All Penn Staters Should Still Be Disappointed in Joe Paterno

I'm not letting the coach off the hook.

While it may appear that people get away with a hell of a lot, they don’t—not cardinals, or priests, or football coaches, or self-canonized institutions. Something biblically ominous converged over our humble little Commonwealth as the Lynn and Sandusky verdicts unfolded. It’s like the Eye in the Sky is putting down an Almighty Foot for the world to be reminded that, verdicts aside, the scope of human justice is paltry when it comes to certain sins.

Like a lot of Philadelphians, I’m Catholic, a product of Catholic school, and I also went to Penn State. My generation is hard-pressed to defend the Church about anything, mostly because the Baby Boomers who raised us, taught us to question any and all authority, including and especially one that says it speaks for God.

As far as we’re all concerned, it was just a matter of time before that whole dog-and-pony show had its cover blown. The Church can throw all the hissy fits it wants about us, our birth control, our divorces, and our gay friends. Most of us are “cafeteria Catholics” anyway, and none of us is losing sleep over it. Even on more complex issues, like abortion, we rely on our own consciences more than the Church’s. For all of my strong opinions and big talk, I personally regret not walking out of a mass that I attended a few months ago when the homily turned into a diatribe about the abomination of gay marriage. What about the abomination of ALL of the marriages, christenings, communions, confirmations, and funerals presided over by priests who are/were child molesters?

Catholics are livid, appalled and sad, but one thing we aren’t is polarized. There are no “yeah, but” debaters trying to absolve anyone, not the perpetrators or the bystanders. So if Catholics aren’t polarized, why are Penn Staters?

I make this observation because I’ve had discussions with other Catholics, and we all land in the same place of contempt, disbelief and the general consensus that has to do with karma being her bitchy self. It doesn’t go this way with the Penn State crowd though, especially when the discussion turns to Joe Paterno.

No one’s selling posthumous t-shirts to memorialize Anthony Bevilacqua, with “Thanks, Tony” superimposed over a silhouette of him in his biretta, which is that pointy hat the Pope put on his head when he became a made man. But you can get a “Thanks, Joe” t-shirt with the iconic silhouette of him, in his floods and cleats, hands in pockets, ever the deep thinker. The sentiment, that what football and Joe Paterno have made mighty, let no man put asunder, is obnoxious.

Penn Staters are divided into those who are furious, who throw away their Penn State mail before they even open it, and those who will miss no opportunity to “yeah, but” themselves into righteousness. “Yeah, but he told his boss … Yeah, but the police didn’t do anything anyway … Yeah, but the parents should have told someone … Yeah, but the boys kept going back …”

Bring it on, other side. Tell me again to let the man rest in peace, or that I should turn in my degree, or that Paterno followed the chain of command, and he wasn’t the end of the chain, like Bevilacqua was. If you really are a Penn Stater, you would know that it’s absurd to suggest that anyone was Paterno’s boss except for him, and that includes the Board of Trustees and that smacked-ass puppet of a University President.

All Paterno had to do was tell the board that he would do no more of their glad-handing for dollars until someone did something about the child molester who had an office on the very same campus as he, himself, did, otherwise he would be taking a trip to see then-Attorney General, Tom Corbett. And if that didn’t work, he’d be going to the media.

Who wouldn’t listen once Paterno started publicly calling it out? No sappy t-shirt negates his role as a bystander among many in this tragedy that is nothing less than a holocaust for Sandusky’s victims, both known and unknown.

LaVar Arrington’s recent blog post made me angrier with myself for not walking out on that homily, but it also made me cry because maybe while I was taking a study break and laughing with my friends over stickies and hot chocolate on College Avenue, somewhere on our campus across the street, a boy, like the boy I now have, was being raped. It wouldn’t be accurate to say that no one did anything about it, because they did: They remained silent and looked the other way, for the glory of Old State.