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So it looks like Ross Douthat - the NYT's resident GOP apologist (because there are some things even David Brooks won't touch) - has taken on the Paterno sex abuse scandal.  He draws the apt comparison between it and the Church sex abuse scandal, but quickly goes off the deep end.  So as to not bury the lede, here is the money quote:

It was precisely because Castrillón had served his church heroically, I suspect, that he was so easily blinded to the reality of priestly sex abuse. It was precisely because Joe Paterno had done so much good for so long that he could do the unthinkable, and let an alleged child rapist continue to walk free in Penn State’s Happy Valley...

I believe that Joe Paterno is a good man. I believe Joe Posnanski of Sports Illustrated, the brilliant sportswriter who is working on a Paterno biography, when he writes that Paterno has “lived a profoundly decent life” and “improved the lives of countless people” with his efforts and example.

I also believe that most of the clerics who covered up abuse in my own Catholic Church were in many ways good men... They believed in their church. They believed in their mission. And out of the temptation that comes only to the virtuous, they somehow persuaded themselves that protecting their institution’s various good works mattered more than justice for the children they were supposed to shepherd and protect.  

It really takes a special kind of idiot to make these assholes into tragic heroes, let alone call them "virtuous."  Douthat has fabricated some kind of deluded fantasy world in which Paterno and the Catholic leadership are really good souls unwittingly made to overlook the most heinous and nauseating of crimes - raping and torturing small children - because they were such good people.

Hate to break it to you Douthat, but protecting a corrupt institution is not an endearing quality - in fact it is actually a rather damning quality for someone to have.  And when you put it in context of covering up pedophilia, well lets just say the context certainly doesn't improve the situation.

There is only one question that remains: Does Douthat have a soul?

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Comment Preferences

  •  The problem (9+ / 0-)

    Generally the heroes and heroines of tragedy (i.e. Oedipus, Hamlet, Medea, Othello) however flawed, believe that what they are doing is correct according to legal and moral law, even when they go astray.

    No "tragic" hero or heroine  covers up, they uncover the truth, however ugly it is.

    Joe Paterno is no tragic hero.

  •  I think you missed the point of the piece. (5+ / 0-)

    Douhat was trying to say that extreme good and evil can exist in the same person.  I disagree with Douhat's characterization of Paterno as a good person; but I don't think it's off the deep end, especially when there's no doubt that Paterno did good things.  

    Moreover, I agree with his claim that Paterno may have done evil because he felt it was for a greater good.  Of course only Paterno knows why he failed to act given what he knew, but it's unfair to say that Douhat is apologizing for Paterno simply because he made that observation.

    •  Contradict much? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      You said:

      Douhat was trying to say that extreme good and evil can exist in the same person.

      Then you say:

      Moreover, I agree with his claim that Paterno may have done evil because he felt it was for a greater good.

      The first says the two are separate.  The second quote said one led to the other.  On a separate note, I'm sorry you feel that way.

      •  Those statements are entirely consistent. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        bnasley, Keninoakland

        If Paterno enabled evil because he felt it was for a greater good, then he did something evil.  If he also did good things apart from that, then good and evil co-exist in him.

        I really don't see why that's so hard to grasp.  Indeed, I think it's the very reason that this scandal is so disturbing.

    •  No, Sal has it correct (9+ / 0-)

      that it's an attempt to reconstruct Paterno as a tragic sort of hero.

      If Paterno had no knowledge of the evil in his midst, then you are talking about something tragic.

      Paterno deliberately covered up for Sandusky when he  had the influence and the power to pursue the investigations to the end, however ugly the end result was to be.

      Unlike Oedipus, Paterno can't claim blindness.

      Unlike King Lear, Paterno didn't turn over the throne and allow all sorts of mess to happen.

      Unlike Big Daddy in Cat On a Hot Tin Roof, Paterno didn't sit down and have the tough and necessary confrontations with those that he mentored and/or worked for him.

      •  I don't think Douhat is saying that Paterno (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        is a hero simply because he made the observation that he did good things.  Nowhere in Douhat's argument does he say that Paterno didn't know or was blind to Sandusky's abuse of children, nor does he claim that Paterno is a hero.

