Penn State’s Scandal Cannot Be Prayed Away

Charles P. Pierce‘s Grantland piece on the Penn State Child Raping Scandal may be the most powerful article yet about the crimes that took place — and why prayer, moments of silence, and playing football are the wrong solutions:

It no longer matters if there continues to be a football program at Penn State. It no longer even matters if there continues to be a university there at all. All of these considerations are trivial by comparison to what went on in and around the Penn State football program.

There will now be a decade or more of criminal trials, and perhaps a quarter-century or more of civil actions, as a result of what went on at Penn State. These things cannot be prayed away. Let us hear nothing about “closure” or about “moving on.” And God help us, let us not hear a single mumbling word about how football can help the university “heal.” (Lord, let the Alamo Bowl be an instrument of your peace.) This wound should be left open and gaping and raw until the very last of the children that Jerry Sandusky is accused of raping somehow gets whatever modicum of peace and retribution can possibly be granted to him. This wound should be left open and gaping and raw in the bright sunlight where everybody can see it, for years and years and years, until the raped children themselves decide that justice has been done. When they’re done healing — if they’re ever done healing — then they and their families can give Penn State permission to start.

[Enda Kenny, Taoiseach of the Republic of Ireland, when talking about the Catholic Church's child abuse scandal] did not drop to his knees. He did not ask for a moment of silence. He did not seek “closure” but, rather, he demanded the hard and bitter truth of it, and he demanded it from men steeped in deceit from their purple carpet slippers to their red beanies. Enda Kenny did not look to bind up wounds before they could be cleansed. And that is the only way to talk about what happens after the raping of children.


About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Anonymous

    Good ol’ Mathew 6:5-6. Always nice

  • Kevin S.

    Charlie Pierce is normally a cantankerous old buffoon, typically when he’s telling anybody who looks at baseball like we aren’t still in the 50s to get off his lawn, but he absolutely nailed this issue.

  • Kevin_Of_Bangor

    100% full of win.

  • Anonymous

    “It no longer even matters if there continues to be a university
    there at all. All of these considerations are trivial by comparison to
    what went on in and around the Penn State football program.” 

    That’s grotesque hyperbole if I’ve ever heard it.  It certainly matters in a non-trivial way to the faculty, staff, and students of Penn State, the academic community at large and the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that there continue to “be a university there at all”.  I don’t know why Mr. Pierce would write something so outlandishly absurd.

    • Brian Hartman

      I don’t think there *should* be a university there at all.  If the administration covered up child rape, **** them all.  There ought to be serious consequences for the school as a whole.  This wasn’t just an individual failing.  It was the whole organization failing.

      • Anonymous

        Umm, then fire the Administration.  Fire the entire Board too if you want.   But saying that the school “as a whole”, including every Professor, janitor, grad student, etc… is responsible is just moronic.  Also, shutting down a University that cost billions of dollars and millions of man-hours in human effort to establish is equally moronic.   I can’t tell whether people like yourself are being serious with these comments or whether you really think that massive waste of human capital is a good thing.  I feel like there is a piety in our culture that requires excessive proposals when a serious crime occurs, and that is a bad thing.  Fix the organizational problems, send the appropriate people to jail and move on.

        • Toasted Rye

          In the grand scheme of things I promise it does not matter at all. If the university fails and every person looses their job and students must transfer or be forced to give up college forever it is still a small consequence compared to the consequence the victims must face. I also see no such recommendation that the school should close. Only that the consequence is smaller than what the children victimized by Sandusky suffered.

          • Anonymous

            The original claim was that it wouldn’t matter if it shut.  Brian Hartman seconded that absurd claim.  If you’re going to justify massive waste on the basis that “in the grand scheme of things” it doesn’t matter, then the same thing could be said about anything.  Sure, the Sun will engulf the Earth in 5 Billion years, but that doesn’t justify shuttering a multi-billion dollar enterprise built over more than a century because of a serious crime.  As for “Only that the consequence is smaller than what the children victimized by Sandusky suffered,” I have no idea how you think they are comparable such that you can say one is smaller than the other.  They are apples and oranges.

      • http://twitter.com/psublue Jim DeLancey

        I graduated from Penn State in 2008. I live and work in State College, so you can safely assume (and I’ll confirm) that I carry a bias on this issue.

        I agree that there should be “serious consequences for the school as a whole”, but those should come in the form of leadership changes, probationary periods (NCAA, Big Ten, state/federal funding, etc.), and increased scrutiny from regulatory agencies at both the state and federal levels. Regardless of whether these allegations are true, it is clear to me that the administration failed to handle the situation properly. It is not clear to me that the vast majority of university students, alumni, and employees had any knowledge of these events prior to the AG’s report a few weeks ago.

        If these allegations are true – something that will be decided over the next few years of criminal trials – then the individuals who have been or will be charged will be held accountable. As I said above, the vast majority of individuals associated with the university had NO idea that any of these events happened, had NO involvement in the events, and bear NO responsibility for the negative impact that these events had on the victims and their families.

        I understand that dozens of lives have been ruined by what allegedly occurred. I understand the general public’s outrage – I’m probably more outraged than most. However, I don’t understand why so many people are allowing that outrage to block out their sense of logic and reason. We have a judicial system for a reason. We have a lengthy jury selection process for a reason. We don’t allow victims to determine punishments for a reason. We need to keep emotion out of the process of determining both guilt and punishment.

  • Anonymous

    He also writes this: “ It is not a failure of our institutions so much as it is a window into what they have become — soulless, profit-driven monsters, Darwinian predators with precious little humanity left in them.” That “Darwinian predators” part kinda caught my eye. Is he suggesting that evolution is at least partly to blame?

    • Kevin S.

      Context made it sound like it was more of a social Darwinism reference.

      • Anonymous

        He should be a little more clear, then.

  • Elliott776

    America’s economic problems can’t be prayed away either Rick Perry.

    • Thislambert

      Nor the drought conditions in Texas

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Scott-Rhoades/100000175617377 Scott Rhoades

    This is another example of dogma making you crazy. I would have thought that with all the sex abuse I’ve heard about from the Catholic church that something like this wouldn’t affect me as much as it did. It enraged me –because it was about protecting a college sports program. I wrote about it here:

    http://www.lancasterfreethought.org/2011/11/15/the-dangers-of-dogma-and-the-penn-state-football-program/

  • ORAXX

    How many prayers do you suppose were offered up during the Holocaust?  And how well did it work?

  • Lafitte23

    I had a friend from Penn State, who told me he cheated on his wfe, but still loved her. I told him i did not believe in a god….He said he would pray for me!!!