Penn State’s shame — and America’s too

November 15, 2011


“Success with Honor” is the motto of Penn State’s athletic program. They got it half right.

The alleged sexual abuse of young boys by former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky is disgusting, outrageous and immoral. That so many at the school’s highest level allegedly engaged either in covering up serial abuses, or turned a blind eye to them in order to maintain the “integrity” of the football program and its legendary coach, Joe Paterno, adds insult to unfathomable injury.

Baseball may still be called the national pastime, but football has become the national religion. College football is played on Saturday, the Jewish Sabbath, while professional football is mostly played on Sunday, the Christian Sabbath. Fans of both often express themselves in ways that are more vocal than the wildest Pentecostal preacher.

While denouncing what is alleged to have happened at Penn State as repugnant, we would do well to examine the reasons behind such things. Yes, it begins with human nature, but society — buttressed by religion — once did a better job of keeping human nature in check.

Since the free-loving ’60s, we seem to have taken a wrecking ball to social mores. Today, anyone appealing to such a standard is denounced and stamped with the label of the day, usually ending in the suffix, “-phobe.”

The medical and psychological professions have aided and abetted the cultural rot. Doctors once took an oath to “never do harm,” accompanied by a pledge never to assist in an abortion. Now the official position of the American Medical Association’s “code of ethics” is this: “The principles of medical ethics of the AMA do not prohibit a physician from performing an abortion in accordance with good medical practice and under circumstances that do not violate law.”

Doctors once led; now they follow cultural trends.

On its website, the American Psychological Association brags, “Since 1975, the American Psychological Association has called on psychologists to take the lead in removing the stigma of mental illness that has long been associated with lesbian, gay, and bisexual orientations.” It once considered such behavior otherwise and while even most conservatives no longer regard homosexuality as a mental illness, many still regard it as sinful. That theological diagnosis, too, has been discarded in our increasingly secular and anomalous society where everything is to be tolerated except those people who assert that, according to a standard higher than opinion polls, some things remain intolerable.

What changed? Pressure groups aided by secular education and the entertainment industry.

Last week, an episode of “Glee” featured two couples — one straight, one gay — “losing their virginity.” The show’s co-creator, Ryan Murphy, told Bravo’s “Sex in the Box”: “Hopefully I have made it possible for somebody on broadcast television to do a rear-entry scene in three years. Maybe that will be my legacy.” Some legacy.

What we tolerate and promote we get more of and what we discourage and reject we get less of. C.S. Lewis said it best in “The Abolition of Man”: “In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honor and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”

The message at Penn State was that we live in a culture that forbids almost nothing. Jerry Sandusky apparently believed that and crossed one of the few remaining lines of morality left in our culture. But even that line might soon be erased if the pressure groups and their campaign contributions grow large enough.

In the last verse of the Old Testament’s book of Judges, there is this: “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.”

That could have been the motto at Penn State. Increasingly, it appears to describe contemporary America as well.

Cal Thomas is a columnist for Tribune Media Services. His email address is tmseditors@tribune.com.


KEITHMILES05 6 years, 7 months ago

Hey Cal! Please remember and lecture those straight people who are largely responsible for crimes against children. Yes, this coach was straight, ok? Stop belly aching against gays which had not a damn thing to do with this situation.

jaywalker 6 years, 7 months ago

This coach was straight?? What are you partaking of so early in the morning?

jaywalker 6 years, 7 months ago

Yeah, Jesse, I shudder to think what she and his kids are going through right now.

jafs 6 years, 7 months ago

Most pedophiles self-identify as straight, even if their activities with children involve those of the same gender.

jaywalker 6 years, 7 months ago

Well, that's swell for their demented rationale but we know better, right? Not that I give a flip what gender is being molested or what the offender's orientation is whatsoever.

jonas_opines 6 years, 7 months ago

I think orientation is a lot more fuzzy than anybody ever real cares to admit.

appleaday 6 years, 7 months ago

And, Cal, remember that the most blatant and reprehensible system failing to protect children in order to protect their own "integrity" and reputation, was a religious organization -- The Catholic Church.

Maddy Griffin 6 years, 7 months ago

"..secular education and the entertianment industry." Come on Cal. Quit trying to blame this on anything but greed. It wasn';t the hippies' fault either. This was about one sick somebuck and his cronies who covered for him and the school to avoid a scandal. Such a sad commentary on the system.

jaywalker 6 years, 7 months ago

"The message at Penn State was that we live in a culture that forbids almost nothing. Jerry Sandusky apparently believed that and crossed one of the few remaining lines of morality left in our culture. But even that line might soon be erased if the pressure groups and their campaign contributions grow large enough"

Even a curmudgeon like Cal has to realize that implying child molestation "might soon be erased" as a line that can't be crossed is nothing more than wanton hubris for the sake of this column. Jumped the shark again, Cal.

cato_the_elder 6 years, 7 months ago

Looks like some of the previous commenters have never heard of NAMBLA.

Abdu Omar 6 years, 7 months ago

That certainly wasn't a fair comment at all. Islam doesn't permit pedofilia and condemns this kind of act and you know it. NAMBLA is no where comparable to Islam. Muslims are highly offended by your comment.

Katara 6 years, 7 months ago

Wow. If you are going to quote any type of scripture, you should at least quote it accurately.

