Paterno’s Desperate, Proven Lie: Rigging the Result of His ‘Grand Experiment’, at the Expense of Children

(So….Where to now, St. Peter?….)

[Editor’s Note: This article was posted on Feb. 4, 2012, and events since then have proven that some of the chronological analysis below may be in error, as follows. Louis Freeh’s investigation revealed that former PSU VP Schultz maintained, and hid, a secret file on all the Sandusky-related events from 1998 up through 2010 — and that that file had not been produced in response to the AG’s subpoenas. (Freeh also found that a friend of Schlutz’, who remained a PSU athletics administrator after Schultz retired, also lied to Freeh’s staff to conceal the existence of the file.) That file contained documents which allowed Freeh to conclude that the McQueary “sighting” of Sandusky and the 10-year old actually took place in February of 2oo1– so that the Priest pedophilia wave of publicity could have post-dated that report by about a year.   While the precise  chronology has been refined, the central conclusion has not: that Paterno’s suggestion to Sally Jenkins in January 2012 that he didn’t know what “rape between a man and boy” was, was fabricated. And the new Freeh facts so clearly establish that Paterno committed perjury when he testified to the Grand Jury, in a manner much more blatant that the lies alleged to have been relayed by Schultz and Curley, that anything Paterno has said at any time, particularly as regards anything having to do with Sandusky, must be subject to rather withering degree of skepticism — particularly now that we also know from Freeh’s newly discovered emails that Paterno was in on the management of the coverup starting in 1998.]

Paterno’s Explanation: In his interview with Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post last month, Joe Paterno attempted to explain his action (or lack of action) in response to Mike McQueary’s March 1, 2002 report of having interrupted Jerry Sandusky in the showers with a young boy:

[About McQueary] “You know, he didn’t want to get specific….And to be frank with you I don’t know that it would have done any good, because I never heard of rape between a boy and a man.”

Paterno Put on ‘Inquiry Notice’: That statement didn’t ring true to me when I first read it, and it still doesn’t.

First of all, I reasoned that any kid like Paterno, raised in 1930’s and ’40’s Brooklyn, had to have some pretty good “street knowledge” that some adult males are known to sexually prey on young boys. But it made me think of one of those hi-falutin’ terms that lawyers use: Inquiry Notice. It’s simpler than it appears, and stands for the notion that, when a guy gets some information, it raises a duty on his part to at least ask some more followup questions. Take more action. Do more homework.

Paterno got Notice of a Found Severed Hand: Your high school age daughter, for example, comes home one autumn Friday night and tells you that she and some friends found a severed hand in the maple leaves out back of the football bleachers. Do you just nod, and then pad up the stairs to put on your pajamas and go to sleep? No. You look her in the eye, and say, “WHAT?” And you do what is responsible. You ask more questions. You follow up. You call the police. Whatever. And, to continue with this example, Paterno is not just the Dad here; he is — as King Football throughout the state – the Athletic Director, Coach, Principal, Mayor and Police Chief, and Dad all rolled into one. And in that position, his resolve should have been to “get to the bottom of all this.”

So I wanted to find better facts which would help test this odd claim by Paterno that he never heard of a rape between a boy and a man.

Reconstruction of events with Advent Windows: Detectives, reporters, juries, lawyers all know that the usually difficult process of attempting to piece together what happened a decade ago is a lot like opening a series of Advent Calendar windows, with some windows yielding useless tidbits, others yielding bombshells. Many of the “windows” in that process are, in fact, generated from statements made by participants — so that, for example, Paterno’s claim that he didn’t understand about “rape and a man” is just such a window. And – depending on what other windows reveal – Paterno’s claim here may be shown to have been either a window onto the truth, or a window onto his own lie.

Exactly When Did the Catholic Pedophile Priest Scandal Blow? To better determine whether Paterno was lying, I decided to do a little homework (open a separate, new window), which would remind me exactly when it was that that Catholic Church pedophilia scandal blew up, on the theory that it would be hard for anyone in this country to contend, after seeing that avalanche of repeated and detailed reporting, that he or she still did not understand exactly what “rape and a man” was all about.