        I think that Douhat's opinion that Paterno is a good man is based on the fact that he did many good things, and not on the assumption that he didn't know about what Sandusky was doing.  I disagree with that characterization, but I do think that the claim that Paterno is purely evil is complicated by the many good things he did.

        I think that's the reason this scandal is so disturbing.  People just can't wrap their heads around how a man who did such good for so many could have been a party to something so profoundly evil, and I think that is what Douhat was trying to articulate.

        •  Paterno made the trains run on time (6+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          fou, skrekk, Seamus D, MKSinSA, bnasley, gramofsam1


          If the trains don't run on time, people will tend not to think that you're a good person. You may be a good person, in that case, but people don't want an incompetent person either.

          (and Paterno's legacy isn't ALL of that either...if you follow CFB like I do, the rap sheets of PSU players in the past 10 or so years have increased)

          I don't claim that Paterno did no good, by the way.

          But a lot of that is deliberate crafting of an image, IMO.

          •  Well, I think that Paterno is a coward. (7+ / 0-)

            I think that he enabled Sandusky because he determined that the cost of losing Sandusky's expertise was greater than the cost of Sandusky's abuse of those children.  The success of the football program at Penn State was enormously profitable, and I think Paterno made a cynical decision to cover up the abuse of those children for money.  Pure and simple.  That's why I would never say Paterno is a good man.  He clearly did good things, but at a cost that was too high to call him a good man.

            •  What expertise? (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              Sandusky was retired from coaching in 1998, in part, due to child molestation charges, it seems.

              Paterno was not an assitant coach when McQuerary saw him in the shower with a 10 year old boy in 2002.

              And even then...

              •  Sandusky still had unfettered access (1+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:

                to all of the Penn State athletic facilities after his "retirement".  It's pretty obvious that he was still an unofficial advisor to Paterno, and that he went into "retirement" to afford the football program and the University plausible deniability.

                It doesn't otherwise make sense that Sandusky still maintained a relationship to the football program.

        •  Impossible to know (10+ / 0-)

          what Paterno was thinking and why he kept silent. He did tell his boss. It isn't really a question of whether he is a good or bad person. He is a person who failed a child..(children) in an epic way. Paterno said himself that it is the great sadness of his life. So, he knows that he made the wrong choices. Those boys knew their attacker was evil. But knowing that other adults knew and did nothing is the kind of thing that could make a kid cry for the rest of their life. There is the heartbreak.

          "...I know we’re going to be all marching together and walking together and working together and rebuilding together." Barack Obama, Sept. 5, 2011

          by orphanpower on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 05:24:19 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  "cry for the rest of their life" (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            fou, orphanpower

            Seen it several times, still do it myself. Childhood sexual abuse, unless PROMPTLY and THOROUGHLY treated, leaves severe & permanent scars that impact quality of life.

            Personally, I think Paterno & Sandusky should be castrated.

            A tumbrel remark is an unguarded comment by an uncontrollably rich person, of such crass insensitivity that it makes the workers and peasants think of lampposts and guillotines. ~ Christopher Hitchens

            by The Werewolf Prophet on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 11:07:06 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

      •  I think he's just trying to explain (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        fou, Keninoakland

        how someone who has been portrayed as a hero for so many years, and who has done many good things, can also go so horribly astray.

        If anything, he may be trying too hard to explain how the abuse scandals in the Catholic church came about.  Even if you think he's trying to make Paterno into a flawed hero (which I don't), he ends his article with the following:

        No higher cause can trump that obligation — not a church, and certainly not a football program. And not even a lifetime of heroism can make up for leaving a single child alone, abandoned to evil, weeping in the dark.

    •  "For the greater good"... (9+ / 0-)

      ...has long been a justification some use to excuse evil.  Using such a justification does not make that evil good, nor does doing good absolve one of one's evil.

    •  Well that's very f'ing interesting... (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      bnasley, dougymi, fou, Rogneid, gramofsam1

      I guess I'll just have to ponder what possible "greater good" comes from enabling/covering up child rape.

      I beg your figuring that the fuck out may take the rest of my goddman fucking life.


      "The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed." ~ Steven Biko

      by Marjmar on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 05:42:24 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  What in the hell is (14+ / 0-)

    "the temptation that only comes to the virtuous" supposed to mean? That those who would act to stop child rape, and put an institution on the line in doing so, are not virtuous???

