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Steve Lopez: Shades of Catholic Church in Penn State scandal

November 9, 2011 |  4:08 pm

Penn State

Does the Penn State molestation story ring any bells for you?

Steve LopezIt does for David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.

"The parallels just go on and on," Clohessy said, talking about how in both the Catholic Church and Penn State University scandals, molestation allegedly continued for years because authorities didn't do enough to stop it.

PHOTOS: Penn State sexual abuse scandal

And so a popular, respected institution, whose longtime football coach Joe Paterno was idolized for his commitment to character, integrity and morality, is now reeling as the truth comes out.

"You've got a very credible abuse report, an eyewitness with no ax to grind, and then you've got delays when they should have immediately gone to the police, but didn't," Clohessy said.

He was referring to a grand jury report that a witness saw former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky molesting a child in the Penn State showers in 2002. The witness said he went to head coach Joe Paterno, who said he reported the incident to the athletic director, but now wishes he had done more.

FULL COVERAGE: Jerry Sandusky scandal

How could he not have?

How is it that a priest, a Boy Scout leader or a coach can be told about the sexual abuse of a minor and not IMMEDIATELY dial 911, send up a flare and scream his head off until the matter is fully investigated and the children protected?

Because no one went to the police, Sandusky was able to continue molesting boys until as late as 2007 while running a charity based at Penn State.

The grand jury report contains graphic details of what he did to minors. He is charged with multiple counts of abusing eight boys over a 15-year period. The school's vice president and athletic director, meanwhile, have been charged with lying to the grand jury.

And Paterno?

Legally, he did all he had to do. But if you judge him on common sense, morality and compassion for victims who may be scarred for life, he's an utter failure, regardless of being the winningest college football coach in history.

The university has said he'll retire at the end of this season, but that's not good enough.

If he coaches another game, shame on him, and shame on what's left of the school's front office.


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-- Steve Lopez

Photo: Emily Wilkens, 33, holds a sign protesting allegations that a former Penn State assistant coach sexually abused boys and that school officials covered it up. Credit: Pat Little / Reuters