I Am A Bigger Man Than Angelo Cataldi But Not Joe Paterno

The latest news of Joe Pa’s firing led Angelo to inaugurate his 6:00 am show today with these words, “Justice has been served.” This is a peculiar rendering of the situation. Authorities have brought allegations of sexual abuse by a former Penn State Coach. That coach is out on bail. The trial has not started. He is, according to American jurisprudence, innocent. No jury has pronounced him guilty. No judge has issued a sentence. But not Joe Pa, according to Angelo. Joe is guilty of covering up an act which has yet to be proven. “Unfrigginbelievable” does not do justice to the leaps in legal and moral logic in this declaration.

Just to keep tabs on Angelo’s moral imbecility, today he called Sandusky’s problem — the guy who is alleged to have abused the boys — “mental.” Angelo also admitted that Joe Pa was not guilty of breaking any law, but he was morally culpable. This is convenient for a man who sponsors an annual wing-eating contest where sexual perversions (all consensual and hetero, of course) add zest to the already “hot” wings. I would like to see Angelo devote an entire show to the moral difference between sexual failings and poor judgment. I would also like Angelo to explain what exactly he knows about the situation since so much of it remains murky. Earlier in the week Angelo referred to the incident in the shower as “rape.” Now he is calling it “groping” and “fondling.” Angelo is ignorant. But he “knows” that it could not have been any of the kinds of tomfoolery that goes on in boys and men’s locker rooms. From his vantage 220 miles and ten years away, the incident had to be foul and libidinous, and that Joe’s knowledge of it was fouler and wicked.

Meanwhile, Angelo and crew mocked the Penn State students who rioted last night. One of WIP’s other hosts, Big Daddy Graham, called for closing the entire university, that is how immoral the situation is. Never did it dawn on any of these radio hosts that they are as hysterical as the PSU fans of Joe. Nor did they consider how the media feeding frenzy may have contributed to the clunky — to say the least — handling of Joe’s dismissal and the reaction from PSU students. (Could not the University have suspended Joe for the rest of the season and then let him retire?) Then again, these folks have no moral imagination whatsoever. I guess when they are right, the mysteries of human existence evaporate.

But someone with a moral imagination might also consider what the parents of these boys knew and when they knew it. I know it is wrong to blame the victim. But if the problem in this scenario is the god-like status of Joe Paterno, his ability to raise money for the school because of his squeaky clean image, and the school’s need to keep Joe Pa’s idol free from any tarnish, then didn’t the parents of these boys contribute to the problem? Weren’t they sending their boys to these programs precisely because of their adulation of Joe Pa and colleagues? To be sure, such idolatry does not deserve sexual abuse. But Joe’s pristine image was the creation of more than PSU. It included parents who wanted their boys to play there. It also involved reporters and radio talk-show hosts who fed the publicity of Division One football programs. But for Angelo, Joe alone needs to atone for the sins of all these idolaters.

Angelo deserves some credit for seeing a few moral complications. When former governor Ed Rendell came on yesterday’s show and counselled caution and letting the gears of justice grind, Angelo wondered if Rendell had actually known about the situation at PSU during his tenure in Harrisburg. This raised the same moral problem of what did Rendell know and when did he know it, and whether the governor was actually guilty of the same indiscretion as Joe Pa. But because the former governor and former mayor of Philadelphia has been a friend of Angelo’s show and is a regular on the Comcast Eagle’s post-game show (good sabbatarian that I am, I don’t watch it, really — plus we don’t get cable), Angelo was unwilling to press Rendell on his responsibility. (Angelo resembled Bunk in Season Five during Jimmy’s shenanigans.)

The one relatively interesting comment today came from Al Morganti who generally avoids Angelo’s hysteria (though he is the mastermind of Wing Bowl). Al argued that this scandal affects the entire university because PSU is beholden to the football program. That’s likely true. But Al did not go far enough. American higher education is beholden to the NCAA (at least in Division One sports). All university presidents should be looking at themselves in the mirror today and for many years to come over the dependence of their institutions on athletic programs that have almost nothing to do with an education except for paying bills (and even then the proceeds from Division One football — as I understand — go more to fund sports programs that can’t pay their bills, not to put more books in the library — though Paterno has been a champion of learning and the library at PSU in ways unimaginable with the peripatetic Nick Sabin now at Alabama).

In the end, what is most aggravating about the end of Joe’s career is that it came during a cultural moment when moral coarseness prevails but — perhaps to avoid utter degeneracy — the same culture inflicts a one-strike-and-you’re-out policy. It is the same culture that judges the founders of the United States as odious because they held and countenanced slavery. This is a form of moral discernment that brings ruin on the reputation and accomplishments of reputable and accomplished people (despite their fallenness) because of one offense. For the next several years, people will remember Paterno more for this scandal than his remarkable career and appealing persona. That persona was evident even in his two statements — one of retirement and one after being fired. No bitterness, only gratitude did he express for his beloved PSU, despite being treated fairly shabbily by administrators apparently intent on saving face.

Of course, moral perfectionists like Angelo will read Paterno’s statements cynically, as someone who is still trying to cover his behind. What Angelo and other secular Wesleyans need to remember is that the one-strike-and-you’re-out policy is a moral standard reserved for God. The rest of us schlubs, whether redeemed or not, know that we have already struck out.

But I will not retaliate in a way fitting Angelo’s self-righteousness. I will not fire him from my life even though he has shown remarkable stupidity and absurd moral discretion. I still enjoy the banter about Philadelphia sports and like to hear many of the writers that appear on the show when the hosts actually talk about sports. Still, I cling to the hope that someday Angelo will interview Paterno, Joe Pa accepts, and and the octogenarian proceeds to knock the hysterical moral bully on his ever widening can.

63 thoughts on “I Am A Bigger Man Than Angelo Cataldi But Not Joe Paterno

  1. Paul, Mark M. should lose his job since he reported this in April and did nothing about bringing Sandusky to trial. Or was it the case that he only did his job?


  2. Your blog is consistently one of my favorites, DG, but, man, you are way off on this one. Does not a grown man with an appealing persona not have the obligation to report (or make sure it is reported) to law enforcement that a grown man is molesting a little boy (whether he was told it was rape or just fondling)? Seriously?


