Paterno’s lost soul

Paterno’s lost soul November 7, 2011

What is our responsibility?

It’s a question we all face, day-to-day

We ask it most often this way — what am I obligated to do?

Legally. Ethically. Morally.  Spiritually

Breaking it down this way gives us more escape hatches.

I might feel spiritually that I ought to take some action, but if the law doesn’t require me to, then I can dismiss the move of the Spirit by deferring to the law of the land.

I suppose that may be one of the ways Joe Paterno rationalized his failure to take further actions toward Coach Sandusky. A troubling investigation, if the facts are true, reports that Sandusky was using his job to rape boys.

The report says that in 2002 a grad student and his father witnessed Coach Sandusky raping a 10-year-old boy in the showers. They reported it to Paterno, who then passed it along to his boss. And up the ranks it went, until, well …  nothing…

Until the headlines broke.

Meanwhile, Sandusky was still using his position as coach to sexually molest boys.

If these allegations are true, and it appears they are, then Sandusky is a sick soul. Pedophilia is usually considered a non-rehabilitative sort of illness. Pedophiles need constant supervision throughout their lives, lest they re-offend.

Certainly Paterno knows that. He works at one of the top universities in the nation, for goodness sake. Surely, he’s studied something besides tight-ends and backfields in motion.

His official word on the matter is that he’s upset about all this.

“Sue and I have devoted our lives to helping young people reach their potential. The fact that someone we thought we knew might have harmed young people to this extent is deeply troubling. If this is true we were all fooled, along with scores of professionals trained in such things, and we grieve for the victims and their families. They are in our prayers.”

The problem with this surely heartfelt remark is that children who are being abused need more than our prayers, they need us to protect them.

Paterno failed to do that.

And in 2002, Kelly said, a graduate assistant saw Sandusky sexually assault a naked boy, estimated to be about 10 years old, in a team locker room shower. The grad student and his father reported what he saw to Paterno, who immediately told Curley, prosecutors said.

Paterno, in fact, failed to do much  of anything.

As my grand jury testimony stated, I was informed in 2002 by an assistant coach that he had witnessed an incident in the shower of our locker room facility. It was obvious that the witness was distraught over what he saw, but he at no time related to me the very specific actions contained in the Grand Jury report. Regardless, it was clear that the witness saw something inappropriate involving Mr. Sandusky. As Coach Sandusky was retired from our coaching staff at that time, I referred the matter to university administrators.

Lemme see if I’ve got this right. Nine years ago, a grad assistance and his father came to Paterno,  and said, “Hey PA, I saw Coach Sandusky assaulting a 10-year-old in the shower today.”  The assistant was visibly upset. He was angry. He was so mad he was near tears. But Paterno was, what? Too busy to deal with his own staff? Too focused on some game to say, What do you mean by assaulting a kid? Was Coach Sandusky hitting him? Or do you mean he was bent over him? Sit down, son and tell me what you saw.”

Paterno wants to have it both ways. He wants us to believe he was fuzzy on the details. Paterno says it was clear the grad assistant saw something inappropriate, but Paterno says he didn’t know the details of the assault.


Total Bullshit.

The truth of the matter is Paterno didn’t want to deal with it. He didn’t even do what he’s required to do by law as an employee of a university and that’s to file an official report to authorities if he had even a “suspicion” that a child was being abused. And Paterno clearly had more than suspicion. He had an eye-witness.


OH. WAIT!!  It appears that Penn. Law is different. News reports on Tuesday say that Paterno met his LEGAL obligation. Apparently, Paterno, as a member of a state university is NOT a Mandatory Reporter. By Penn Law, Paterno did what was required of him. So says…

State police Commissioner Frank Noonan said that although Paterno may have met his legal requirement to report suspected abuse by Sandusky, “somebody has to question about what I would consider the moral requirements for a human being that knows of sexual things that are taking place with a child.”

He added: “I think you have the moral responsibility, anyone. Not whether you’re a football coach or a university president or the guy sweeping the building. I think you have a moral responsibility to call us.”

Pennsylvania might want to revisit their laws for mandatory reporting. Moral responsibility went the way of church attendance.

Children trust us to protect them.

Joe Paterno has failed miserably.

One of the most telling of all his comments was that line “As Coach Sandusky was retired from our coaching staff at the time…”

The person Paterno ought to be praying for is himself.

He lost his soul somewhere in the muck-and-mire of shucking off his responsibility.



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  • Laurie

    The article that I read ( states that there were two or three sexual abuse with a minor incidents witnessed by adults several years before there were any charges filed. Why on earth were there no charges the very first time! I can’t help but think about all the pain and suffering that could have been prevented if this had been dealt with early. The people that knew about his behavior and did not report it to the police and didn’t follow through with making sure that this man was held accountable and not allowed to be around children should be charged with being accessories.

    My heart breaks for the victims and their families! I have friends that were sexually abused as children and I have seen firsthand how difficult it is to heal and overcome the abuse. I have a friend whose middle aged husband is literally coming apart at the seams because he never dealt (emotionally) with sexual abuse as a child. He went on to get married, became a Christian, has several kids, a good job, serves in ministry, everything was going very well. Out of the blue a couple of years ago, he began to unravel emotionally, he is currently sleeping in his truck at the river and on the verge of loosing it all, while his wife and kids watch dad coming unglued! He is a really good man, just struggling with a crushed and broken spirit because of a pedophile.

    I have another friend whose father sexually abused both her and her sister. She has worked very hard to overcome the abuse and her sister developed a multiple personality disorder because of it. Another friend was abused by her father and she became an alcoholic to medicate the emotional pain. She has gone through recovery now and is doing well. She became a therapist and a marriage counselor/pastor.

    We all share in the responsibility to PROTECT OUR CHILDREN from abuse!

    “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing”

  • John Stark

    Paterno’s comment that you quote says “retired from.” Later in your post you misquote this as “retiring from.”

    • Yes, and I was also wrong about the state law. Apparently Penn law didn’t mandate Paterno call the police or Childrens Services. Though, there is certainly reason to ask if he had a moral obligation to do so

  • john in pdx

    It’s actually worse than him working at Penn State.
    Sandusky was retired. He was using a foundation that he started to help abused kids. The cover up in organizations like this is horrible. I hope lots of heads roll. Including Paterno.

  • Anonymous

    I wonder about the assistant’s actions. If I saw someone being assaulted, I’d call the police, not just go to my supervisor. Unless of course the assistant was thinking that their supervisor would take it from there. But really, if you saw an adult have inappropriate relations with a child that visibly upset you, would you not rush around, making a big deal of it? It just seems like the appropriate level of urgency, outrage, etc. was missing from this case.

  • Jas

    this is very sad. there isn’t any sense of urgency to take action. and the coach has been doing it ever since..

  • So many thoughts about this.
    1. If I had been the grad assistant, I’d like to think I would not have left the locker room to call my dad, but instead would have rescued the boy right then.
    2. Paterno has coached is more games, and won more games, than anyone. His good deeds and accomplishments will be overshadowed by this one terrible failure. There’s a lot to unpack with that there thought. I’ve met people despondent because of their past, sure that God will not accept them back.
    3. The firing of Paterno for not defending the defenseless, coming the same week we celebrate our nation’s veterans, carries with it a touch of irony.