Showing posts with label Justice. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Justice. Show all posts

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Comparing papal quotes on economics

Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard, Rembrandt, 1637 (Acquired from Wikimedia Commons)

Recently, Pope Francis again acquired media attention with his statements in the apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium:
Just as the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say “thou shalt not” to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses two points? ... Human beings are themselves considered consumer goods to be used and then discarded. (#53)

While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. (#56)
Some commentators equated his comments with Marxism, interpreting him as one handing complete control of the markets to a government entity. Pope Francis, when later asked in an interview with La Stampa what he thought of being called a Marxist and about an economy that kills replied:
The Marxist ideology is wrong. But I have met many Marxists in my life who are good people, so I don’t feel offended. ... The only specific quote I used was the one regarding the “trickle-down theories” which assume that economic growth, encouraged by a free market, will inevitably succeed in bringing about greater justice and social inclusiveness in the world. The promise was that when the glass was full, it would overflow, benefitting the poor. But what happens instead, is that when the glass is full, it magically gets bigger nothing ever comes out for the poor. This was the only reference to a specific theory. I was not, I repeat, speaking from a technical point of view but according to the Church’s social doctrine. This does not mean being a Marxist.
Focusing on these quotes, you have two principles flowing from Francis: 1) That something is wrong with the world's current economic systems because the gap between the wealthy and poor continues to expand (Recent studies have asserted that the income gap is at its worst in 100 years); 2) a Marxist approach is not the answer.

I'd like to look at several other papal quotes expressing similar sentiments. This is not intended to be an exhaustive list of popes or even of quotes from each pope included, but at least a decent sample.

We begin with quotes echoing concern about the wealth-gap phenomenon.
In any case we clearly see, and on this there is general agreement, that some opportune remedy must be found quickly for the misery and wretchedness pressing so unjustly on the majority of the working class... The mischief has been increased by rapacious usury, which, although more than once condemned by the Church, is nevertheless, under a different guise, but with like injustice, still practiced by covetous and grasping men. To this must be added that the hiring of labor and the conduct of trade are concentrated in the hands of comparatively few; so that a small number of very rich men have been able to lay upon the teeming masses of the laboring poor a yoke little better than that of slavery itself. (Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Norum, 1891, #3)
To each, therefore, must be given his own share of goods, and the distribution of created goods, which, as every discerning person knows, is laboring today under the gravest evils due to the huge disparity between the few exceedingly rich and the unnumbered propertyless, must be effectively called back to and brought into conformity with the norms of the common good, that is, social justice. (Pope Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno, 1931, #58)
Pius XI was not unaware of the fact that in the forty years that had supervened since the publication of the Leonine encyclical the historical scene had altered considerably. It was clear, for example, that unregulated competition had succumbed to its own inherent tendencies to the point of practically destroying itself. It had given rise to a great accumulation of wealth, and, in the process, concentrated a despotic economic power in the hands of a few "who for the most part are not the owners, but only the trustees and directors of invested funds, which they administer at their own good pleasure." (Pope John XXIII, Mater et Magistra, 1961, #35)
One must avoid the risk of increasing still more the wealth of the rich and the dominion of the strong, whilst leaving the poor in their misery and adding to the servitude of the oppressed. (Pope Paul VI, Populorum Progressivo, 1967, #33) 
In this world crisis, more than two-thirds of the population are suffering from hunger, and the contrast in the standard of living between the rich and the economically poor countries is becoming greater. (Pope Pius XII, Guiding Principles of the Lay Apostolate, 1957, #14)
Our world also shows increasing evidence of another grave threat to peace: many individuals and indeed whole peoples are living today in conditions of extreme poverty. The gap between rich and poor has become more marked, even in the most economically developed nations. This is a problem which the conscience of humanity cannot ignore, since the conditions in which a great number of people are living are an insult to their innate dignity and as a result are a threat to the authentic and harmonious progress of the world community. (Pope Benedict XVI, Message for World Day of Peace, 2009, #1)
Notice how un-novel is Pope Francis' concern about the disparity of wealth among persons. Notice also how human dignity is emphasized, especially if you click the links for each quote and read additional context.