  3. Jon, I’m a 2-kingdom guy and in this republic a man is innocent until proven guilty. Are you suggesting that Joe Pa really is God? That he has omniscience? You seem to overestimate Paterno.

    I also wonder how far your humanity goes. Have you not ever disbelieved a report about a friend? And have you been even more reluctant to disbelieve the report of something especially malicious?

    I believe I am well within the realm of human existence. It is the abstract standard of one-strike that is unreal.


  4. I am a Penn State Grad. Class of 82. Coach Paterno was dismissed over the telephone, which was extremely shabby at the very least. I give him credit for maintaining his dignity throughout the whole sordid affair. I agree with you. The University should have suspended Coach Paterno, and then allowed him to retire. As for Angelo, he sounds like a first class hypocrite and twerp.


  5. I wonder if you’ve read the grand jury report for this matter. Paterno testified that he heard the accusation against his longtime friend from a graduate assistant, not just some guy off the street, who went on to join the coaching staff & head recruiting. If someone accuses my friend of such a malicious act as raping a child (or just fondling, etc.), & I don’t believe him, I don’t promote him & put him in charge of recruiting. These two things do not go together.

    I’m not offering my own moral perfection or suggesting that Joe be thrown in prison, but if I fail so miserably morally in such a severe instance (not following through on the accusation), I should be prepared to suffer consequences (thankfully not eternally), even if only by a phone-call. This is not a small thing. One of the main reasons Jerry Sandusky’s guilt or innocence has not been determined by an investigation & ultimately a jury of his peers is because JoePa failed in his duties as a man. God help us all to do differently.


  6. “Innocent until proven guilty” is a shorthand way of saying that the state bears the burden of proof in a criminal prosecution. In other words, the criminal defendant is not required to proffer evidence at trial.

    This is a rule of procedure, not substance. A defendant may have committed the crimes of which they’re accused, but, because of procedural safeguards, is not convicted. Such defendants are substantively guilty, although not procedurally so.

    Besides, what kind of guilty verdict are we to await? Paterno probably satisfied his duty under the law by passing on the report of Sandusky’s activities to his superiors. So, there will never be a criminal trial for Paterno. Yet the public is still entitled to judge whether his alleged inaction is morally justified. After all, unless a number of folks are lying, Paterno simply reported Sandusky’s misconduct to his superiors and then did nothing after it was apparent that his superiors had elected not to report the incident to the police.

    But let’s turn the clock back to 2002. Paterno was coming off of two losing seasons. Penn State had gone 10-13 in the previous two years, and missed qualifying for a bowl game in both seasons. Paterno was on the hot seat. And at a school that worships football, the whole athletic department was on the hot seat. If the allegations against Sandusky had gone public, the Paterno era would have ended in 2002, as the scandal would have given Paterno’s critics the ammunition they needed to push him into retirement.

    But the incident was never reported to police. So Paterno kept coaching and, according to the indictment, Sandusky kept on molesting. And who can blame Joe? He probably didn’t want to go out as a loser, and he didn’t want to go out on others’ terms. Yet he would have gone out as a guy who did the right thing–even when doing the right thing cost him the job he loved.

    Paterno coached ten more seasons, and would win nearly 70% of his games during that time period. He proved that he wasn’t washed up. He proved that he was still a winner. And he proved that he could outlast Bobby Bowden to become the winningest coach in Division I college football. But those accomplishments will always bear an asterisk in the public’s mind–an asterisk that stands for all of the young victims who fell prey to Sandusky in the ensuing years. It seems that Paterno was in a position to blow the whistle on Sandusky in 2002, but elected to keep silent. And that’s what Joe Pa will be remembered for.

    Yes, it’s harsh that a man of such integrity will never escape this cloud. And sadly these events provide an unwelcome opportunity for those who mock Paterno’s integrity to proclaim themselves to be his moral betters. After all, fools will always joke at a righteous man’s failings. Yet I fear that we miss something if we downplay Paterno’s shortcomings in an effort to call out the fools who revel in his downfall. Namely, we miss the fact none of us has perfect integrity. Even the righteous need a Savior.

    Paterno embodies a number of admirable qualities, and we can’t let his failings overshadow that. Yet we can’t let a desire for human perfection lead us to downplay the accusations against him.

    “At that moment I knew, surely and clearly, that I was witnessing perfection. He stood before us, suspended above the earth, free from all its laws like a work of art, and I knew, just as surely and clearly, that life is not a work of art, and that the moment could not last.” -from the film version of A River Runs Through It


  7. Bob, what if Joe Pa did not think what happened in the shower was rape or molestation? Do you know what the assistant told him? But beyond that, what if Joe Pa doesn’t know how insidious child molestation is. Is he still as blamable if out of ignorance he didn’t understand what these acts do to boys?


  8. Jon, so are you saying that McCreary should not have been promoted for reporting the incident? That sure sounds like a cover up — punish the guy who tells on Sandusky.

    BTW, would it complicate things for you if it turned out that Sandusky were the victim of sexual abuse as a boy? Does anyone know that he wasn’t?


  9. DG, Joe Paterno testified under oath before a grand jury that it was reported to him, at a bare minimum, that Jerry Sandusky was in the football locker room shower naked with a boy fondling him or some other sexual act (perhaps even the rape, if he could remember). What more does he need to know? Are you suggesting the man who IS Penn State football for 40+ years is potentially unable to comprehend the gravity of those charges? Or any functioning human being for that matter?

    And my point with McCreary is that you would not report a man who willy-nilly accuses your former assistant coach, right-hand man of 30+ years of doing this if you think he is lying. You throw him to the curb for the outrageousness of such a charge. Or you listen to him, consider his charge, & because of both the seriousness of the charge & the lofty position in which you have been placed, you follow through to make sure it is investigated. You don’t think him a liar & THEN promote him. Who would do that? If someone falsely accused your friend & colleague of doing that, would you promote to work more closely under you.

    I know you are a Pennsylvania guy & perhaps you know Joe Paterno personally, but your last two responses to Bob & me have been, with all due respect, way off. You need to read that 23 page grand jury report.


  10. Dr. Hart:

    In another post you stated that in the United States, a person is presumed innocent until proven guilty. Having friends in the legal profession and another who was charged with a crime, I can tell you that from the moment of the allegation, the State presumes you are guilty. Not the Judge or the jury necessarily, but, the prosecution will do everything in it’s power to force someone to say “uncle,” including, but not limited to dragging the accused’s family into the mess. In other words, the accused will be squeezed.