    The Bible is not inerrant, and corporations are not gods.

    by CoExistNow on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 04:47:57 PM PST

  •  Women Complain Too Much (7+ / 0-)

    Is the point of Katie Roiphe's op-ed about Herman Cain. What's up with the NYT? Does 'balance' mean dumping a load of debris on the Sunday Review?

  •  The Onion has a good take on this: (5+ / 0-)

    "I was a big supporter of waterboarding" - Dick Cheney 2/14/10

    by Bob Love on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 05:01:27 PM PST

  •  Failure to rescue or report (8+ / 0-)

    by the good solid upstanding adults who become aware of a crimes against children hurts the victim far more than most people can imagine. It is a betrayal. Children who are rescued and see their attacker brought to justice can recover.

    "...I know we’re going to be all marching together and walking together and working together and rebuilding together." Barack Obama, Sept. 5, 2011

    by orphanpower on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 05:02:28 PM PST

  •  the assholes (4+ / 0-)

    They were heroes that made themselves into tragic assholes. Or were they even heroes at all?

    Here's what I don't understand. If Joe Paterno were such a good man, how could he stomach being in the vicinity of a child rapist? The only conceivable way a "good man" could tolerate seeing a child rapist walk free among the territory he controls is if he doesn't believe the guy is a child rapist. I have a suspicion that Joe Paterno was in denial for years, that he did not believe McQueary, that he thought he was mistaken in what he saw and that Sandusky had not done what McQueary witnessed. It's the only way a "good man" could allow Sandusky to hang around. Otherwise, he's just not a good man in the first place.

    Time has a good article on bystander psychology, and here's the money quote:

    Research suggests that when people are faced with situations that threaten their view of the world as relatively fair and decent, rather than revising their own perspective, they often create accounts that deny reality, blame the victim or otherwise rationalize the situation.

    Paterno was in denial, it's the only thing that fits with this "good man" supposition.

    "Every Pootie is a masterpiece." - Da Vinci

    by mdsiamese on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 05:32:29 PM PST

    •  considering that (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      dougymi, murrayewv, Flying Goat

      Sandusky was forced into retirement in 1998 based, in part, on the unproven allegation of child molestation,  Paterno could not have been in the dark 9I don't care what his son says).

      Paterno was Sandusky's boss even then. It is highly unlikely that the blue wall of silence and Penn State conspired to keep the 1998 accusations from Paterno.

      •  seriously (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        I think he knew about the events of 1998 too, and he was in denial. It's the only explanation. It's like Michael Jackson's family thinking it was okay that he had kids around all the time, even after the first scandal and the payoff. To this day, they probably believe MJ totally innocent of any wrong doing at all, I'm sure they think he was somehow being persecuted by gold diggers. Paterno may have come up with some convoluted rationalization that Sandusky was trying to do such good for these kids, and that he got overly friendly and it was misinterpreted in 1998. And he just kept rationalizing it in his head. Otherwise, how could someone that everyone who ever met him says is such a great guy tolerate being around Sandusky? The only way is if he just didn't believe it. And that doesn't excuse him at all.

        "Every Pootie is a masterpiece." - Da Vinci

        by mdsiamese on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 05:42:56 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Imagine you are an abused child.... (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Chitown Kev

          and you see everyone turning Michael Jackson into a posthumous hero instead of the scary guy he was.  Look at all those Michael Jackson enablers.  Men who deny rape and sexual harassment are real because women are liars or over sensitive can tell themselves that children lie or their imaginations are being played with by folks trying to set up child abuse charges.

          These stories are murky and tragic.  They are often played out as troubled memories the victims have suppressed for decades.  The hatred of gay sex and heterosexual sex means you are a fag or a slut when people find out, so the blackmail for silence is effective.  So the religious folks are particularly vulnerable to this shaming.  If your abuser is a family member, you can shame the child into silence even more easily by threatening the family structure.  We need to deshame the whole process for families too.  Parents who do bring this to authorities are also shamed by the investigation, keeping the secret that some people prey on children and teens.

          You shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you mad. Aldous Huxley

          by murrayewv on Mon Nov 14, 2011 at 03:49:12 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  The University Counsel knew (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      according to this CNN article
      Which is really odd. I mean, what the hell???
      There is a lot more to this story I fear. Paterno may have been in denial, but was he told to keep quiet by more powerful university figures? Why on earth would he stay silent?
      Nothing about this makes sense. How could so many people consistantly do the wrong thing by not contacting police?