As noted in the opening quotes by Pope Francis, although markets have often resulted in lop-sided distribution of wealth, the Church's idea of seeking a just wage for all is not some type of governmental usurpation of the market. Pope Francis denied the Marxist ideology. And every other Pope quoted above likewise shied away from a strictly government-controlled or socialistic market.
To remedy these wrongs the socialists, working on the poor man's envy of the rich, are striving to do away with private property, and contend that individual possessions should become the common property of all, to be administered by the State or by municipal bodies. They hold that by thus transferring property from private individuals to the community, the present mischievous state of things will be set to rights, inasmuch as each citizen will then get his fair share of whatever there is to enjoy. But their contentions are so clearly powerless to end the controversy that were they carried into effect the working man himself would be among the first to suffer. They are, moreover, emphatically unjust, for they would rob the lawful possessor, distort the functions of the State, and create utter confusion in the community. (Pope Leo XIII, Rerum Novarum, 1891, #4)
Because of the fact that goods are produced more efficiently by a suitable division of labor than by the scattered efforts of individuals, socialists infer that economic activity, only the material ends of which enter into their thinking, ought of necessity to be carried on socially. ...[T]he higher goods of man, liberty not excepted, must take a secondary place and even be sacrificed to the demands of the most efficient production of goods. This damage to human dignity, undergone in the "socialized" process of production, will be easily offset, they say, by the abundance of socially produced goods which will pour out in profusion to individuals to be used freely at their pleasure for comforts and cultural development. Society, therefore, as Socialism conceives it, can on the one hand neither exist nor be thought of without an obviously excessive use of force; on the other hand, it fosters a liberty no less false, since there is no place in it for true social authority, which rests not on temporal and material advantages but descends from God alone, the Creator and last end of all things. If Socialism, like all errors, contains some truth (which, moreover, the Supreme Pontiffs have never denied), it is based nevertheless on a theory of human society peculiar to itself and irreconcilable with true Christianity. Religious socialism, Christian socialism, are contradictory terms; no one can be at the same time a good Catholic and a true socialist. (Pope Pius XI, Quadragesimo Anno, 1931, #119-120)
Whilst the propaganda of communism, today so widespread, is readily deceiving the minds of the simple and untutored … [ B]y subjecting everything to state ownership and control, they reduce the dignity of the human person almost to zero. ... The Church has condemned the various forms of Marxist Socialism; and she condemns them again today, because it is her permanent right and duty to safeguard men from fallacious arguments and subversive influence that jeopardize their eternal salvation. … The dignity of the human person then, speaking generally, requires as a natural foundation of life the right to the use of the goods of the earth. To this right corresponds the fundamental obligation to grant private ownership of property, if possible, to all. Positive legislation, regulating private ownership may change and more or less restrict its use. But if legislation is to play its part in the pacification of the community, it must see to it that the worker, who is or will be the father of a family, is not condemned to an economic dependence and servitude which is irreconcilable with his rights as a person. (52) (Pope Pius XII, Evangelii Praecones, 1951, #49, 52)
While, through the concrete existing form of Marxism, one can distinguish these various aspects and the questions they pose for the reflection and activity of Christians, it would be illusory and dangerous to reach a point of forgetting the intimate link which radically binds them together, to accept the elements of Marxist analysis without recognizing their relationships with ideology, and to enter into the practice of class struggle and its Marxist interpretations, while failing to note the kind of totalitarian and violent society to which this process leads. (Pope Paul VI, Octagesima Adveniens, 1971, #34) 
Pope Pius XI further emphasized the fundamental opposition between Communism and Christianity, and made it clear that no Catholic could subscribe even to moderate Socialism. The reason is that Socialism is founded on a doctrine of human society which is bounded by time and takes no account of any objective other than that of material well-being. ... Thus Pius XI's teaching in this encyclical can be summed up under two heads. First he taught what the supreme criterion in economic matters ought not to be. It must not be the special interests of individuals or groups, nor unregulated competition, economic despotism, national prestige or imperialism, nor any other aim of this sort. On the contrary, all forms of economic enterprise must be governed by the principles of social justice and charity. (Pope John XIII, Mater et Magistra, 1961, #34, 38-39)
[W]e have to add that the fundamental error of socialism is anthropological in nature. Socialism considers the individual person simply as an element, a molecule within the social organism, so that the good of the individual is completely subordinated to the functioning of the socio-economic mechanism. ... A person who is deprived of something he can call "his own", and of the possibility of earning a living through his own initiative, comes to depend on the social machine and on those who control it. This makes it much more difficult for him to recognize his dignity as a person, and hinders progress towards the building up of an authentic human community. ... The Church acknowledges the legitimate role of profit as an indication that a business is functioning well. When a firm makes a profit, this means that productive factors have been properly employed and corresponding human needs have been duly satisfied. ... Profit is a regulator of the life of a business, but it is not the only one; other human and moral factors must also be considered which, in the long term, are at least equally important for the life of a business. (Pope John Paul II, Centesimus Annus, #13, 35)
While it has been rightly emphasized that increasing per capita income cannot be the ultimate goal of political and economic activity, it is still an important means of attaining the objective of the fight against hunger and absolute poverty. Hence, the illusion that a policy of mere redistribution of existing wealth can definitively resolve the problem must be set aside. In a modern economy, the value of assets is utterly dependent on the capacity to generate revenue in the present and the future. Wealth creation therefore becomes an inescapable duty, which must be kept in mind if the fight against material poverty is to be effective in the long term. (Pope Benedict XVI, Message for World Day of Peace, 2009, #11) 
You can see the pattern among these citations recognize both the folly of socialist or communist ideologies which strip human beings of their proper dignity in favor of a collective State. You also see the recognition of legitimate commerce and wealth creation have a place in a just economic system. Each of these Popes have an emphasis in their writings on the dignity of a human person. It is this which rises above all other considerations, be they profits or prudent state regulations. The human person must be seen as the most valuable asset in the equation ahead of the rest.