    Trials also have their own twists. Prospective jurors are asked to fill out questionnaires that are used by the prosecutor and defense to select jurors. Ask a defense attorney sometime what kind of convictions the jury of one’s peers disclose on the questionnaire the must complete. Then, if it turns out that someone on the jury is a little too demanding of the prosecution (i.e., they demand to hear about physical evidence) that juror will be excused. Further, by insisting on a jury trial, the accused is asking the judge to throw the book at them if ultimately the accused is found guilty. Someone charged isn’t supposed to waste the court’s time.

    Although the burden of proof is on the State to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the accused does not need to prove innocence. But again, that is the theory. The State has unlimited resources to convince a jury that the accused is guilty of “something.” By screaming and hollering, demonstrating outrage at the charges, the prosecution can usually make inroads here. If the accused exercises their right to not testify, that is another nail in the coffin.

    The law says, “beyond a reasonable doubt.” That is a pretty high hurdle to surmount — as it should be under a constitution that presumes the accused is innocent. Better to let a guilty person go free than to convict an innocent person. But ask a criminal defense attorney how often that last sentence plays out.

    My point in writing this is not to exonerate anyone. Sandusky will be charged based upon probable cause — i.e., the findings of the Grand Jury. It may turn out that he is the guiltiest of the guilty or it may turn out that the prosecution can’t make the case. Michael Jackson was accused of similar things but at the end of the day, there was no one left to accuse him — all of his accusers had dirty hands. Finally, it may turn out that he is acquitted of all charges because the State broke the law to get him. To many people, this would be a bitter pill to swallow. Not that the State broke a few little laws to nail someone for breaking some big laws, but because a man who was accused was set free over something comparatively minor.

    Sandusky will be lawyered up in a big way. I think he’ll receive a fair trial because the prosecution, with all eyes on them, will dot their I’s and cross their T’s. Sandusky’s attorney’s will see to it. If he needs an expert witness, he can afford one.

    I’m not speaking for Dr. Hart, but maybe some of the outrage in trials like this gets misplaced. Maybe the mindset that someone accused of something that seems plausible (as in this case) is probably guilty (after all he was charged) carries over into the minds of jurors in garden variety
    cases where people with very limited resources get clobbered by the State.

    Not only does the State have to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, if they so much as smudge Sandusky’s right to due process, he will walk and the State will be sued. Talk about moral outrage. But that would certainly be the right thing. The right thing now is for the State to make good on Sandusky’s right to a fair trial.


  11. In my last post, I meant that McCreary was “promoted” not “reported”

    Also, the whole premise of your post regarding this sports talk radio host (whom I never heard of but sounds typical) seems to say that a non-Christian (or ‘sinner’) should not be able to make moral judgments (even as obvious as this). I certainly agree that there is great hypocrisy regarding some of the moral choices this individual regularly makes, but does that really exclude him from making any moral judgments of others? Should he and others like him be excluded from serving on juries? I’m a 2k guy, but this does not sound 2k to me.


  12. DGH states:

    “didn’t the parents of these boys contribute to the problem? Weren’t they sending their boys to these programs precisely because of their adulation of Joe Pa and colleagues? To be sure, such idolatry does not deserve sexual abuse. But Joe’s pristine image was the creation of more than PSU. It included parents who wanted their boys to play there.”

    The program’s description:
    “Many children face adversity even before they understand how to dream. The Second Mile, founded in 1977 in State College, Pennsylvania, is a statewide non-profit organization for children who need additional support and who would benefit from positive human contact. The Second Mile plans, organizes, and offers activities and programs for children – and adults who work with them – to promote self-confidence as well as physical, academic, and personal success.” http://www.thesecondmile.org/aboutUs.php

    There is far more basis to impugn Joe Paterno than there is to impugn parents of molested children who were sending their needy kinds to a therapeutic camp.


  13. What a sad couple of posts, DG. It’s this kind of twisted analysis that exposes 2K for what it is: theologically justified moral cowardice.


  14. Respectfully to all, I don’t think that is what it is. I think it is an overreaction/overreach to the other extreme to be so distinguishable from “The Baly’s” (Duhn, duhn, duhn). I’ve said it a few times, but I cannot imagine that DG has read the grand jury report. Or has Kool-Aid come out with a new “Nittany Lion” flavor?


  15. KP, just exactly how courageous is it to condemn Joe Pa? But good of you to rush to condemn 2k. Another indication that anti-2k sentiments run toward neonomianism.


  16. DG,
    Given your comments over the last two days, I fail to see how “neonomianism” is an epithet.

    Over the course of your comments, it appears that you’ve never dealt with a parishioner given over to pedophilia and the consequent impact on a congregation. Your tone smacks of ivory tower, academic smugness (not to mention another commenter’s derisive references to the “masses”) which ought to be antithetical to an FPR contributor. One wonders what you would do if one of the souls under your care (presumably your role as an elder within the OPC is a working one and not simply an administrative title) came to you and said they saw a fellow elder sodomizing a child in the church bathroom. Would you expect the rest of the church to think you’d done the right thing by simply reporting the comments to the pastor? If the sodomitic elder had quietly resigned, but continued to attend your church, would you be satisfied and simply say nothing?

    Why do I think that you’d excuse your do-nothing behavior (yep, I’ve already concluded from your previous comments that you’d likely pull a JoePa) by some sort of redirect to the “pietistic” outrage of the Baylys? When neighbors protect neighbors from predators that’s not pietistic outrage – that’s called good citizenship. When neighbors turn a blind eye to criminal activity that’s called moral failure – and yeah, you can fire people for moral failure.

    Your readers would do well to peruse Rod Dreher’s series of comments at The American Conservative for a better take on what’s happening at Penn State and the obvious parallels to the Catholic church’s ongoing sex scandals


  17. I think it might be appropriate to remind people that “with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged; and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.” Are we not all to some extent guilty of standing idly by while great evil is being done all around us? It also seems likely to me that others – Board members, media, other coaches, etc.- had some knowledge of the Sandusky situation.


  18. KP, you talk pretty tough, but what are the ethics of a guy with a pseudonym calling into question another man’s fitness for office?