It Was 2002!: And, lo and behold, I found that 2002 was the precise year when the priest pedophilia scandal blew sky-high, having been triggered by the Pulitzer-Prize-winning series of Boston Globe articles. (For an excellent summary of that explosion of publicity, see the Spring 2002 ‘Religion in the News’ article, “Scandal of Secrecy”)

McQueary Visit Coincides With National Publicity: And the more closely I looked, I realized that it’s probably fair to conclude that the real “explosion” of national publicity actually first swept the country in late February- early March 2002 – at precisely the time when McQueary showed up at Paterno’s door!  It’s an amazing confluence of events, and one which – if encountered in a movie or novel, would provoke the thought that the coincidence is just not believable.

What Did Paterno Read, and What Did He Know? So let’s focus, for a minute, on reconstructing an “Instant Replay” of the Paterno/McQueary events of early March. (March 1 was the day McQueary saw Sandusky in the shower; McQueary visited Paterno in the early morning of March 2.) And I’ll ask you to loosen up your imagination, and imagine that Joe Paterno, on that March 1, 2002 date, had ongoing subscriptions to the following five periodicals: Newsweek, USA Today, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Philadelphia Enquirer, and the New York Times.

Notice I’ve left the Boston Globe off of this list, since it would be only fair to assume that Jo Pa didn’t subscribe. But remember this: what the Globe was publishing then was so astonishing, and revealing (and disgusting) that it got “picked up” and printed, oftentimes daily, by newspapers all around the country. In fact, according to one retrospective review (“Abuse in the Catholic Church”), the Boston Globe ran more than 900 stories about priest child-sexual abuse between January 2002 and April 2003. Yes, you read that right: 900 articles. An avalanche of national publicity, which forever changed the public’s view of the Catholic Church,  paved the way for massive recoveries by victims over against the Church and — important here — fully educated every literate citizen about “rape and a man.” 

To further fill in this advent window,  let’s also look real quickly at a tiny, random (and incomplete) sample of church pedophilia-related articles published in the five periodicals listed above:

– February 8, 2002, USA Today: Boston Cardinal: Child Abuse Investigation Ongoing,

– February 16, 2002, New York Times: New Hampshire Diocese Names 14 Priest Accused Of Abuse, 

– February 17, 2002, New York Times: Boston Priests’ Sex-Abuse Scandal Has Ripple Effect; Other Names Are Released,

– February 25, 2002, Newsweek (Cover Story, with a photo of Cardinal Law): “Sex, Shame, and the Catholic Church — 80 priests accused of child abuse in Boston and new soul-searching across America.“” [Note: this issue appeared on newstands on Feb. 25, 2002; the date on the cover, nonetheless, is March 4.)

– March 3, 2002, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Myth of the Pedophile Priest,

– March 5, 2002: Philadelphia Enquirer: Priests Who Abuse Children Should Get Prison, Not Prayer 

Trying to Figure Out What We Wanted to Do: And to fill out this picture in the advent window we’re trying to complete, let’s run back the Instant Replay for that early Saturday morning, March 2, when McQueary visited. Here’s what Paterno told Sally Jenkins about that morning:

Paterno: “[McQueary] was very upset and I said why, and he was very reluctant to get into it. He told me what he saw, and I said, what? He said it, well, looked like inappropriate, or fondling, I’m not quite sure exactly how he put it. I said you did what you had to do. It’s my job now to figure out what we want to do. So I sat around. It was a Saturday.”

So Paterno admits he spent the rest of Saturday trying “to figure out what we wanted to do.” He also stated, that he

“waited till Sunday because I wanted to make sure I knew what I was doing.”

We are, using Paterno’s own description, watching (“under the hood”of the instant replay camera) Paterno meditating, deciding– not sure what to do– during the overnight between Saturday and Sunday. Might it be fair also to imagine here Joe Paterno getting up early on the morning of Sunday March 3, going out on the doorstep to pick up his copy of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, then sitting down, perhaps alone, at the kitchen table? And that the McQueary bombshell has weighed upon him during a long sleepless night and, in fact, and for the entire preceding 24 hours? And, truth be known, that – like so many average Americans who have read that McQueary report since – he could not get McQueary’s startling, mind-numbing, disgusting, report out of his mind? This imagined – but plausible – scene of the tortured Paterno that early Sunday morning brings to mind that Elton John/Bernie Taupin lyric from “Where to Now St. Peter?”:

Dirty was the daybreak,
Sudden was the change,
In such a silent place as this….

