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Late Night FDL: Joe Paterno for Pope

The rules don’t apply to Joe Paterno:

In any event Paterno did acknowledge in his grand jury testimony that he’s known since at least 2002 that Sandusky was a child molester, although incredibly enough now he’s even trying to walk back that admission. He testified that Mike McQueary told him he had seen Sandusky “fondling or doing something of a sexual nature to a young boy” in the PSU football locker room showers (McQueary testified that he saw Sandusky anally raping the child). Now in his statement Paterno is trying to get people to believe that he was told that his 58-year-old lifelong friend and co-worker was doing something “inappropriate” to a ten-year-old boy in a shower, but that he had no idea it was anything all that bad: certainly not bad enough to cause Paterno — by far the most powerful person in the PSU AD and arguably the most powerful person on campus — to wonder why the only thing that happened to Sandusky was that he was told not to bring the kids he was raping into the locker room any more (Sandusky retained all his access privileges to the campus until yesterday, and indeed was running football camps for young boys on Joe Paterno’s hallowed football field until two years ago).

My estimable blog partner Jude pointed out the similarities to the Catholic Church’s handling of its abuse scandal, and they are striking. The language used to defend Paterno and the Penn State higher-ups, the language Paterno is using to defend himself, all comes from the same place: We have the right to just ignore the living hell out of whatever quaint civil laws you have in place outlawing CHILD RAPE, and handle things quietly, as we do among our own:

This conversation, in which Sandusky in effect admits that there are other victims, and even refuses to say he’ll stop victimizing children, was surreptitiously observed by a PSU police detective, who was then ordered by the head of campus police to drop the matter. (The local district attorney, who for unknown reasons decided not to press charges, disappeared in 2005 and was declared legally dead in July).

Okay, so that’s about 12 people that should lose their jobs there, right there. As with the so-called priest sex abuse scandal, the issue isn’t Sandusky. Sandusky, by his own admission in the records Paul Campos cites, is a sick individual who knew a long time ago that he was sick. The issue is a massive abuse of power rooted in the idea that only one thing mattered in all this, and it wasn’t the children placed in the university’s care.

You are never going to be able to get rid of all sick people ever. These people find kids to victimize like that is their job. So absent a science fiction vaccine that wipes out whatever wiring flaw in people’s minds as makes them do this, what you have to have is an oversight structure with its eyes on the prize. The prize isn’t the football coach’s reputation, or the university president’s, or the football team’s, or the town’s. The prize isn’t keeping everybody quiet so that nobody at Sports Illustrated has to write anything awkward. The prize isn’t letting Joe Paterno retire quietly as a legend because legacy and winning and blah blah blah.

The prize is always, always, always protecting the powerless from the great. That’s always the most important thing. Everything else — the threat of scandal, the fear of exposure, the damage to everyone’s psyche from having to think about sick things like this — pales in comparison.


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Allison Hantschel

Allison Hantschel

Allison Hantschel is a 10-year veteran of the newspaper business. She publishes First Draft, a writing and politics blog, with her partners Holden, Jude and Scout. She is the author of the books Chicago's Historic Irish Pubs (2011, Arcadia Publishing, with Mike Danahey) and It Doesn’t End With Us: The Story of the Daily Cardinal, about a great liberal journalism institution (2007, Heritage Books). She also edited the anthology “Special Plans: The Blogs on Douglas Feith and the Faulty Intelligence That Led to War” (2005, William, James & Co.) Her work has appeared in the Chicago Sun-Times, the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, the Daily Southtown, Sirens Magazine, and Alternet. She lives in Chicago with her husband, two ferrets, and approximately 60 tons of books.