In the La Stampa interview, Pope Francis said of his exhortation, "There is nothing in the Exhortation that cannot be found in the social Doctrine of the Church." Just as he referred listeners to the Catechism when speaking on marriage, he is referring listeners to the Church's precedent on social doctrine. He thus should be read in concert with the heritage of his predecessors. This can help one see why being critical of a de-humanizing attribute of capitalism, such as commoditizing employees, is not automatically tantamount to proposing some communist, socialist, or Marxist solution. Rather, the human being must be held paramount when considering whatever economic system or adjustments may come.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Joe Paterno: Still the scapegoat?

Media asserts Paterno guilty of cover-up

The Freeh Report was an investigation on Jerry Sandusky's crimes at Penn State University and those involved. After it was released, the media swelled with comments such as these:
Jerry Sandusky was accused of a 15-year reign of pedophilia on young boys ... Paterno knew. He knew all about it. He'd known for years. He knew and he followed it vigilantly. That's all clear now after Penn State's owninvestigator, former FBI director Louis Freeh, came out Thursday and hung the whole disgusting canvas on a wall for us. (Rick Reilly, ESPN)
Another example:
Paterno did nothing to stop Sandusky. He was, said former FBI director Louis Freeh, who wrote the report, "an integral part of this active decision to conceal." (Gene Wojciechowski, ESPN)
The Freeh report determined top Penn State officials, including Joe Paterno, had intentionally tried to cover up Jerry Sandusky’s child sex abuse. (Anne Danahy, Centre Daily Times)
In short, it seems to be a forgone conclusion among the media and those who embrace their account that Joe Paterno willingly covered up sexual crimes against children.

I first wrote about this Sandusky incident as it pertained to Paterno back in November 2011, questioning the amount of evidence incriminating Paterno as an accomplice in covering up sex crimes against children. I mentioned the Catechism's definition of justice as giving God and neighbor their due.  The sentiment, of course, still applies.

In perusing the Freeh Report, I have found it difficult to locate any smoking gun against Paterno, that he knowingly covered up sex crimes as journalists like the above assert.

The above mentioned Wojciechowski believes the following is the incriminating portion. He quotes a January 2011 exchange by Paterno before a grand jury:
Question to Paterno: "Other than the [2001] incident that Mike McQueary reported to you, do you know in any way, through rumor, direct knowledge or any other fashion, of any other inappropriate sexual conduct by Jerry Sandusky with young boys?"
Paterno: "I do not know of anything else that Jerry would be involved in of that nature, no. I do not know of it. You did mention -- I think you said something about a rumor. It may have been discussed in my presence, something else about somebody. I don't know. I don't remember, and I could not honestly say I heard a rumor."
In May 1998, the Freeh Report states that there was an email from A.D. Curley stating "Anything new in this department? Coach is anxious to know where it stands." The email is said to be in reference to an incident that Curley and vice president Gary Schultz (who was also head of campus police) were investigating regarding the eventually-found-guilty perpetrator Jerry Sandusky from 1998. (And by the way, the Freeh Report admits that it assumes the reference to "Coach" in that email pertains to Paterno. p. 49)

In reading Paterno's reply to the grand jury question, he mentioned that a rumor "may have been discussed in [his] presence, something else about somebody." He said he didn't remember and didn't consider what little he claimed to remember as a "rumor." The media has incriminated Paterno. That much is obvious. But there are key statements in the Freeh Report itself that bring a grayness to Paterno's involvement that the media, and combox commentators have not given much attention.