And then what does Paterno read in the Pittsburgh paper early on that Sunday morning  — “in such a silent place as this?” An article entitled, “The Myth of the Pedophile Priest,” authored by a PSU Professor of History and Religion (who, it is noted in the article, authored a 1996 book entitled “Pedophiles and Priests: Anatomy of a Contemporary Crisis.”)  Phillip Jenkins’ most pressing point in his article is that one should not assume that the pedophilia is limited to Catholics. I’ll go along with that for now, just because it’s not anything relevant here. But along the way, Jenkins, as a PSU prof and local resident, gives us a pretty good snapshot of what the average PSU local resident has, indeed, read up through March 3, about the church pedophilia scandal:

“The Roman Catholic Church in the United States is going through one of the most traumatic periods in its long history…. Every day, the news media have a new horror story to report, under some sensational headline.” [Emphasis added]

There we have it. It’s fair, isn’t it, to assume that, just like Prof. Jenkins in Happy Valley, Joe Paterno also read, “every day” up to March 3, “a new horror story [about priest pedophilia] , under some sensational headline?”

But read on, to hear what Professor Jenkins whispered into Paterno’s ear from his column on that crucial Sunday morning, March 3, before Paterno made any decisions as to what he should do in response to McQueary’s report the previous day:

“Though the sex abuse cases have deep roots, the most recent scandals were detonated by the affair of Boston priest John J. Geoghan. Though his superiors had known for years of Geoghan’s pedophile activities, he kept being transferred from parish to parish, regardless of the safety of the children in his care .”

Safety of Children… Transferred from Parish to Parish….While Superiors Knew: So our Instant Replay camera sees Joe Paterno, sitting there at his kitchen table, alone, on the morning of Sunday March 3 – the same folksy setting where Sally Jenkins sat with Joe’s $600 per hour attorney when she interviewed him – reading this entry by his fellow PSU employee which made explicit reference to “the safety of the children”, and the fact of pedophile priests having being “transferred from parish to parish,” though their superiors had “known for years” about their pedophilia tendencies or act.

The utterly ruthless, exploitative character of child molestation: But Prof. Jenkins, an expert on these subjects, is not finished with Paterno, and so Paterno, we can imagine, reads on:

The vast majority of instances involve priests who have been sexually active with a person below the age of sexual consent, often 16 or 17 years old, or even older. An act of this sort is wrong on multiple counts: It is probably criminal, and by common consent it is immoral and sinful; yet it does not have the utterly ruthless, exploitative character of child molestation. In almost all cases too, with the older teen-agers, there is an element of consent.

Do you imagine, at this point on that lonely Sunday morning — “in such a silent place as this” — that Paterno is still sitting down? Or is he pacing all about the kitchen? In fact, probably the only possible conclusion from this distant vantage point is that Paterno was already, by that Sunday morning, haunted by the McQueary report. And here it is for him, all laid out by Professor Jenkins (and the many other preceding national articles)— it’s as if Jenkins is rubbing Paterno’s nose in it: “the utterly ruthless, exploitative character of child molestation.”

But Prof. Jenkins isn’t finished with his fortuitous, momentous private audience with the tortured Paterno on that early Sunday morning, and we have to think back to Paterno’s explicit admission about the reason he did nothing all day Saturday, after McQueary showed up at his house (as McQueary, a lowly Grad Assistant, had never before done): “I wanted to make sure I knew what I was doing.”

I know we are only imagining, and we might be wrong, but if Paterno was, in fact, reading Prof. Jenkins’ Sunday paper article about pedophilia, then Jenkins was there, at the ready, to help Paterno “make sure he knew what he was doing”:

“If a diocese knows a man is a pedophile, and ever again places him in a position where he has access to more children, that decision is simply wrong, and probably amounts to criminal neglect.”

Here’s what all this leads us to:  Paterno’s excuse to Sally Jenkins – that he “never heard of rape and a man” is a bald-faced, desperate schoolboy lie. To quote an old and brilliant friend of mine, “Don’t kid a kidder.”

But I’ll ignore that lie, a bit. I’ll give it to him, for awhile. I’m willing to assume, for now, that the 1940’s Brooklyn street-wise Joe Paterno “never heard of a rape and a man” — before the Catholic Church priest pedophila scandal broke. But it blew sky high during the several months preceding the McQueary visit. And let’s not kid ourselves: if he hadn’t known before 2002, Joe Paterno certainly knew everything about “rape and a man” by the time McQueary reported to him. And what’s eerily possible is that, during the very tortured hours between March 2 and March 4 (when Paterno finally called PSU AD Curley), Paterno probably read Jenkins’ warnings about the potential for “criminal neglect” in handling a report about the “utterly ruthless, exploitative character of child molestation.”

