Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Color of Shame without the Hail Marys

I am from a family of blue bloods.

Penn State Blue.

From the deluge of news coverage you know the broad outlines of this story: a 10 year silence about a Penn State assistant football coach who abused young boys sometimes in the facilities of this legendary football powerhouse, the grand jury investigation, the knowledge that the abuse stretches back 15 years, the arrest of the former assistant coach who ran a program for troubled youth, too, an emergency Sunday meeting of the university’s board, the removal of the athletic director and the vice president for finance and their arraignment on perjury charges for lying to the grand jury the university president who all too quickly backed these top administrators, and in the midst of it the Icon – JoPa, Penn State’s head football coach.

And within the span of less time than it takes for the holiday bowl games schedule, the Camelot that has been filled with Merlin’s wizardry has become Mordred unmasked.

To a family that understands “ measure it” from the matriarch as not a recipe direction but a demand to get every last inch for a first down, the shock and sadness go deep like a wide receiver.

This Blue family stretches from a generation who went to college football games in suits, –yes, suits with skirts – followed by cocktail parties at fraternities to a generation that tweets the stats and thinks a fraternity is a name for a rock band, a bad name for a rock band.

While the shock is deep and explosive in its suddenness and our immediate concern for the youngest and most recent of us on the campuses keenly real, the knowledge of what must be done is sure.

To whom much is given, much is expected.

Joe Paterno’s coaching career must end. Today. Not after the game with Nebraska on Saturday. Not at the end of the season. Today.

Graham Spanier the University president must be removed. Today.

Michael McQueary, the grad assistant who is now a coach, must be gone. Today.

In the face of the absolute heinousness of child sexual abuse and the neglect of the child by Penn State authorities which allowed other children to be molested is the abdication of all the underpinnings of success with honor.

Nothing gets set aright if there is hedging.

But resignation and removal are only the beginning.

The drive to begin the long and perhaps unattainable fight for Penn State’s redemption must be led by Paterno in a fierce and unyielding battle to find the victims coupled with an unstinting drive for the legislative changes that need to be made by the Pennsylvania General Assembly to protect children from sexual abuse and give victims their day in court.

This is a stanza in Penn State’s alma mater: “Let no act of ours bring shame to one heart that loves thy name.”

Now that shame does blanket the Nittany Valley only the pick and shovel work of determined reform with the child at the center is worthy of being how the game should be played.

Pennsylvania is Catholic territory. Given the reaction of Penn State Country to this massive moral failure with its near complete parallel to the saga of abuse in the Roman Catholic Church, uneasy should rest the heads that wear miters.

Catholics have obligations here. No longer can there be sideline standing. The Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown which encompasses Happy Valley has an excruciatingly bad record on sexual abuse. The Philadelphia Grand Jury gives the measure of the state of things in Catholicism in the Keystone State as well.

To be shocked by what has happened at Penn State, to expect accountability, to weigh the sending of children to this institution, to reconsider where to put one’s money by current students, parents and alumni alike and not to ask and demand at the very baseline the same from Catholic Church and its leaders who have repeatedly been given reverential passes is a circumstance worthy only of a Dante ranking.

Out of the ashes of the scandal of St. Joe can arise the phoenix of the protection of children for the touchdown and the touchstone of our lives.




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