Lesser-known claims from the Freeh Report about the 1998 incident
University Police Department Chief Harmon emails Schultz:  “We╩╣re going to hold off on making any crime log entry.  At this point in time I can justify that decision because of the lack of clear evidence of a crime.” (p. 20)
Personally, I have not found an article mentioning the investigation by campus police about how the police did not find "clear evidence of a crime." Further, the Report mentions local police's involvement:
Sometime  between  May  27,  1998  and  June  1,  1998,  the  local  District  Attorney  declined  to  prosecute  Sandusky  for  his  actions  with  the  boy  in  the  shower  in  the  Lasch  Building  on  May  3,  1998. (p. 46)
But very little has been stated by those angry at Paterno about police involvement. None of the articles I cited at the start even mention "police." But keep in mind the above statements about the police involvement in 1998 and consider this thought exercise. Let's assume for a moment that Paterno was fully aware of this 1998 police investigation and that they dropped the case. Common arguments like Wojciechowski's that "Paterno did nothing" are out the window. Police were involved at the start. They investigated, they didn't find evidence, and the local D.A. dropped it. What is Paterno, in 1998, supposed to have done at that point? He should go to the campus and local police and tell them they are wrong? He should interfere with the investigation? Those would be rather nonsensical expectations, Paterno not being a detective notwithstanding.

Remember, the 2011 question before the grand jury to Paterno asked him "do you know in any way, through rumor, direct knowledge or any other fashion, of any other inappropriate sexual conduct by Jerry Sandusky."  Sandusky had not been found guilty at the time of that question. The question is actually rather awkward. On the one hand, it's asking Paterno if he "knew" of sex crimes, including through "direct knowledge," but in the same breath it asks if Paterno "knew" by way of "rumor." At that point, barring evidence that Paterno first-hand knew Sandusky's guilt (which no one asserts), Paterno could not say he "knew." He mentioned there may have been conversations in front of him but he didn't consider them rumors. The meat of the question was wether or not Paterno "knew" Sandusky was guilty of some crime in the past. He may well have been wishy-washy on the "rumor" part of the question, because even with that, he couldn't really say he "knew" Sandusky was guilty. I think it is possible that writers like Wojciechowski assume too much when they claim Paterno "lied," or at least make more of Paterno's awkward answer than it is.

The Freeh Report's non-specific comments about what Paterno knew about the 1998 and 2001 investigation

In the Freeh Report's timeline and account of the 1998 incident, these are excerpts from which people apparently conclude Paterno was fully aware of what was going on with Sandusky:
[Sometime between May 4-30, 1998] Curley notifies Schultz and Spanier that he has “touched base with” Paterno about the incident. Days later, Curley emails Schultz:  “Anything new in this department? Coach is anxious to know where it stands.” (p. 20)
The above comment tells us nothing of what Paterno was told. Is it possible that Curley gave every waking detail about the accusations against Sandusky? Yes. Is it possible that Curley updated Paterno without giving much detail? Yes. One thing is certainly apparent between this information and the statements about police involvement––Paterno was not involved with the investigation. Even the Freeh Report only describes him receiving undisclosed updates of some kind from A.D. Curley. Even if Paterno did know everything, as my above thought exercise noted, the police found no cause. How can Paterno be involved in a cover-up? What sort of clairvoyant 20/20 hindsight is he supposed to have come up with at the time? Why should we expect Paterno, who is not a policeman, to overrule an investigation of which he wasn't part?

Even though Paterno was not involved in the investigation, and even though the Freeh Report is consistently vague as to what Paterno was actually told by those conducting the investigation, the Report still bundles Paterno along with the others as if their knowledge was equal. The Report states:
While  no  information  indicates  University  leaders  interfered  with  the  investigation,  Spanier [then-Penn State president], Schultz, Paterno and Curley were kept informed of the investigation. (p. 39)
Regardless of this statement's lack of specifics, the Report elsewhere suggests that the chain of information varied among these persons. In fact, the Freeh Report, referring to its already vague statements about what Paterno knew about the 1998 incident added this comment:
After  Curley’s  initial  updates  to  Paterno,  the  available  record  is  not  clear  as  to  how  the  conclusion  of  the  Sandusky  investigation  was  conveyed  to  Paterno. (p. 51)
One accusation made by the Freeh Report suggests that the Paterno family lied about Paterno's knowledge of the 1998 incident. The Report states:
Paterno’s family has publicly denied that Paterno had knowledge of the 1998 incident. (p. 53)
The footnote for that assertion points to the following family statement:
[O]ne outrageous and baseless claim that cannot go unchallenged is that Coach Paterno knew about a 1998 incident involving Jerry Sandusky that was investigated by local law enforcement. There is indisputable evidence showing that Coach Paterno was not informed about that investigation, as well as the Coach’s own sworn testimony to that effect.
On the one hand, the family could be mistaken. Granted. However, when comparing the two statements closely, it could be the family is referring to Paterno's knowledge of "local law enforcement's" investigation, whereas the Freeh Report blanketly refers to Paterno's knowledge about the incident in general. It may be possible the Freeh Report read too much into the family's statement, because the Freeh Report does not produce specifics that Paterno was told about local police involvement.