Jenkins was there, at the ready, by this strange concatenation of events, to offer to Paterno on that troubled Sunday morning, the best of advice. (And over there, on the kitchen counter, was Cardinal Law staring out at Paterno, from the cover of Newsweek, with the headline,  “Sex, Shame, and the Catholic Church — 80 priests accused of child abuse in Boston and new soul-searching across America.“) What, then, did Paterno do, in all his “soul-searching“?

By Sunday night, he had, apparently, “made sure [he] knew what [he] was doing.” He’d had thorough background about “rape by a man;” he’d been reading daily stories about pedophilia during the very weeks, and probably hours, leading up to his decision on Sunday night. And on Monday he acted — the only action he ever took, apparently, for the next 9 years –by calling Tim Curley, and dumping it in his lap.

By this analysis, we’ve shown quasi-empirical data suggesting that Paterno’s actions were the result of careful planning and thinking. Paterno made a deliberate, very well-considered decision: to report to his purported “superior”, and never again do one thing about Sandusky the child-predator. It’s a dark, dark tale, assuming this version of the facts, to imagine why Joe made the wrong call, and decided to “just pass it on”, and never once follow up.

Paterno made that weekend a fully-informed, knowing decision – which ran directly and squarely contrary to the flood of national publicity which had paraded before his eyes during the preceding weeks — to bury the Sandusky problem.

He didn’t want to jeopardize his “program.” Didn’t want to have more losing seasons. Didn’t want to stain the Paterno regime. Didn’t want a tawdry end to his vaunted “Grand Experiment.”

I think it might have been Martin Buber who said, “Every journey has a secret destination of which the traveller is originally unaware.” Paterno very likely never envisioned, back in the ’50’s when he came to PSU,  not only this set of Sandusky events, but also the moral questions presented to him on that first weekend in March 2002.

Nor could Paterno, most likely, have ever guessed, in his heart of hearts, that he might have shrunk — by 2002 — to the moral cowardice he displayed then by deliberating and then making a decision — despite the screaming in his ear  from some many media sources in that time period, about the utterly ruthless, exploitative nature of child molestation — to make one followup phone call to his consigliere, AD Curley, and then to forget about it. Nor could he have guessed that he would have been reduced to additional moral cowardice, in 20011 and 2012, by rolling out silly, fabricated excuses, in sworn testimony before the grand jury, and at his own kitchen table with a reporter: a man lying to the public, shamelessly, to protect himself and his own cherished reputation, at the expense of the physical and mental health and well being of children.

Paterno touted his grandiose “Grand Experiment”, starting back in the ’60’s, to describe his football program; but that experiment brought him to a destination of which he was “originally entirely unaware.” A destination which reduced him, and his community — because Paterno tried to, after the fact, lie his way around his obvious moral cowardice of 2002.

We are, as Joyce Carol Oates has noted, a society which “clamors to be lied to.” That includes the Paterno/PSU faithful which rioted the night he was relieved of his Head Coaching duties (he was, contrary to popular belief, never fired.) It also includes all those clamoring to criticize PSU Trustees for dismissing Paterno from his coaching job. I don’t care if those people choose to worship Paterno: but any such worship ought be based on truth. And the unvarnished truth is that their ostensible leader failed them, lied, and tried to cover up. All to protect – not young kids he had good reason to know would be at risk after 2002 – but his own legacy.

Was it really Bernie Taupin, and Elton John, who penned those lyrics? — Or Mike McQueary? Or Joe Paterno? Or Victim #1? Or Victim #6?:

Dirty was the daybreak,
Sudden was the change,
In such a silent place as this………

PostScript: years later we learned from Joe Posnanski’s book about Joe Paterno that on that very weekend when Mike McQueary made his visit to the Paterno household, Paterno and his wife were packing their bags to leave on a Nike sponsored junket to a southern clime, to join a number of other college coaches who were similarly sponsored by Nike. So it appears that Paterno made the call to his superior Tim Curley on Sunday night, and then got on a plane the next day to go to a week-long junket.

About brewonsouthu

lawyer, with interest in college sports and NCAA oversight and decisions, and sports generally.
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