  19. KP, if you like AC’s Dreher then you probably also like First Things’ Carter, who suggested that if one doesn’t think like Polaneczky “then something is deeply flawed in your character,” which apparently means if one isn’t showing sufficient moral indignation and self-righteously retro-casting what he would do in McQueary’s situation (“screaming bloody murder”) then he is flawed.

    Boy, that sure sounds an awful lot like when the Baylys say if one isn’t protesting abortion clinics he’s “unfaithful.” Sorry, but screaming bloody murder is not only what pietists but also what adolescents do, and it’s no way for adults to act. It’s also the old “If you don’t care like I care then you don’t care” routine.



  20. KP, I believe all of us live in an abstract world until something like this happens, especially when (remember the past few posts) the person who does something wrong is a friend or someone we admire. So does Joe Pa get a pass if he had no training in what to do?

    Suffice it to say, it is not so easy to render a quick judgment when you confront personal relationships with the offending party, how you communicate this to other people, and as an elder how you try to help this person to repentance and understanding forgiveness. Simply condemning or calling the authorities is not the end of an elder’s job. (What a football coach is called to do, I do not know.) But again, part of what you are not recognizing is that these incidents also violate civil law. So does a pastor or elder call the cops? What if they don’t? Are they obligated to call the cops, especially if the church is truly under the rule of Christ and not under Caesar.

    But I see that a quick verdict on Joe Pa makes the world neat and tidy.


  21. Evidently touched a nerve…

    MM – KP would be initials for “Ken Patrick”. I think my comments are designed to be as blunt as DG’s is smug. My comments come from personal experience with these issues. Having been privy to numerous accounts from sexual abuse victims, I know that good people doing nothing is all too common in these situations. There are many reasons why people do nothing – some of which DG highlighted – none of them are an excuse.

    Zrim – Determining that McQueary or Paterno should have done more than what either did is the adult conclusion. I only wish that what I supposed DG would do (“redirect to pietistic outrage…”) had been directed to you as well. Grow up, Zrim. This is the real world and this kind of abuse/criminal behavior happens every day and people purposefully overlook it every day – to their very great shame. So yes, when a man like McQueary does not protect a widow or orphan, it is evidence of at best moral failure and very likely cowardice. Of course there are numerous reasons why it is difficult for a man to do the right thing in a tough situation; it’s often not easy to do right.

    DG – You wrote…” (What a football coach is called to do, I do not know.)” Is “football coach” an office within the 2K paradigm? A football coach…in this instance…is a citizen of Pennslyvania is a denizen of State College is an employee of Penn State is a man. And a man is called to protect his neighbor when he witnesses or has knowledge of a crime being perpetrated against a fellow citizen. This is citizenship 101. The more power and influence a man has, the more responsibility goes with it.

    You also wrote…
    ” But again, part of what you are not recognizing is that these incidents also violate civil law. So does a pastor or elder call the cops? What if they don’t? Are they obligated to call the cops, especially if the church is truly under the rule of Christ and not under Caesar.”

    If DG Hart – and ascribe whatever office or title to him you wish — had witnessed or had credible testimony related to him of a crime in the men’s restroom he should report it both to his pastor and law enforcement – after he had rushed to the bathroom to see if the incident was still taking place and attempting to stop it if it was still going on.

    Do the members of your congregation know that you evidently struggle with what you would do in the scenario I described? That you don’t know what should be done? Really???


  22. And one more thing…of course the work of an elder is not limited to simply stopping or reporting a crime. Nothing I’ve written suggests that the appropriate course of action is either rapidly concluded or easily accomplished.


  23. “MM – KP would be initials for “Ken Patrick”. I think my comments are designed to be as blunt as DG’s is smug. My comments come from personal experience with these issues. Having been privy to numerous accounts from sexual abuse victims, I know that good people doing nothing is all too common in these situations. There are many reasons why people do nothing – some of which DG highlighted – none of them are an excuse.”

    Thanks, KP. If you would look at the other post, you will see that I substantially agree with you, and likewise I have had personal relationships with people who have been deeply wounded. But this discussion is not a thumbs up / thumbs down roundtable on molestation. It is about rushing to judgment, mob moralism, hypocrisy, degree of culpability, private judgment vs. criminal judgment, foresight vs. hindsight, proper sanctions for sin, subjectivism in judging (eg, Penn State fan? Witness of molestation damage?), and demonizing. It’s all that and more, explicitly or implicitly.

    Don’t you think we should be able to have such a conversation? If not, maybe that’s part of the point here – we should not be blinded by the glare of a heinous accusation, but be able to analyze it. I’m going to append part of the Westminster Large Catechism, which seems to suggest a certain complexity of the commandments and, consequently, a need for careful consideration.

    Q. 99. What rules are to be observed for the right understanding of the Ten Commandments?
    A. For the right understanding of the Ten Commandments, these rules are to be observed:
    1. That the law is perfect, and bindeth every one to full conformity in the whole man unto the righteousness thereof, and unto entire obedience forever; so as to require the utmost perfection of every duty, and to forbid the least degree of every sin.
    2. That it is spiritual, and so reacheth the understanding, will, affections, and all other powers of the soul; as well as words, works, and gestures.
    3. That one and the same thing, in divers respects, is required or forbidden in several commandments.
    4. That as, where a duty is commanded, the contrary sin is forbidden; and, where a sin is forbidden, the contrary duty is commanded: so, where a promise is annexed, the contrary threatening is included; and, where a threatening is annexed, the contrary promise is included.
    5. That what God forbids, is at no time to be done; what he commands, is always our duty; and yet every particular duty is not to be done at all times.
    6. That under one sin or duty, all of the same kind are forbidden or commanded; together with all the causes, means, occasions, and appearances thereof, and provocations thereunto.
    7. That what is forbidden or commanded to ourselves, we are bound, according to our places, to endeavor that it may be avoided or performed by others, according to the duty of their places.
    8. That in what is commanded to others, we are bound, according to our places and callings, to be helpful to them; and to take heed of partaking with others in what is forbidden them.

    Q. 100. What special things are we to consider in the Ten Commandments?
    A. We are to consider, in the Ten Commandments, the preface, the substance of the commandments themselves, and several reasons annexed to some of them, the more to enforce them.