Vague statements about Paterno's knowledge of the 2001 Sandusky incident can also be seen in the Freeh Report and elsewhere. Paterno learned of the 2001 incident when assistant coach Mike McQueary told him about what he saw in the showers. It is unclear exactly what McQueary told Paterno at that time. According to Paterno's grand jury testimony, he was not given details. Paterno testified:
Well, he had seen a person, an older — not an older, but a mature person who was fondling, whatever you might call it — I’m not sure what the term would be — a young boy. [He said it was] Jerry Sandusky ... Obviously, he was doing something with the youngster. It was a sexual nature. I’m not sure exactly what it was. I didn’t push Mike to describe exactly what it was because he was very upset. 
To complicate matters, it seems McQueary's own claims about what he saw have varied.

The Freeh Report continues with non-specific second-hand assertions about what Paterno knew about the incident:
Spanier, Schultz and Curley meet and devise an action plan, reflected in Schultz’s notes: “3) Tell chair of Board of Second Mile 2) Report to Dept of Welfare. 1) Tell JS [Sandusky] to avoid bringing children alone into Lasch Bldg who’s the chair??” The plan is confirmed in a subsequent email from Schultz to Curley. Curley emails Schultz and Spanier and says he [Curley] has changed his mind about the plan “after giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe [Paterno] yesterday.” Curley now proposes to tell Sandusky “we feel there is a problem” and offer him “professional help.” “If he is cooperative we would work with him to Curley emails Schultz and Spanier and says he [Curley] has changed his mind about the plan “after giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe [Paterno] yesterday.” Curley now proposes to tell Sandusky “we feel there is a problem” and offer him “professional help.” “If he is cooperative we would work with him to handle informing” the Second Mile; if Sandusky does not cooperate, “we don’t have a choice and will inform” DPW and the Second Mile. (p. 23-24)
Somewhere on the radio or in a news article, I heard a member of the media make much ado about the bold part of the above statement. This media member was suggesting that Paterno told Curley to soften the plan to protect Sandusky. Yet the Freeh Report tells us nothing like that. As in the 1998 incident, all we have are notes from Curley talking about how he said something to Paterno, but we don't know what. We don't know if Paterno suggested anything to Curley. Assuming Curley's statement is true, he may have changed his mind of his own accord after talking with Paterno. And as in the 1998 incident, Schultz, the head of campus police, was involved. There's no real "evidence" of Paterno covering up anything.

One other statement the Freeh Report includes also indirectly indicates its inability to produce any specific knowledge Paterno had that demonstrated that he covered up a crime:
Witnesses  consistently  told  the  Special  Investigative  Counsel  that  Paterno  was  in  control  of  the  football  facilities  and  knew  “everything  that  was  going  on.” (p. 51)
What does that mean that he knew "everything"? If that is verifiable, then there should be no problem demonstrating that Paterno knew Sandusky was guilty. Yet the Report produces no such evidence. It just sounds a little like they couldn't find anything against Paterno so they gathered unnamed witnesses who simply said, "He knew everything!" Such "evidence" would hardly hold up in court.

Paterno knew he wasn't a detective

It is quite possible that people who criticize Paterno for not "doing something" treat him with 20/20 hindsight. He's not a detective and may not have considered it his place to trump those in charge of campus investigations. In fact, that's what Paterno was quoted as saying shortly before his death:
I didn’t know exactly how to handle it and I was afraid to do something that might jeopardize what the university procedure was,” he said. “So I backed away and turned it over to some other people, people I thought would have a little more expertise than I did. It didn’t work out that way.” (Joe Paterno, Jan. 2012, commenting on the 2001 incident he learned from McQueary)
And to the grand jury in January 2011:
Q: You indicated that your report was made directly to Tim Curley. Do you know of that report being made to anyone else that was a university official?Paterno: No, because I figured that Tim would handle it appropriately.
In other words, it is rather plausible that Paterno did not consider it his place to go around trumping the decisions of authorized investigators, such as the campus and local police, or the director of campus police himself. And yet Paterno comes under fire from the media as being involved in some kind of cover-up, willingly protecting a pedophile.

The Paterno family feels the same way. In July 2012, after a media frenzy incriminated Paterno, the family released the following statement:
[W]e want to take this opportunity to reiterate that Joe Paterno did not shield Jerry Sandusky from any investigation or review. The 1998 incident was fully and independently investigated by law enforcement officials. The Freeh report confirms this. It is also a matter of record that Joe Paterno promptly and fully reported the 2001 incident to his superiors. It can certainly be asserted that Joe Paterno could have done more. He acknowledged this himself last fall.* But to claim that he knowingly, intentionally protected a pedophile is false.