      "...I know we’re going to be all marching together and walking together and working together and rebuilding together." Barack Obama, Sept. 5, 2011

      by orphanpower on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 05:42:30 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  I think (0+ / 0-)

      Joe thought  by not giveing him the head coaching job ,that would be punishment he could live with.

      i'd rather be baptised in the juices of rush limbaughs infl amed pancreas

      by genghisjon on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 05:47:32 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  there's no way Sandusky got away for so long (0+ / 0-)

    without active assistance, approval and, likely, participation by others.  Like child porn, molesters have networks.

  •  Can we sorta stick with... (0+ / 0-)

    ..."criminal anti-social perversion" rather than "evil" when referring to some middle-aged man having anal intercourse with a ten year-old? This casual use of the inherently religious concept of "evil" as applied to illegal (and yes, immoral---which isn't in fact the exclusive domain of the "faithful") behavior degrades the discourse about a serious topic. So much of our current vernacular is infested with tropes symbolizing religious influence ("evil", "miracle", "redemption", even the impossible to escape "holiday"!) that a lot of our conversations just degenerate into an intellectual morass. What's being described here is a civil transgression in a secular society and introducing the term "evil" in some measure implies that the devil or demons could just possibly be involved in the execution of this heinous violation. Seriously, we give the fascist theocrats validity by utilizing their metaphysical phrasing so casually in our everyday speech. If we become complacent about the notion of "evil" amongst us we're just a few steps removed from throwing the witch in the lake.

        •  oh nevermind I see you were referring (0+ / 0-)

          to Douthat and not me.

          •  Yeah, sorry if I made that unclear. (0+ / 0-)

            It's just difficult to read supposedly factual or critical reports about anything when it's peppered with religious language that has nebulous mystic connotations. I started becoming more sensitive to the insidious cultural intrusion of "evil" when Bush did his "Axis of Evil" routine. It wasn't used haphazardly or accidentally, it was used to demonize (there it is again) the people of foreign nations and position the USA as the "good" (godly) agency to wage war against the identified scourge. The use of the word is so pervasive that I doubt many recognize it as a verbal cue that posits religious beliefs as a point of fact.

    •  Oh, go fuck yourself. I'm a sex abuse survivor ... (0+ / 0-)

      ... and "evil" - with all its shadowy, frightening connotations - is EXACTLY what perps and enablers are.

      And that bit about complacency? Give me a break, most non-right-wing folk don't use the word precisely because it's rarely appropriate. However, raping children, and enabling / protecting the perps, is unquestionably, unequivocally EVIL!

      A tumbrel remark is an unguarded comment by an uncontrollably rich person, of such crass insensitivity that it makes the workers and peasants think of lampposts and guillotines. ~ Christopher Hitchens

      by The Werewolf Prophet on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 11:22:54 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Yah know what? You do NOT get to define ... (0+ / 0-)

      ... the terms of the debate unless you yourself are a sex abuse survivor.

      A tumbrel remark is an unguarded comment by an uncontrollably rich person, of such crass insensitivity that it makes the workers and peasants think of lampposts and guillotines. ~ Christopher Hitchens

      by The Werewolf Prophet on Mon Nov 14, 2011 at 12:36:14 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Tsk tsk. (0+ / 0-)

        It's a CRIME, not an expression of of some nefarious diabolical influence. Criminal. Illegal. Immoral. Stomach-turning. Anti-social. But since there is not a verifiable element that is "evil" outside of the religious context, that's not the word that should be applied. And I'm as entitled as anyone else on a message board to draw attention to the vocabulary used in a debate to make the case/argument/observation a more salient, intelligent discussion. If you know for certain or think that "evil" exists, fine. I'm not demanding that folks discontinue using the word, I just want to alert them to the religious ramifications of adopting concepts akin to "evil" in a secular setting. Do and say whatever you please, it's a free country (well, not really but that's tangential). I do think the "fuck you" was rude in these circumstances, and as to my particular sexual history, I'd just rather keep that private.