  24. Ken Patrick (now I remember, the anti-2k vitriol makes sense), if you have been paying attention you’d know that the point, which has been reiterated, isn’t that certain behaviors aren’t deplorable (Sandusky) or that others aren’t potentially dubious (McQueary). Rather, it is that some are self-righteous and self-congratulating (Polaneczky). So I guess you’re at ease with a man transporting himself back across time, place and shoes to thump his own chest. But I’m as ill-at-ease with it as I am with what sort of deep-seated moralism it takes to protest deplorable and dubious behaviors going on inside clinics. So, I wonder, does that make me as heinous a character as McQueary? If so, where does the finger wagging end?


  25. MM – You wrote “glare of a heinous accusation, but be able to analyze it”

    This whole scenario would have played differently if instead of 2011 we’re having this conversation in 1998. If these were simply intial accusations without witnesses and no prior pattern, then fine – do the Zrim (which I’m sure readers of this blog will associate with “adult”) thing and analyze away.

    Mobs, while often unreliable, sometimes get it right – especially in situations that are common to our experiences as individuals. That’s why crowds cheer as one when a qb throws a td to win a game in the last second; everyone instantly and correctly recognizes the import of the action.

    In this situation, and according to McQueary’s and Paterno’s own testimony, they acted poorly in the face of a criminal activity. Our commonality as citizens and humans allows most of us to instantly recognize this as at least shameful.


  26. Zrimec –
    You should know by now that of course I would assert that anyone who equivocates on whether or not one should have stopped a criminal activity that one was witnessing in action is indeed heinous.

    Finger wagging ends when there’s no broad consensus on what the right action is. In this case, there’s nothing hypothetical about McQueary’s actions; by his own admission, we know that he failed to stop or attempt to stop a crime when it was in his power to do so. I’m sure he feels terrible now that he didn’t do more. It’s not clear that you do.

    Is it possible that the mob reaction is correct? That it’s actually quite obvious what should have been done and that not doing it deserves moral opprobrium?


  27. Zrim (because my vitriol is apparently bottomless),

    I’m curious as to your view of the sex abuse scandals within the Catholic church — and perhaps I’ve missed it – but it would seem that you would be reluctant to discipline Cardinal Law or any of the many others responsible for that dreadful situation. Perhaps you can enlighten us as to when it is appropriate to cast stones and when it isn’t? When it’s appropriate to stop evil, preach against it and use bad men as examples of what not to do and when it isn’t?


  28. KP: “If these were simply intial accusations without witnesses and no prior pattern, then fine.. analyze away.Mobs, while often unreliable, sometimes get it right … Our commonality as citizens and humans allows most of us to instantly recognize this as at least shameful.”

    KP, that’s quite a defense of mobs acting on impulse. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that you were Joe Paterno’s elder and it was possible to charge him with an offense, would you allow him a trial or simply pronounce sentence? Is it impossible that he could tell you something that would give you a different perspective on what he did or didn’t do?

    Are you certain that you a more moral man than Joe Paterno?


  29. KP, since I may not be around for the next couple volleys, I’ll tell you what I’m getting at, at least in part. It’s good to know a lot, but a lot of people know a lot. It’s the rare person who knows what he doesn’t know. Knowing what we don’t know helps us act justly.


  30. Ken, I don’t think anybody is equivocating on whether or not criminal activity should be stopped. It should be, full stop. But the point is how so many are quick to use apply their hands to McQueary like some sort of puppet and put on an unbecoming morality play. In other words, there is simply more going on here than the simple question of whether certain actions are wrong and whether they should be arrested. Human beings are complex and so are their situations.

    As far as the RCC question, I don’t presume to pontificate on how other communions should keep their own houses. I will say that I have been struck over the years at how plenty use the situation to further malign and stigmatize the RCC, including fellow confessional Prots. Am I opposed as a Reformed believer against the serious doctrinal errors of Rome? Quite. Do I think immorality should be allowed to abide? Never. But for all the righteous talk about sweeping things under rugs I have to wonder about pulling dirty laundry out to accuse sinners for being sinners.


  31. From Paul with a capital “P.” If I didn’t believe in throwing stones, I wouldn’t post stuff!

    On a more serious note, one idea (I think) that Dr. Hart posited was that obnoxious, in your face, sexually immoral sports radio types, ought not pontificate about sexual indecency when, to a certain degree, they are themselves indecent and seem to not regard the interpersonal dynamics of the situation. One responder stated that the talk radio big mouths would probably have done the same thing as McQuery. Personally, I think the radio guy in this area (Indianapolis) would have killed the predator on the spot.

    Legally, everyone accused of a crime is entitled to a fair trial. As I stated earlier, I pray they lawyer up. Obviously, obnoxious radio types are entitled to voice their opinions about the situation. Some of the outrage may be genuine (everyone should be outraged at a sexual crime) but some of it is also meant to be provocative. This thread has certainly been provocative and that too has been by design.

    Joe Paterno is a big boy and a bright guy. This isn’t the first he’s heard of a scandal in NCAA football. In 1985 he told folks that he was staying in college football because he didn’t want to turn it over to the Barry Switzer’s of the world. Paterno knew that a scandal at PSU could ultimately bring him down. Yet, when scandal at PSU reached fever pitch, Paterno seemed to think that he could dictate the terms of his own exit.

    There is a ton of hubris, hypocrisy and filthy hands in and around this scandal.


  32. KP, so there are two important differences here in your theoretical with Joe. If you receive testimony from a credible witness. How do you determine the witness is credible? And how much time will it take? This is important because in your hypothetical you have me rushing down to catch the act in progress. Joe couldn’t do that since McQreary talked to his dad first and they later came to Joe.

    Anyway, the point of the post as MM said was about rushing to judgment not about sexual deviance. And the point was that judging takes a lot more in the actual situation than simply reading a news story and getting agitated. Those who continue to rush to judgment don’t want to spend much time thinking through the difficulties of coming to judgment, which seems to me a pretty two-dimensional (if not one) approach to reality.


  33. P, so you think that Paterno (capital P) is like Barry Switzer? How do you know what Joe seemed to think since Joe has not been allowed to answer questions. I seem to recall something in the decalogue calling for protecting the names of men.


  34. MM – You wrote “KP, that’s quite a defense of mobs acting on impulse. Assuming, for the sake of argument, that you were Joe Paterno’s elder and it was possible to charge him with an offense, would you allow him a trial or simply pronounce sentence? Is it impossible that he could tell you something that would give you a different perspective on what he did or didn’t do?