Many members of the media have filled in the blanks in the Freeh Report where non-specific information is given regarding Paterno. But it seems more reasonable that it's tricky to make a conclusion. This is not to be obtuse and refuse to see any guilt in Paterno if any evidence should surface that points to him actually committing a cover-up crime or even gross negligence that can be identified without the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. If that evidence exists, I have not seen it. On the other hand, if Paterno did not engage in a cover-up, which I think is still a viable possibility given the non-specifics in the Freeh Report, then it speaks to a media, current Penn State officials, and a duped public's emotionally charged reaction to incriminate him without cause.

Meanwhile, according to Yahoo Sports, both Paterno's family and former Penn State President Graham Spanier have claimed there are "inaccuracies in Freeh's report." The family intends to conduct its own investigation of the Freeh Report's claims.

Another paragraph in the Catechism may serve as a nice closing:
CCC#2477 Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. He becomes guilty of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor.
So far, I think this case pertaining to Paterno may well lack that sufficient foundation.

EDIT August 26, 2012: A new biography called Paterno suggests that Paterno did not have the motive to cover up for Sandusky. The book contains quotes from Paterno indicating that he did not involve himself in the investigations, nor did he show knowledge of Sandusky's crimes, insisting even to his son that he's "not omniscient." (sample story at ABC News)

*Paterno was quoted as stating "With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more." I think the key to this quote is "with the benefit of hindsight." Unfortunately, at the time of these incidents, Paterno did not have that benefit.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

More reason to withhold judgment on Paterno?

New developments in Penn State sex abuse case
To summarize my previous blog post on the Penn State abuse scandal (Joe Paterno: Scapegoat?):

In 2002, Mike McQueary, then graduate assistant at Penn State University was said in a Grand Jury Report to have witnessed Jerry Sandusky, a former Penn State assistant coach, raping a 10 year old boy in the campus showers. The report said McQueary first contacted his own father, and then Penn State head football coach Joe Paterno the next day. The following day, a Sunday, Paterno took the matter to the Athletic Director Tim Curley who conducted an investigation with Senior Finance VP Gary Schultz. Paterno has come under tremendous fire from various news media sources and angry combox contributers throughout the internet for not reporting the incident to on-campus police or public authorities based on McQueary's testimony. My general sentiments as of Friday, as seen in the link above, were to give pause and not incriminate Paterno based on a variety of facts, including what information Paterno was basing his decisions at the time.

Now, let's continue our thought exercise prior to formulating opinions, if we should even choose to formulate an opinion on this matter. I still think those who are harshly condemning Paterno as an accomplice to sex abuse cover-up are still making that claim in the absence of incriminating evidence.

Earlier today, an email from McQueary was leaked (which is another story altogether) to the public. The email is dated Nov. 8. In it, McQueary comments on the 2002 shower incident:
I did stop it, not physically ... but made sure it was stopped when I left that locker room ... I did have discussions with police and with the official at the university in charge of police .... no one can imagine my thoughts or wants to be in my shoes for those 30-45 seconds ... trust me.
As has been noted elsewhere in the media, the Grand Jury Report denies that McQueary spoke with on-campus police. It stated:
[T]he graduate assistant was never questioned by University Police and no other entity conducted an investigation until he testified in Grand Jury in December 2010.
Regarding Paterno, consider the following. If McQueary had spoken to on-campus police, and Paterno knew this fact, and yet went to the AD in addition to McQueary's interaction with on-campus police, then it would seem those who have condemned Paterno for keeping this from police officials of any kind have rushed to judgment and owe Paterno an apology.

On the other hand, let's say McQueary's email is inaccurate and the Grand Jury Report is accurate. Assume McQueary did not speak with on-campus police. Then we move onto the next statement in the email. McQueary says he also spoke "with the official at the university in charge of on-campus police." According to the New York Daily News, the on-campus police supervisor was Gary Schultz, the SVP of Finance, who looked into the matter with AD Curley according to the Grand Jury Report. If Paterno was aware that the supervisor of on-campus police was involved in the investigation, then, again, those who criticized Paterno for deliberately not involving any police officials are mistaken and owe Paterno an apology because the supervisor of on-campus police was already involved.

On first hearing about the email, I thought that skeptics might quickly say it was just Paterno or his supporters coercing McQueary to drum up evidence after the fact. However, McQueary's email is dated November 8, two days before Paterno was fired by Penn State. In the email, McQueary also states he was told by "officials to not say anything." It is unclear if that is a reference to officials at Penn State or otherwise. If this email is authentic, is it more of an indicator that Paterno was used as a scapegoat?

Meanwhile, Sandusky has claimed innocence in a television interview. And his lawyer spoke confidently that the identified victim in the 2002 case has denied being abused by Sandusky.

The matter of justice

Remember, in the last post, I cited the Catechism and the essential meaning of justice:
Justice - The cardinal moral virtue which consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and to neighbor. (CCC glossary)
I think this principle should be the driving force of a good Catholic, or anyone who seeks to formulate just opinions when they speak of others, or even interact with loved ones, friends, and acquaintances. I saw a decent article over the weekend from November 11 that I think leant itself well to that principle.

