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Sinning, Penn State, and Joe Paterno

It is amazing to me that, no matter where you were brought up, no matter what religion, we all seem to have a pretty good idea what sinning is. Most of us can distinguish between simply making a mistake and doing something that is so outrageous that it will be remembered even after we have departed this life.

Religion puts stress on sins of commission as well as sins of omission, and I think that for a civilized society, that is an important concept. I remember once in sunday school when the Rabbi did ask the class what a sin of commission was. I am sure that is a question that he will never again ask a class of preteens. The poor guy couldn’t shut us up as we proceeded to let him know all of the sins of commission that we knew. I remember being particularly intrigued when a 13 year old girl told the class that fellatio was a sin. I had no idea what fellatio was, and I didn’t have the internet to find out. Fortunately, by the way the Rabbi reacted, I knew better than to ask my parents.

Listing sins of omission were not as easy.

Clearly after reading about Joe Paterno we now all now know what a sin of omission is. Surely Coach Joe knew (or should have known) that when one of the people working with him was so perverted as to do the things that he was doing, he should have been removed from any contact with young children and should have been reported to the police. Joe Paterno is an enabler. He may not have done anything himself, but by his actions he enabled a very sick individual to have a profound negative influence on a lot of young children – and possibly hurt or ruined their lives.

To use a sports metaphor, do you want to know what a “game changer” is? Look at what Coach Joe did. With one serious mistake, he made sure that instead of simply being known as one of the winningest coaches of all times, he is now an enabler of pedophiles and, maybe as a footnote, one of the winningest coaches of all times.

Sorry about that, Joe, But you did it to yourself.

There is more. According to two reporters of USA Today, there were suspicions about the accused pedophile, Jerry Sandusky’s tendencies for over 10 years. The whistle-blower was a Penn State graduate student who reported to a grand jury that he had caught Sandusky subjecting a young boy to anal intercourse and said that he reported it to Joe Paterno during a meeting at Paterno’s house the next day. Paterno then, according to the grand jury summary, told the Penn State Athletic Director that an assistant had seen Sandusky “fondling or doing something of a sexual nature to a young boy”.  It would be difficult for me to believe that The Coach didn’t know that Sandusky had a problem.

Most state laws (I don’t know specifically about Pennsylvania) make a person who has seen child sexual abuse obligated to report it to the police. Reporting to a Nationally Famous Football Coach is not an acceptable substitute.


One comment on “Sinning, Penn State, and Joe Paterno

  1. A major part of the tension is America’s obsession with legalism versus society’s moral expectations. In America a crime is not a crime unless there is a law against it. Joe Paterno reported the incident to his superiors without following through. Now lawyers are casting their chicken bones on the ground to decipher the legal implication of Joe’s actions. Is there a law that specifically identifies whom to report a pedophile incident? Is there a law that specifically required Joe to follow through? Probably not, so Joe broke no laws, but on moral grounds Joe was dead wrong particularly when he knew that his superiors had done nothing to correct the situation and a pedophile was still on the loose.

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