revisiting the legacy of the most influential American churchmen of the last couple of decades (and that's a conservative guess; I could probably go back much, much farther). No, as we mentioned in our prior post, the blame seems to be getting deflected to anyone and everyone else.

I post this for a couple of reasons.

First, this is more proof that our society takes football more seriously than its obligations to God.

Second, dissent does not allow for the sullying of its icons, regardless of the reasons or charges. Comparing the cult of personality around Paterno/Bernardin is like comparing Saddleback with Jonestown. At least the Paterno folks admit that allegations were made and that their beloved JoePa was in charge at the time. From what I've seen, Cardinal Bernardin has been barely acknowledged in all this and such will continue to be the case.

Third, this isn't about picking on/attacking/slandering Cardinal Bernardin, though I'm sure with the tenor of emails I've gotten that it will be construed that way. This is about showing the hypocrisy of those engaged in the discussion of the subject at all. I've heard more people bring up Cardinal Cody in this matter than Bernardin. I've heard most people go after Cardinal George or John Paul II or even Benedict XVI. This isn't just a media issue. This is the reaction of people on the street, Catholic or no. Why is the one guy most involved getting the least criticism?

It's simple. It's not just history that is written by the victors. It's current events as well. At the moment, the victors are the enemies of the Church, both without and within. Like any party in power, they aim to stay there, and that means protecting the ideas that got them there in the first place. Protecting those ideas means protecting those who gave them life to begin with, regardless of the doublethink that has to go on to do so.

No comments: