Penn State scandal shows scope of sex abuse, official says


Catholic News Service

BALTIMORE — The scandal rocking Penn State University shows both the scope of the sex abuse problem and the value of safe environment training, the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said at a Nov. 14 news conference.

Responding to a question following the first session of the USCCB fall general assembly in Baltimore, Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan of New York said the news that has led to the indictment of several Penn State officials and the firing of the university’s president and its longtime football coach, Joe Paterno, “has reopened a wound in the church as well.”

“It shows that the scourge (of sex abuse) is not limited to any one faith and certainly not limited to priests,” he said. “It’s in organizations, in universities, all over the place, in families and, yes, in priests.”

A protester holds a sign at Penn State-Nebraska football game at Beaver Stadium Nov. 15 CNS

Archbishop Dolan said the church’s own sex abuse scandal “makes us a little timid about wanting to give advice — glass houses and all that.”

But he said the church’s experience with providing safe environment training to help children and their parents, as well as clergy and church volunteers, become more aware of the warning signs of child sex abuse has been “phenomenally advantageous” over the past decade.

“We’ve got a long way to go, but we have made major strides,” he said.

“One of the good things that God might bring out of this is some kind of alliance between the church and the educational community,” he added. “We might come with a little wisdom earned the hard way to that table.”

“To our deep regret we have not been a good example of how to deal with this in the past,” the archbishop said. “We would like to be a good example in the future.”

Archbishop Dolan offered “our love and prayers” to the sex abuse victims, their families “and the entire Penn State community.”