Christine M. Flowers, an attorney, wrote the article Back off from Joe Paterno: It's too soon, and unfair, to rush to trash his legacy. She makes it clear that she would be ready to recognize that if it was found out that Paterno was negligent of permitting child abuse to occur, that "God would probably mete out a stiffer sentence than the good people of the Keystone State" on him. However, she does not believe there is enough evidence at this time to incriminate Paterno.

As evidence of Paterno's character, she cited a 2007 incident.
Back in 2007, a member of the Nittany Lions squad was charged with raping a Penn State coed. Austin Scott was ultimately acquitted, and, of course, nothing happened to the woman who accused him. Scott, on the other hand, was kicked off the football team by Paterno. That's because the coach has a very strict sense of what is moral and ethical, which gives us some idea about whether he would have knowingly ignored evidence of sexual molestation.
Now a person's behavior at one time does not automatically reveal what his behavior was at another time. Yet I think Flowers' point stands here. There is reason to give pause. Combox comments from when this story first broke like "[Paterno] has shown to be a failure morally and only did the legally correct thing to protect HIMSELF!!!!" seem unwarranted based on the evidence publicly known. Is it not proper to give neighbors their "due"?

EDIT 11/17/11: Attorney Anthony Collelouri on November 8 also brought up the fact that Schultz was the on-campus police supervisor, and presented a legal and ethical defense of Paterno.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Joe Paterno: Scapegoat?

This blog post is regarding the Penn State sexual abuse scandal involving perpetrator Jerry Sandusky, but more specifically, the rhythmic, tribal outcry condemning the school's famous head football coach, Joe Paterno. For instance, writers Bennett L. Gershman and Joel Cohen appearing at the Huffington Post wrote earlier this evening:
"Joe Paterno...knew about Jerry Sandusky, allegedly a sexual predator who horribly raped young boys in the football locker room and shower, but did nothing." (Emphasis mine)
One need only read the comboxes beneath related web stories for more extreme rhetoric and bombast condemning Coach Paterno.

Now, in order for the reader to grasp what I'm going to say here, I have to ask that you try to suspend from your mind the information that is available today regarding the Penn State sex abuse scandal. It is all to easy for 20/20 hindsight to take over and condemn a man based on evidence that surfaced after the criticized action in question. Try to transplant yourself into the past as the details unfolded in reality. Consider possible scenarios consistent with what is known. Take this thought exercise with me.

The key document in all this is a 23-page Grand Jury Report (released November 5, 2011) on Jerry Sandusky's crimes. Despite the media frenzy that has called for Paterno's head and questioned his moral integrity, Paterno is mentioned in the Report just a few times. And not all of these are in relation to what detail of abuse, and how credible it was at the time, then-28-year-old graduate assistant Mike McQueary relayed to Paterno. As the Wall Street Journal noted earlier today: "It isn't clear from conflicting reports whether that graduate assistant told Mr. Paterno the ugly details of the sexual assault that is described in the grand jury report."

Here is the key excerpt from the Grand Jury Report that references Paterno's involvement.
[The document describes in horrific detail what McQueary reported about a pedophile rape in a school shower.] [McQueary] telephoned Paterno and went to Paterno's home, where he reported what he had seen. (page 7)
At this point, the document does not tell us if the description reported at that time matched the disturbing details that preceded in the Report. The subsequent text suggests otherwise:
Joseph V. Paterno testified to receiving the graduate assistant's report at his home on a Saturday morning. Paterno testified that the graduate assistant was very upset. Paterno called Tim Curley ("Curley"), Penn State Athletic Director and Paterno's immediate superior, to his home the very next day, a Sunday, and reported to him that the graduate assistant had seen Jerry Sandusky in the Lasch Building showers fondling or doing something of a sexual nature to a young boy.
Paterno is not mentioned again until later. Here are a few more details from the Report.
  • According to Curley, that McQueary described the shower incident as Sandusky and the youth "horsing around." Curley elsewhere denied that McQueary reported "'sexual conduct' 'of any kind'" having taken place. (page 8)
  • The school president Graham Spanier reportedly said that he learned Sandusky and the boy "were horsing around in the shower." He denied that he was told that the incident was "sexual in nature." (page 10)
  • Another member of the school, Gary Schultz, Senior Vice President for Finance and Business, became involved with Curley's investigation. According to Schultz's testimony, "he and Curley 'had no indication that a crime had occurred.'" Schultz also suggested that he understood the incident to have been Sandusky and the youth "wrestling." (page 9)
  • The Report later identifies the school's obligation by law to have reported suspected child abuse. It also states: "The Grand Jury finds that Tim Curley made a materially false statement under oath in an official proceeding on January 12, 2011.." and "[T]he Grand jury finds that Gary Schultz made a materially false statement under oath in an official proceeding on January 12, 2011..." (page 12)
Now, consider the following. It remains unclear what were the nature of details McQueary told Paterno. Paterno, on a Sunday, brought McQueary's report to the attention of his own superior, Curley. Curley then conducted an investigation with Schultz. Their testimony was determined by the Grand Jury to contain falsehoods.

