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 life. 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 sex scandal 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 Catholic Church 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 Catholic 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. Hopefully 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.
According to my grandmother, Mary Frances Kelly Fausel, storytellers in Ireland captured the imaginations of their audiences by opening their stories with, “Once upon a time, long, long ago, longer than I can tell you and longer than you can tell me and, ten times longer than anyone can tell the both of us, there was…” Well have I got a story to tell! Some call it the Great Story, others The New Story, and still others the New Cosmology. Whatever you call it, it has the potential to change our vision of God and the Universe. At least it has for me.
The Great Story is not a story that I made up, but one I leaned from studying the works of some of the greatest scientists and theologians, and from reflecting on my own experience, as I searched the literature of the post Hubble telescope cosmology, and worked at finding my place in this awesome Universe.
The Universe that we are part of is profoundly different from the small and simpler world in which our ancestors lived. If we clung to the stories they told to explain their world, we would still believe that: the earth was flat; it was the center of the world; the sun and moon and stars orbited around the earth; the earth was created by God in six days and on the sixth day God was so tired he had to rest. We would also believe that: God created two humans (Adam and Eve) in His image and likeness and, they did not evolve over a period of billions of years but on the sixth day, they with all the other creatures that would inhabit the earth, were created as we know them today; Adam and Eve were thrown out of paradise where they lived, because they committed a sin by eating an apple, all their progeny inherited their sin; and according to St. Augustine, their sin was passed on to us through the male’s semen.
How do we know all these “facts”? In the words of a comforting child’s hymn, “For the Bible tells me so.” Not surprisingly the renowned scriptural scholar Father Raymond E. Brown, SS has a different opinion of the creation of the first man and woman. According to Father Brown, “Today no serious theologian accepts this understanding of how (man was created), because of the scientific evidence favoring evolution …”.
I can understand how our ancestors believed that story. They obviously didn’t have the benefit of the scientific information that we have today. They were primitive, uneducated people who couldn’t even imagine the billions of years it took for the earth and humans to evolve. Nor could they imagine the vastness of the Universe that our little planet is part of. What is hard for me to understand is that there are people living today that still believe the stories our ancestors leaned and cherished. I’m not judging them, it just difficult for me to comprehend how they still can take that story literally, in the face of what we have learned from science.
I agree with Michael Dowd, when he wrote in his book, Thank God For Evolution, “Creation and evolution are one and the same. Science and religion go hand in hand. One without the other leaves humanity lost in the literature, searching in vain for answers to post-modern problems in ancient religious texts written when people believed the world was flat. Only by looking through evolutionary eyes can we see our way out of the current global integrity crisis that is destroying economies and ecosystems around the world.”
The Great Story is an invitation to a journey that no previous generation could even envision. As mathematician/cosmologist Brian Swimme states in his book Journey of the Universe that he co-authored with Mary Evelyn Tucker, “We are the first generation to learn the comprehensive scientific dimensions of the Universe story (The Great Story). We know that the observable Universe emerged 13.7 billion years ago, and we now live on a small planet orbiting our Sun, one of the trillions of stars in one of the billion of galaxies in an unfolding Universe that is profoundly creative and interconnected.” Wow! I find it difficult to imagine billions and trillions of anything. If it were not for the space telescopes like the Hubble (1990) and Spitzer (2003) that brought us back photographs and videos of our expanding Universe, I probably would still be watching the sun “rise” in the East and “set” in the West, without ever figuring out that we were orbiting the sun and not vice versa.
The more I learned about our expanding Universe and my relationship to it, the more I needed to question my vision of God. To paraphrase scripture, “When I was a child, I spoke and thought like a child, (Italics are my addition) I believed like a child, I prayed like a child, I reasoned like a child’. But when I grew up, I spoke and thought critically as an adult, I understood and took responsibility for the primacy of my conscience, and I prayed with a new vision of the Universe and God. I put away childish ideals. ” (I Corinthians 13:11) Now I no longer: pray as a child as I did when I used to invoke God’s intervening power to help me hit a homerun, or get good marks on my report card; nor am I governed by blind obedience by any authority figure; nor a victim of a unpredictable God, who governes by guilt and shame.
I became more conscious of Jesus’ words that “The Kingdom of God is within us.” God was no longer a “looking down on us”, punishing God. To use metaphorical language, God is: energy, light, compassion, justice, love, etc. My first choice is that God is best described by the metaphor, Love.
This new vision of the expanding Universe is described in the Great Story, and the vision of God as Love, is described in both the Gospel of John, and derived from metaphorical language. This makes more sense to me than relying on the stories of our ancestors.
I welcome your thoughts on this blog on the Great Story. For more information I suggest the following links on my website under the title of Creationism and Evolution. Scroll down to Resources for Further Study. There are 17 annotated references. I particularly recommend: #4 Michael Dowd’s website. He is the author of Thank God for Evolution; #15 is the website for Connie Barlow’s The Great Story.
Also here is a Power Point of, Our Place in the Universe. From, “Pearson Education, Inc.” Published as Addison-Wesley.