Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Paterno and His Halo: The Danger of Precipitous Canonization

And speaking of the record of history (as I just did in my posting about David Frum) and those we canonize--either as secular saints à la St. Ronnie Reagan, or as religious saints à la St. John Paul II (who's on the way to canonization)--Ta-Nehisis Coates points out today that folks who had painted murals of JoPa with a halo shining atop his head have been quick to remove that halo, now that we know what we know.  He writes,

Last week an artist who’d once painted Paterno with a halo altered his mural by removing it. This effort has less to do with the better rendering of Paterno and more to do with escaping the shame of hasty canonization.

"Escaping the shame of hasty canonization": I wonder if those words will have any resonance for the folks pushing for the immediate canonization (santo subito!) of JPII?  

They should ring a loud and clear warning bell about what happens when we have to scrub halos off the heads of saints we've made too precipitously.  Though I doubt they will.

And I wonder when the Catholic diocese of Altoona-Johnstown is going to give serious attention to the  desirability of giving a new name to its Paterno Catholic Student Faith Center on the Penn State campus.

Not anytime soon, I suspect.  Though Paterno's widow Sue, for whom the Paterno Center is directly named, is slated to receive a payout of $13.4 million from what's said to be the largest pension payment ever awarded by Penn State.  And though, when Paterno died, one of the chaplains at the Paterno Center eulogized him with a prayer thanking God for Joe Paterno and what he stood for, and intoning, "How fortunate this corner of your kingdom has been."

Something tells me that in light of what the Freeh report has now revealed to us, not everyone is so certain now that the Penn state corner of God's kingdom has been extremely fortunate due to the Paterno legacy.  The youth who received no assistance or protection at all as Paterno shielded Sandusky were surely not fortunate.

And I don't think it's inappropriate or mean-spirited to ask if Catholic institutions should continue holding haloes around names that have betrayed Catholic values in the conspicuous ways that JoePa betrayed them in his protection of a serial pedophile at Penn State.  After it came out that Bishop Anthony O'Connell of the dioceses of Knoxville and then Palm Beach had abused minors when he was spiritual director of a seminary in Missouri, groups in the Knoxville diocese pushed to have O'Connell's name removed from a local high school and a family life center.  And they petitioned to have his bust taken from the Knoxville chancery.  The diocese complied with these requests.

Altoona-Johnstown can and show do the same with Penn State's Paterno Catholic Student Faith Center.  Continuing to call a Catholic student mission center a Paterno center gives serious scandal to not a few folks, I suspect.

P.S. For good background analysis which demonstrates precisely why the Catholic officials of Altoona Johnstown will be loath to rename the Penn State Paterno Student Catholic Faith Center, see Chris Hayes on how the powerful rig the system, from Penn State to Wall Street.  As he points out, the 1% elite don't work for anyone but themselves and to assure their own lucrative rewards.

And when the 1% say jump, Catholic officials commonly ask how high, no matter what they preach in their homilies about wealth and its uses and the call to hear the cries of the poor.

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