Before we condemn Coach Paterno then, are there not a number of questions that are relevant? First, is what cause did Paterno have to assume the subsequent investigation conducted by Curley and Schultz would be incompetent or dishonest? I've yet to see anyone in the media ask that question, much less provide an answer.

Second, Curley, Schultz, and Spanier all told the Grand Jury that they did not determine any sexual conduct to have taken place in the showers that night. So if they were willing to tell that to a Grand Jury, then might they have told Coach Paterno the same thing back in 2002? And if so, what cause had Paterno to assume they had colluded to protect Sandusky? After all, if one reads the Report, Paterno's involvement was limited. Primarily, he was the one who brought the incident to the attention of university officials.

Third, even according to the Grand Jury Report, it seems McQueary used varying language as to what he saw in the showers. On pages 6-7, the Report indicates without qualification that McQueary witnessed Sandusky raping a boy. But on page 7, the Report reads "he had witnessed what he believed to be Sandusky [raping] a boy..." Between these variations and talk of "wrestling" or "horsing around" that was espoused by the other university officials, is it possible that Paterno did not feel McQueary truly saw sexual misconduct?

Remember, suspend your 20/20 hindsight for a moment and consider such details contained in the report.

Now, if one wants to say Paterno "could have done more," one merely agrees with what Paterno said recently in light of the revelation of Sandusky's apparent guilt. "With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more," Paterno said. And who wouldn't say that in light of what is known now.

So can one say Paterno should have ignored the conclusions of his superiors and brought this to the police anyway? Let's say the answer to that is yes, he should have done "more." Paterno was fired by the University on Wednesday. Paterno did not witness the crime. McQueary, the actual witness, neither took the matter beyond school officials even after they did not report Sandusky to the police themselves. Yet McQueary, as of the time of this post, retains his job and will be an assistant coach on Saturday! Curley, who spearheaded the investigation and is under investigation for perjury, is only on "administrative leave"!

So is it not a fair question: Is Joe Paterno a scapegoat? Did Penn State University use the firing of Paterno, the most famous individual in this saga, as a "big statement" to "show" that they were really taking this seriously?

And is all the rhetoric and bombast for Paterno's head the product of some other form of hatred? Is he too iconic of the old school university seen by many as a culture of exclusivist bigotry? Is there a sentiment against the sport of football altogether?

Rather can we not agree that it is possible to decry sex abuse and yet not pass excessive judgment on a man who did move the investigation forward?

And what credibility have people like The Nation magazine's sports writer Dave Zirin who recently wrote of Penn State: "[F]ootball is so valuable that children can become collateral damage"; yet on another day write an anti-Christian article on Tim Tebow that called him "anti-abortion"! And consider the opening quote from the two writers who claimed Paterno "did nothing." These are the kinds of sentiments that indicate there are other motives to criticize Paterno than that he is actually a villain.

If Paterno was the negligent, immoral villain the way many have described him, I don't think it can be said because of what is publicly known thus far. Whatever we say about Paterno, I think the Catechism's definition of "Justice" is appropriate: "Justice - The cardinal moral virtue which consists in the constant and firm will to give their due to God and to neighbor."

One thing is for sure, Joe Paterno's students will ever love him for all that he did for them. (Watch a group of students supporting Paterno outside his home earlier tonight.)

EDIT 11/11/11 (8:00 a.m.): Since last evening, McQueary will now not be coaching on the field on Saturday––however, not because he is being punished, but because he is being preserved from "multiple threats." According to Penn State officials: "Due to multiple threats made against Assistant Coach Mike McQueary, the University has decided it would be in the best interest of all for Assistant Coach McQueary not to be in attendance at Saturday's Nebraska game."

EDIT 11/11/11 (1:23 p.m.): It was also reported that a lawyer representing the victims in this case has expressed disapproval on behalf of his clients that Paterno was fired. He is quoted:
"The board of trustees got it wrong. They should have consulted the victims before making a decision on Mr. Paterno...They should have considered these victims watch TV and are aware of the students' reaction and may not want to be associated with the downfall of Mr. Paterno. The school instead elected to do what it felt was in its own best interest at the time. Isn’t that what put the school in this position in the first place?"
If that is the case, one would think even the victims, at this point, do not believe Paterno's actions warranted his dismissal.