    Are you certain that you a more moral man than Joe Paterno?”

    I guess my own qualifications on the limit of mobs was missed…
    As to the rest of your response, I think you’ve conflated a number of courts: criminal, church and public opinion. If I witness a man sodomizing a child, then in my opinion he’s guilty (no trial necessary!) and the other two courts can determine if my testimony is true to determine their judgments and subsequent consequences.

    Based on what we do know, JoePa and McQueary, in their own words, either didn’t do anything or not enough. Verdict in the court of public opinion: guilty, no further witnesses necessary because we have a confession. Consequences: fired from a public institution of which you are the most prominent member. Are these two guilty in a court of law or in a church court: guess we’ll have to have a trial to see if something other than a loss of prestige is warranted.

    As to your last question, I’d turn it back to you. I’d love to know why after 9 years Joe now thinks he should have done more than what he did at the time.


  35. DG
    You wrote “again, you know that Sandusky is guilty?” No, I don’t, but if McQueary believes his own testimony then McQueary knows Sandusky is guilty, and it’s his lack of action (as well as Joe’s) that’s at the center of the debate. You appear to want to excuse his lack of action. Are you suggesting we shouldn’t or can’t evaluate McQueary’s own testimony as to whether he acted rightly or wrongly based on what he witnessed and knew?

    You also wrote”so there are two important differences here in your theoretical with Joe” Actually, the theoretical was just that – theoretical – and the setting was you in your church. So what your saying is that when Elder X comes and tells you that Elder Y is sodomizing a youth in the mens’ room, you would ponder the credibility of X, and after establishing his credibility you’d tell the pastor. 9 years later (after the church split) you’d be regretting that you hadn’t done more. In my scenario, there was no running off to dad.

    Of course in the actual events (how do you know that McQueary actually went and told his dad – oh wait, that’s in McQueary’s grand jury testimony – whew, no epistemological controversey here), McQueary should have done more immediately; his father, who to his own shame told him to leave the premises, should have done more and, yeah, Joe should have done more – as he’s admitted.


  36. MM- sorry, when I said last question, I was responding to if there was anything JoePa could say.

    As to your actual last question; I’m not sure that the moral superiority of the judge is relevant to sound judgment. When God allowed Israel to conquer Canaan, He expressly warns them not to think that it is because of their moral superiority that they judge the Canaanites. So too, when the Bablyonians judge Israel, their warrant wasn’t issued on the basis of their consistent covenant keeping with Yahweh as opposed to Israel’s prostitution. So, yeah, the hypocritical sports talk guys are right that JoePa failed. JoePa would be right if he said that people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones.


  37. Zrim,

    The situation at Penn State is indeed complex, and it would appear that McQueary and JoePa are part of something very large. Given the complexity, one can empathize with a young McQueary to an extent, but empathy doesn’t require that we refrain from judging his actions as cowardice.

    Surely you jest about refraining from pontificating about other communions? Your extensive online musings here and elsewhere belie your modesty.

    As to pulling out the dirty laundry – well, that’s what Psalm 78 encourages us to do: remember the past, both the good and the bad, because all of it is a lesson for us now and in the future.


  38. Ken, I think prudence requires that we restrain ourselves from rushing to judgment, even for those who have rushed to judge themselves. And isn’t there a difference between rubbing others’ noses in their dirty laundry and honestly encouraging them to learn from the past? But maybe you have a point about weighing in on the doings of other communions, like those that admonish a President from the pulpit for his politics. I know I am supposed to stay utterly silent when real men do this, so since you seem to know when it’s appropriate to throw stones maybe you could also enlighten us as to when it’s appropriate to intermeddle in civil affairs?


  39. >>>>P, so you think that Paterno (capital P) is like Barry Switzer?<<<<

    Paterno later apologized for his comment. My point was that Paterno was aware that things happening in a program would be laid at the feet of the coach. I think that Switzer was fired because his quarterback raped a girl.

    There are similarities between the two coaches: both won two national titles, both coached at schools known for their football, both were offered jobs in the NFL and both were larger than life at their respective institutions. Oklahoma, however, since the last days of Switzer, has been perceived as dirty. Just today they were hit with NCAA sanctions. Paterno and PSU have always been squeaky clean. They prided themselves on doing things "The Penn State Way." The reputation that Paterno established for himself and the U. is part of the reason that people are taking this thing so hard.

    Can't speak to any other similarities since I don't know either man. But the way you asked the question makes me think you have reservations about Barry. So let me ask you this: if you had to choose between having a beer with Switzer, Mike Horton or Mark Dever and Mike begged off, what would you do?


  40. KP, again, I basically agreed with the basics of your conclusion under the earlier post. I am mostly reacting to your busting into this one saying “What a sad couple of posts, DG. It’s this kind of twisted analysis that exposes 2K for what it is: theologically justified moral cowardice” as if there is simple nothing of merit to discuss here.

    Paterno’s biographer – clearly someone with a buck to make but also someone who knows him better than you or I stated:

    It is still unclear what Paterno did in this case. It will remain unclear for a while. You might be one of the hundreds and hundreds of people I’ve heard from who know EXACTLY what Paterno did. He HAD to know this. He DEFINITELY knew that. He COULD have done something. I respect that. Joe Paterno’s a public figure. You have every right to believe what you want to believe and be absolutely certain about it. But since we have not heard from Joe, not heard from former athletic director Tim Curley, not heard from GA/assistant coach Mike McQueary, not heard from anyone who was in the room, I’ll repeat: It’s unclear. A determined grand jury did not charge Joe Paterno with any crime. A motivated reporting barrage, so far, anyway, has not uncovered a single thing that can tell us definitively what Joe Paterno knew.
    ….But I think the way Joe Paterno has lived his life has earned him something more than instant fury, more than immediate assumptions of the worst, more than the happy cheers of critics who have always believed that there was something phony about the man and his ideals. He deserves what I would hope we all deserve — for the truth to come out, or, anyway, the closest thing to truth we can find. http://joeposnanski.si.com/2011/11/10/the-end-of-paterno/?sct=hp_wr_a5&eref=sihp

    ….but I guess he must be 2k as well. My hunch is that things will look worse as we learn more, but that’s just my hunch. Is there even the slightest hunch in your analysis? Great prosecutors know the weaknesses in their arguments; do you? And shouldn’t fear of slander make us somewhat restrained in way we express our beliefs about another person’s behavior?


