Until a few days ago, the mural in downtown State College, Pennsylvania—home to Penn State University—featured legendary football coach Joe Paterno wearing a halo over his head. The artist, Michael Pilato, added the marker of sainthood after Paterno died last January, but he could easily have put it up a decade ago and no one would have blinked an eye.
JoePa, after so many years with the program, had something beyond tenure. He was an infallible figure, both to students of the college—who, to be fair, no matter the school tend to elevate coaches to Campus King status as soon as they hold their first practice—and the general sports-following community. Buy a ticket to a Penn State game and you could boo players, criticize certain play-calling, or even question whether or not it was time for Paterno to stop pacing the sidelines and settle into a more age-appropriate job. But to question his character would be an offense for which there'd be no backup.
So when news hit that Pilato wiped the halo clean from Paterno, it wasn't just a symbolic condemnation of his role in the recent child sex scandal—it was a collective admission of failure from everyone: This is what happens when you make a man into a god.
Make no mistake about it, the Penn State scandal has nothing to do with football. It's the closest thing to a faith-based disgrace you're going to find outside the world of proper organized religion--besides a handful of key words, the Freeh Report's basically the John Jay Report. All of the markings are there: A man elevated to the highest level by a closed community, child molestation, cover-ups, more cover-ups, and an eventual reckoning. Yes, Jerry Sandusky himself is a terrible person who deserves every prison beating he has coming to him until he finally expires. But the true horror of the scandal is the atmosphere that allowed something like this to occur, fester, and continue.
Penn State is what happens when you elevate a human to the rank of divine.
Onto the roundup!
- And, contrary to what I closed with last week, sometimes it's NOT as easy as simple leaving a crazy religion. Sometimes, as in the case Isaac Wyler—who left the insane Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints, the polygamist sect of Mormonism led by the now-incarcerated-for-life-child-molester Warren Jeffs—when you try to leave, the church sends you kittens encased in concrete in order to send some kind of message.
- A 63-year-old Christian parishioner beat her pastor over the head with a Bible because, well, does it really matter?
- Either the Virgin Mary was found spotted on a tree in West New York, or we've located a tree vagina.
- Texas has decided to try to cut funding to any women's health care provider that so much as mentions the word “abortion.” So, Texans, it's time to come up with a new code name for it! My offering: “Sprinkle tinkles.” It's cute!
- A British man, along with three other members of his family, were found guilty of strangling his 21-year-old pregnant wife to death because they all thought she had become possessed by an evil spirit.
- So, noted bigot and asshole Kirk Cameron went ahead and released a YouTube video entitled “Champion of Marriage: Kirk Cameron.” Got four-and-a-half minutes to spare and looking for a little refill in your rage intake tank? Give it a watch.
- In Saudi Arabia, two men were killed during protests over the arrest of a prominent Shi'ite cleric. It doesn't sound like the men were protesting the specific arrest, as much as this just being the latest example of a religious-based persecution between the Shi'ites (a heavy minority, accounting for only about 10% of the Muslim population in the country) and the Saudi Arabian government.
- A bookstore chain called Family Christian released something called the Edifi, a tablet computer for the Jesus set! Included in the Edifi's offerings are a “Family Christian Reader” app, access to Christian internet radio, 27 translations of the Bible, and a safe search option that keeps from dirty, filthy porn desecrating your screen. All for the low, low price of $149.99!
- In Pakistan, gunmen expected to be with the Taliban opened fire on an army camp, killing seven.
- At least eight people were killed in a suicide bombing at a police academy in Yemen; most folks are pointing blame in the direction of the local branch of al-Qaeda. Another suicide bombing—this one most likely the work of Islamist militant group Boko Harem—left five dead in a northeastern Nigeria mosque. A third suicide bombing, this time at an Afghanistan wedding celebration, left 17 dead.
- So much Scientology news this week, you guys! Where to begin? (1) Following the end of TomKat, leaders of Scientology are sending out creepy step-by-step guides for how to handle the media and get inflammatory blog posts or comments taken down (the plan essentially consists of getting a mass of people to complain and “flag” things). (2) The mother of a deceased Scientologist is claiming that religious leaders barred her from seeing her son's body. (3) A woman went to Scientology's headquarters in Clearwater, Florida to give the religion a shot during some weird Fourth of July celebration and was so disgusted she wrote all about it for UK's Daily Mail. (4) And finally—and awesomely—Scientology is going to open up their own TV studio in Hollywood, the results of which are sure to be basically Tim & Eric, but weirder.
- And our Person of the Week: John Wojnowski, a man who's spent most of his last 14 years standing outside of the Vatican embassy in Washington D.C., trying to spread the word about the sexual abuses that have been going on in the church. The Washingtonian has a pretty remarkable piece about his goings-on that's worth a read.
- And, what's this? A BONUS Person(s) of the Week? Sure, why the hell not: Those glorious Episcopal bishops who voted during their General Convention in Indianapolis to (1) approve of an official prayer service blessing for same-sex couples in the next three years; and (2) start using all sorts of anti-discrimination language for transgendered clergy and members. This continues their trend of easily being the most progressive populist religion in the country, even if they still have the hardest name to pronounce.
Previously - Heroic Chances