Say it ain’t so Joe – Penn State and the Catholic Church

When the tragic story of the child sexual abuse scandal and cover up at Penn State broke, and Joe Paterno’s name was mentioned, I thought of another Joe who was involved in a sports scandal.

Joe Jackson, the Chicago White Sox baseball star, nicknamed “Shoeless Joe”. He was implicated in a conspiracy to fix the World Series in 1919. Legend has it that one day during his trial, as Joe was leaving the courthouse, a young boy from the crowd of loyal fans, came up to him and asked his hero, “Say it ain’t so Joe?” Joe did not respond.

Jackson was acquitted by a Chicago Jury, but Kenesaw Mountain Landis, the first commissioner of baseball, ignored the court ruling and banned Joe from playing baseball for . The tearful cry of “Say it ain’t so Joe” has echoed throughout baseball history for the last ninety-two years.

My thoughts went back to Joe Paterno. “Say you didn’t have previous knowledge of any of the abuse Joe!” Then the news came out that he at least had been informed of one of the victims allegedly raped by assisted coach Jerry Sandusky, and reported the incident to his the atheletic director . “Say you reported him to the police Joe!” More news—he didn’t report Sandusky to the police only to his immediate supervisor. I wondered, what would he have done if it were his own son or grandson? As I listened to the pundits on TV, they seemed to agree with I was beginning to conclude, that Paterno might not be legally guilty, since he did report the incident to the athletic director, but would he be morally guilty because he didn’t report the act to the police, and might be complicit in the crime. As the days and news reports went on, I wondered more if Joe had been involved in a cover- up.

However, I still didn’t want to believe that this icon of college football was guilty of contributing to a involving young boys. After reading the twenty-three page report from the 2010 Grand Jury’s investigation, I realized that I had been in a state of denial or rationalization. Reading the testimony of his assistant coach, Mike McQueary, who was a graduate assistant in 2002 when the incident happened, and comparing it with Paterno’s testimony, was the clincher.

McQueary testified that “…he saw a naked boy, Victim #2, whose age he estimated to be ten years old, with his hands up against the wall, being subjected to anal intercourse by a naked Sandusky.”

When asked to confirm McQueary’s testimony, the report reads, “Joseph V. Paterno testified to receiving the graduate assistant’s report at his home…Paterno testified that the graduate assistant was very upset. Paterno called Tim Curley, Penn State athletic director and his immediate superior…and reported that his graduate assistant had seen Jerry Sandusky in the shower fondling or doing something of sexual nature to a young boy.” Something of a sexual nature!!! Was Paterno so puritanical that he couldn’t utter the words “anal intercourse”, or was he trying to minimize what he had been told by McQueary? Or Did McQueary actually refer to an act of sodomy as something of “a sexual nature”?

We obviously won’t know until the trial is over, but for me, it began to sound more and more like the self-serving strategy the used to handle the sexual abuse to children by priests. They first would deny or minimize the extent of the scandal, in effect they put the institution’s “reputation” compassion for the molested children; they engaged in a cover-up to protect the perpetrators; they blamed the press and hired expensive lawyers and public relations people, who were experts in blaming the victims. At least Penn State fired, their president, vice president for finances, athletic director, head coach and put McQueary on leave.

Since the priest pedophile scandal was exposed in Boston in 2002, up to the present time, none of the bishops responsible for covering up for hundreds of pedophile priests in the United States. The bishops did this by moving the victimizers from parish to parish, without letting the parishioners know their new pastor was a pedophile. In the past decade we’ve discovered that sexual child abuse by priests was not just endemic to the USA. It seemed like every week we were deluged with new outbreaks, which were handled by bishops with the same remedy—cover-ups. It was as if the disease of pedophilia was an epidemic and had metastasized from country to country throughout our planet.

There are possible positive lessions that have come to light because of the Penn State scandal. It seems to have awakened more people to heinous crime of child sexual abuse. fully this will motivate more of us to be alert to possible predators, whose obsession is seducing and abusing young children to satisfy their sick sexual passions. Additionally, the focus that the media has been putting on the problem seems to be giving strength to other victims who were abused decades ago to come forward and confront their perpetrator.

One specific action that we can take is to contact our legislators and agencies that deal with child sexual abuse to find out if the laws in your state for the Statute of Limitation need to be changed. I know in Arizona, where I live, there is no time limit for reporting sexual abuse of a child. Other states vary from two to 10 or more years. Since the psychological damage done to a child by a pedophile can be suppressed well in to adulthood, for a number of different reasons, the ideal is to have no time limit for bringing charges against the person who has assaulted children and may well continue to damage other children. Here is a website that has information on Statutes of Limitation for each state.

I welcome any feedback, you might have, especially if you or someone close to you has been sexually abused as a child by someone in a position of authority; and any suggestions for actions we can take to protect innocent children.

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