  41. KP, no actually the center of debate is the rush to judgment and the failure to consider that we are all worthy of condemnation. That was the point of the post. But thanks for providing lots more evidence of the self-righteousness that afflicts our time. Be careful getting down from your soap box.


  42. Paul, I never turn down a beer, especially if Dever is paying.

    And my point is that you are exhibiting a one-strike view of outness. It is not becoming in a Christian.


  43. “MM, well said, especially the paragraphs with all the capitals.”

    I always appreciate capitals. That way I can tell which words are important.


  44. The Casey Anthony case was parallel to this one insofar as everyone (EVERYONE, as a sports journalist might say) knew she was guilty, and everyone was outraged at the contrary verdict. But juries don’t sit around watching Nancy Grace and they don’t consider mere gossip and innuendo. They are not allowed to make up facts or take away liberty based on hunches. There are procedural rules that leave out unreliable evidence, so they had a better look at the case than the public did. Yet the public condemned the jurors and Ms. Anthony rightfully fears for her safety.

    I’m afraid the lesson most have “learned” from the Casey Anthony case is that juries can be stupid. Too bad. It could have taught us that shouting, sensational journalism may not be the best way to get at the truth. And maybe when we find ourselves in a shouting crowd we should feel uncomfortable about it.


  45. So, Mike, not to take anything away from what you just said, but would you also consider what makes a good jury “cold analysis”? But I think the ethic that describes a good jury is more or less the kind of disposition we should all have, even if that seems “cold.”


  46. I guess I would distinguish, Zrim. We all have different roles/callings. Personal experience and empathy are very useful for some of those callings. Others less so. Concerning juries, I would agree with you. I would further say that there are rules in favor of cold analysis, including the elimination of jurors who have vested interests or experiences that would preclude their impartiality.


  47. The mindset of a jury should be, “Mr./Mrs. Prosecutor. Prove to me and my 11 colleagues, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant is guilty.” Far more often than not, the prosecution wins. When a Grand Jury is involved, the odds against acquittal are even steeper.

    The same kinds of people that blog on this site and broadcast sports radio, sit on juries and work in the judicial system. They carry their baggage with them and each side fights really hard to eliminate evidence that would hurt their cause, even if it would help the other sides cause. What is read about in 8th grade U.S. history re: the founding of the judicial system is not what one finds in the modern court room. Given what I perceive to be a bias against defendants, is remarkable that Ms. Anthony was found not guilty. In Indiana, a defendant can be convicted with ZERO physical evidence. She may have been found guilty here.


  48. Mike, thanks. Yes, I understand there is a difference between civilians and juries (just like there are differences between laity and officers). I’m just suggesting that civilians might have something valuable to learn from the duties of juries. I’m also questioning the notion of “cold analysis.” It smells like “dead orthodoxy.” Are there really such things?


  49. “I’m just suggesting that civilians might have something valuable to learn from the duties of juries. I’m also questioning the notion of “cold analysis.” It smells like “dead orthodoxy.” Are there really such things?”

    As you can tell by my avatar, I’m prone to maintaining a poker face and engaging in cold analysis. Maybe I’m just trying too hard to be accepting of other approaches. Or maybe I’m worried that, once we begin this conversation, I’ll paint myself into a pietistic corner.

    Nevertheless, I’m willing to explore this a little bit. Let’s begin by talking about social issue advocates. I typically find them prickly and strident, but they can be effective in raising public awareness of certain types of injustice. They are typically passionate for their cause, and that motivates their work. I’m glad they don’t get their entire agendas put into place, but they have a sometimes beneficial role in drawing attention to the plight of today’s orphans, widows, and aliens. It would be dangerous for them to have unfettered power, but, in a society that can balance them out in various ways, they have a valuable place.

    Yes? No?


  50. “Given what I perceive to be a bias against defendants, is remarkable that Ms. Anthony was found not guilty. In Indiana, a defendant can be convicted with ZERO physical evidence. She may have been found guilty here.”

    Paul, I don’t think the kind of (admissible) evidence is a big problem as long as the burden of proof remains at “beyond a reasonable doubt.” Modern forensic investigation really helps to meet that burden, but if the circumstantial proof is sufficiently convincing, justice can be done in those cases as well.

    Do you have some kind of scenario in mind that I may be overlooking?


  51. I have a story about the appearance vs. the reality of moral culpability.

    I was playing Frisbee in a park one afternoon. A troubled neighborhood boy came between me and my young son and stole the Frisbee from us. He ran around and taunted us with it. My emotions were well in check, but on perhaps his third swoop near me I simply grabbed the Frisbee. At that point he got very dramatic and flopped backwards while yelling. Three teens in the park looked over just as he was falling away from me. So there we have it – a “victim” with three witnesses prepared to say that a grown man threw a boy to the ground. For about 24 hours I contemplated a prosecution of some sort with a possibly devastating impact on my family, church, and career. Fortunately some neighbors of the flopping boy convinced his parents that I would neither do that nor lie about it afterwards.

    Zrim, maybe it’s an unholy synthesis, but perhaps that experience does help make me passionate about cold analysis, at least in the realm of moral judgment of individuals.


  52. >>>>Do you have some kind of scenario in mind that I may be overlooking?<<<>>>So there we have it – a “victim” with three witnesses prepared to say that a grown man threw a boy to the ground.<<<<

    Great example. Let's suppose the cops showed up, they talked to the boy and his witnesses and the State decided to press charges against you. In court your attorney asks the police if they witnessed or photographed any scrapes, bruises, etc. They answer in the negative as do the other witnesses. Now it's the boy's testimony plus that of his pals against you and possibly your son. The jury will probably not assign a whole lot of weight to your son unless he too is a State's witness. In that case, the State probably would not call him.

    If the four boys say essentially the same thing on the stand, you are going to be in big trouble. You are an adult and should have exercised restraint. Instead you tried to make an example out of a kid, not like your own, by slamming him to the ground. And his back and neck hurt for a week.

    That's the narrative, the kids agreed. It's four plus the State (including the police) against one.

