While the separation of church and state may have distanced the relationship between organized religion and our school system, recent transgressions at Happy Valley have uncovered a disturbing trend between the two institutions. The Sandusky scandal that rocked the foundation of Penn State University last week has drawn similar parallels to that of which the Catholic Church has endured for decades. The lewd and salacious actions of high ranking individuals at each institution have managed to tarnish their once pristine name.
It is no secrete that the Catholic Church has been the subject of intense scrutiny in the past. An onslaught of sexual abuse accusations have questioned the moral fibers of the church itself. Countless individuals have come forward, claiming to have been the victim of clergy sexual abuse. More importantly, accusations leveled against the church appear to be a trend with no end in sight.
On November 5, 2011, Jerry Sandusky, the former defensive coordinator for the Penn State Division I football program, was arrested for allegedly committing several crimes against humanity. According to court documents, Sandusky was charged with eight counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and numerous other charges, including aggravated indecent assault, corruption of minors and endangering the welfare of a child. The Penn State sexual abuse lawsuit that is currently under investigation has brought into question the moral fibers of the entire university.
Drawing comparisons between two fundamentally different organizations should prove troublesome. However, the recent tragedy that has taken place at Penn State shares an eerie similarity with clergy sexual abuse cases leveled at the Catholic Church. The similarities between the two institutions are striking. The following is a list of similarities between the sexual transgressions that have taken place at each institution:
- Children were abused in the most sordid and tragic ways, potentially scarring them for life.
- Well-meaning adults reported the abuse, or at least their suspicions, to officials in the institution, assuming that this would put an end to the tragic crimes.
- High-level officials could have reported these crimes to the police but did not do so.
- Abuse happened in an institution that seemed for many to be at the center of their lives.
- The desire to avoid “scandal” led to even greater scandal.
- There were complex emotional reactions about a person (a coach or a priest) who was also thought to have “done much good” in other parts of his life.
- Longtime members of the institutions (parishioners and students) responded with intense emotions over the scandal.
However, the most striking similarities remain in the characteristics of the sexual abusers themselves. According to the opinion of many professional psychiatrists, sexual abusers demonstrate a propensity to harbor two distinct characteristics, narcissism and grandiosity.
Narcissists have a tendency to place themselves at the center of their own world. Accordingly, they are almost entirely focused on their own needs and personal gratification. Due to the paramount nature of their needs, individuals exhibiting narcissistic behavioral patterns may pursue sexually abusive tendencies while it is evident that someone else is clearly suffering.
Individuals who commit lewd and salacious acts with minors also exhibit diluted visions of grandiosity. Often times, their position in the community elevates them to an exaggerated status that enables children and adolescents to gravitate towards them. Subsequently, parents are more likely to leave children in the care of such individuals because of their exalted status.
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