        •  You're hung up on the "outside influence" bit. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          I don't believe in the devil, demons or any other such nonsense, yet do believe that human beings can become evil. It has to do with actively embracing their hurtful actions and willfully denying the hurt they cause. In short, evil is a choice.

          And another rousing FUCK YOU, for thinking that rhetorical criticism is an appropriate way to comment about other people's life-long pain, you smug asshole.

          A tumbrel remark is an unguarded comment by an uncontrollably rich person, of such crass insensitivity that it makes the workers and peasants think of lampposts and guillotines. ~ Christopher Hitchens

          by The Werewolf Prophet on Mon Nov 14, 2011 at 03:31:37 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I wasn't commenting on... (0+ / 0-)

            ...the life-long consequences of childhood sexual abuse, I was only bringing attention to the vocabulary used in the cited article. I wasn't championing the acts or attitudes of the perpetrators or deriding the victims in any manner. Obviously your personal background has led you to the conclusion that "evil" is indeed the proper description for this ilk of detestable behavior. So be it. Meh, there's not all that many people in this country that aren't "smug assholes" to one degree or another so I feel no searing compunction to refute your assumption. Later, Buddy.

  •  i'm so weary of right wing true believers (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    posing as some sort of superior intellects.

    i have not read through these comments, so forgive me if it's been said already:

    mr. douthat, tell it to the victims of the roman catholic church and the victims of jerry sandusky.  

  •  Let's just stipulate that Douthat is an idiot. (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    dougymi, fou, Buckeye54

    He's not the interesting one--Paterno is.  I can certainly believe that he didn't really understand what McQueary was telling him (if McQ. really told him the reality of what he saw).  He was too old, too self-sheltered, to understand that such things even happened in the world, much less in his bailiwick.  McQueary, perhaps, might as well have told Paterno that Sandusky was in secret negotiations with Martians.  In the end it might go back to the most commonplace observation in the (college football) world, that maybe the world had, already in 2002, passed Joe Paterno by.

    But nobody's buying flowers from the flower lady.

    by Rich in PA on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 07:30:50 PM PST

    •  But Joe Paterno is Catholic (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      fou, Buckeye54

      Joe Nocera's column on Saturday gives a bit of a different view on that comparison

      More shocking yet, Catholics in Paterno’s own diocese of Altoona-Johnstown, Pa., understood these consequences long before the rest of the country. In 1987, Richard Serbin, an Altoona lawyer representing abuse victims, had sued the diocese. The suit was widely publicized in the local media — publicity that did not diminish much even after he won in 1994 because the diocese kept appealing. (It finally agreed to pay $3.7 million in 2004.) One of the victims Serbin represented was a former altar boy in State College — Penn State’s hometown.

      Given that foreknowledge, how could Paterno, upon learning that one of his graduate assistants allegedly had seen Sandusky having anal sex with a preteen boy, content himself with mentioning it to his superior and then looking the other way? How could he have allowed Sandusky to maintain access to Penn State’s football facilities? How could the university have let him continue to run his youth camps on Penn State property — camps where he no doubt scouted potential targets? Everyone at Penn State who averted their eyes had to know they were doing something abhorrent. They knew from the experience of their own community.

      •  Absolutely. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        The Werewolf Prophet, murrayewv

        This from the comment section of Douhat's article:

        These are not good men. It is easy to appear saintly while feeding the poor or pandering to a sports obsessed alumni. No matter how many poor they fed or football games they won when faced with a true test of their integrity they failed. They failed their institutions, their admirers and themselves while abandoning countless children to unspeakable abuse. If this is not evil what is. To call it anything less is an abomination!

        This is exactly my feeling regarding this whole sordid episode.

      •  Because even in the Church it's all euphemism (0+ / 0-)

        "Inappropriate contact" and that kind of thing.  Do you think Paterno ever heard, in any Catholic setting, anything more graphic than that? If anything, he more likely heard in that setting that it's a big to-do about nothing, driven by anti-Catholic sentiment.  

        But nobody's buying flowers from the flower lady.

        by Rich in PA on Mon Nov 14, 2011 at 03:45:16 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  I have never liked Douthat, (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fou, Sal2012

    but this is first time he wrote something that actually made me vomit.  

    The status quo sucks. George Carlin

    by Rogneid on Sun Nov 13, 2011 at 07:53:11 PM PST

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