    I'm not engaging in creative writing here . . . I'm very familiar with a situation not unlike the one you described where the kids parents decided to press charges. It went down as described above and the defendant was convicted. All of us supporting the defendant saw room for a ton of extraordinarily reasonable doubt. We weren't sure if all of the jurors would or not since at least two of them nodded off to sleep several times. It turns out that reasonable doubt is what the jury says reasonable doubt is. Words like "knowingly" or "intentionally" are interpreted differently by different juries. It's enough to drive Dr. Hart to drink with Barry Switzer.

    MM, I appreciate your question and Dr. Hart, I appreciate your blog and the threads over the past few days.


  53. Mike, the short answer is no. The extended answer is that I know it’s default that they play the role you suggest, but I’m skeptical of the value so-called social justice advocates have. I am sure some faction of them really do have the suffering other’s best interest in mind, but I think the larger balance tend to be fueled by at least as much self-righteousness as by genuine compassion. Those that have genuine concern for the suffering other, I think, are much less vocal and more interested in quietly helping the other than in drawing others’ attention. So I am also skeptical that they “raise public awareness of certain types of injustice.” The idea seems to presume that nobody would have ever figured out how to treat one another until they came along and pointed out what obligation, human kindness and civility were all about.


  54. >>>>How do you know what Joe seemed to think since Joe has not been allowed to answer questions.<<<<

    I missed this in Dr. Hart's post. In his statement, released hours before his firing, Paterno told the board:

    "That's why I have decided to announce my retirement effective at the end of this season. At this moment the Board of Trustees should not spend a single minute discussing my status. They have far more important matters to address. I want to make this as easy for them as I possibly can."

    Paterno didn't speak with the board about this statement. And the board had only one other matter to discuss that day, the firing of the PSU president.

    Paterno hasn't been answering questions but for own sake he needs to quit making statements or having his kids tweet on his behalf. The remark about "I wish I had done more" is going to open the floodgates of litigation.


  55. I find it curious that it is the theonomists and those who are zealous to uphold and communicate the moral law to all of humanity often seem oblivious to the fact that Christ himself walked among the morally ambiguous and not one stone was thrown at the sinners he walked with and got to know quite well (except perhaps Judas whose sin seemed to be self-righteousness and taking the money from the coffers that the disciples had gathered- perhaps his intention was to give it to the poor or the Pharisees) It is hard to fathom how God could walk among us rebels and not lose it in judgment. I used to walk among drug addicts who understood their need for the Gospel better than a lot of church people I hung out with for so long. Was it my responsibility to stop the drug dealers from doling out the death that drug addiction leads to? We are surrounded by death and sin everyday but the best thing we can do is get others involved in the church where they can hear the Law and Gospel and participate in the Sacraments on a regular basis, before it is too late. It is God jobs to deal out the judgment at the appropriate time. Moral reform centered in the Law of God has never worked in the history of the Church. It is the Gospel that brings true moral reform among us sinners. As Luther stated, Erasmus went after their appetites, ie. their sin and immoral behavior, but I went after their doctrine.

    I am really not qualified to respond to such weighty issues as discussed thus far on these posts but it is a fascinating discussion that goes to the core of what ails us all. Grace, mercy, justice and love were all dealt with at the cross- Christ fulfilled both the covenants made with Moses and Abraham and that is good news to us sinners.


  56. Zrim, you say micro, I say macro. My point is not to laud the personal moral state of individual advocates which admittedly is more sanctimonious than sanctified. I’m thinking of a society-wide dialogue in which we hear victim advocates, race advocates and green advocates, among others. I will even include the perpetual bogeyman the ACLU. As much as I profoundly disagree with the breadth of their agendas, they balance the national conversation and raise sensitivity to some injustices and ethical considerations.

    Consider “illegal immigrants” from our southern border. There could be a univocal narrative: they have no legal right to be here. Under that narrative, who cares whether they are mistreated in their workplaces? They are just a way to get “anti” cheers at a political rally. That’s a good environment for racism to prosper. Now enter the advocates. They make a claim – credible in some industries – that some of these people are doing work others would not do. They tell a story of people who have no opportunity in their native land, and are willing to work hard here just as other past immigrant groups have. The advocates do not make the legal question moot, but perhaps they tell us a story that enables us to treat this group of people in a moral way. Perhaps they also encourage us to find just ways of dealing with this large group of people living within our borders.

    I guess I am highlighting a salutary effect of pluralism.


  57. Mike, I think you may be describing the smaller and less vocal faction of advocates for whom I make room and for whom I have sympathy. It’s the blowhards who seem to get the lion’s share of attention that I think are less than valuable. That said, I happen also to think that there are small and less vocal advocates for both sides of whatever issue that have legitimate claims worth weighing, and often I wish they did more to distance themselves from the blowhards in their respective camps who seem to diminish the worthiness of those claims. Instead, many seem to think the blowhards are their friends. For example, arguably, those who aggressively vocalize themselves outside abortion clinics do more harm to the right to life cause than the choice politics that yield clinics. And I wish those who worked quietly behind the scenes to honestly help women and children in unfortunate situations would pick better friends, as it were.


  58. Maybe the press’ problem was attributing powers to JoePa supposedly possessed by the Vatican Curia:

    So this assumption that the Pope is a kind of absolute monarch or Marine Commandant is problematic in itself. It’s also particularly problematic, it seems to me, because it tended this past spring to deflect attention from where attention needs to be paid, and that is to the functioning of local bishops who in, I would say, the overwhelming majority of cases that have come to the light of public attention since 2002 are where the source of the genuine problem, the problem of malfeasance, misfeasance, incompetence, et cetera, lies.

    The second assumption that seems to be at work and needs to be cleared out is the assumption that the higher altitudes of the Roman Curia are led by men of world class competence, including the assumption, the sub-assumption within Assumption No. 2, if you will, that the Vatican runs what’s often called “the world’s best intelligence service” through its Nunciature system. This is simply not true.

    The quality of heads of decasteries in the Roman Curia over the past 20, 30, 40 years that I’ve been paying any attention to this does not seem to me necessarily higher than in other countries to which I pay attention or other systems in which I pay attention, like the United States, Canada or the United Kingdom, and in some notable instances that competence is quite lower.

    One of the major problems in addressing forcefully and quickly the problems that came to the surface in 2002 was the absolute incompetence of Cardinal Dario Castrillon Hoyos to wrap his mind around these problems, which among other things led to what is arguably the worst curial press conference in modern history until several of Father Lombardi’s efforts earlier this year.


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