Surah 2:228 http://quran.com/2/228 Surah 65:4 http://quran.com/65/4 (This mentions nothing of men having sex with prepubescent girls and most cultures that practice Islam do not condone it - the standard practice is that girls who have not reached puberty stay with their family until such time.)

But hey! Carry on with your ignorance. It is difficult for some to understand the difference between religious doctrine and cultural expression of such.

Katara 6 years, 7 months ago

How would that violate the Quran?

I am not sure why you assume a marriage is consummated upon completion of the marriage ceremony. That is not the norm in cultures that practice marriage at a young age.

Abdu Omar 6 years, 7 months ago

No he did not. It is that simple. You are talking about his marriage to Aisha who was Muhammad's friends daughter. She was 9 when she was promised to Muhammad but 19 when they married. The notion that he would marry her so young is foolish.

He didn't violate the Qur'an. Does that answer you questions?

Katara 6 years, 7 months ago

I can tell you who's not telling the truth - Robert Spencer. That is the director of JihadWatch and the source of your info.


The above link is to loonwatch.com and provides proof of bogus translations by Robert Spencer, including the ones you used in an attempt to back up your assertions.

The fact that you even use Robert Spencer as a source of information also tells me that you are not interested in truth or accurate information.

Katara 6 years, 7 months ago

Being taken into one's house is not a euphemism for consummating a marriage.

It is traditional, in many cultures who practice marriage at a young age, for the bride to either stay with her family until she has menstruated or move in with the in-laws. The reason for moving in with the in-laws is that the mother-in-law teaches the daughter-in-law how to run a household. You see this mainly in SE Asian & Middle Eastern cultures (and more particularly in the rural areas).

Katara 6 years, 7 months ago

The only person guilty of spin is yourself, Gandalf. You are using a well known fabricator of facts as the main backup for your arguments.

Puberty can start as early as 8 years old now in developed nations due to a variety of reasons (better nutrition, exposure to growth hormones in food, etc). However that is not the case many areas, particularly in nomadic groups. The age of onset of menarche in those groups is usually between 15-17 years old.

And I'm saying your "translation" is bunk.

Katara 6 years, 7 months ago

Puberty and menarche are different things.

Menarche is usually considered the end stage of puberty for females.

Katara 6 years, 7 months ago

I'm going to put the menarche info at the end of the comments as the threading is getting difficult to read.

It will probably look horribly out of place but at least you'll know where it is.

I wish LJW would make their threading more like the Consumerist's - so much easier to read.

jafs 6 years, 7 months ago

To put this in perspective, you have to remember that life spans were considerably shorter back then.

When people are routinely dying in their 30's, then 15 is "mid-life".

Just sayin'.

Katara 6 years, 7 months ago

No one has said that child brides are wrong or right.

What has been pointed out to you is that consummation of the marriage does not occur at the time of marriage and does not normally occur until after the onset of menarche and that menarche does not normally occur as young as age 8 in the societies you are attempting to discuss.

There is tons of literature out there that explains this. Why you content yourself to believe a source who has fabricated facts, translations & his own academic credentials over the massive amounts of information that tells you why he is wrong, I will never know.

Katara 6 years, 7 months ago


It is a common misconception to assume that because people didn't live as long in those times, that puberty hit earlier.

Delayed menarche is common in nomadic societies of which Aisha was part of (Bedouin).

jafs 6 years, 7 months ago

I believe you.

But, I'm sure it's also true that people got married and had children considerably younger then than they do now, isn't it?

Otherwise, many people would have died without bearing children at all.

Katara 6 years, 7 months ago

BornAgainAmerican (anonymous) says…Call me whatever you wish, I will not lower myself to the bad behavior and seemingly lack of any moral compass exhibited by teh far left Secular Progressives who are the real crivers of Fleabagger mob ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ But name calling and making up stuff is still okay in your book as exhibited by your behavior.

Good to know you are taking the high ground!

Katara 6 years, 7 months ago

Your entire previous post is chock full of made up stuff. I've asked you for proof of your assertions about the OWS movement and you've not been able to provide it.

Keep up with the talking points though. I'm sure it makes you feel better.

Katara 6 years, 7 months ago

This is an excellent example of you making something up:

"It's well known that union thugs, criminals, racists, and radical extremists of all far left persuasions constitute the majority of these tent cities. The Fleabaggers have nothing in common with the T-Party. "

And wow! Murder, rape, drug use AND pooping!

Who knew that those behaviors were exclusive only to those camped out for the OWS movement.

The Tea Party folks not pooping is probably something I could believe. They tend to look pretty constipated most of the time.

appleaday 6 years, 7 months ago

I'm not hateful and I'm a Catholic, not a "secular-progressive." Which box do you put Sandusky in? Is he a "secular-progressive?' It's amazing to me, Tom, how you can generalize the actions of this man and the hierarchy in the Penn State football organization into whatever group you disagree with. How about taking the facts on their own merit?

Tess Banion 6 years, 7 months ago

Labels are easily applied, I have done it myself. I feel comfronted when I can explain the unthinkable with the use of a term, a word, a slogan. However, that does nothing to explain what happened at Penn State nor will it help to prevent it from happening at another institution.

jafs 6 years, 7 months ago


So a banned poster gets another chance with a new name? But, then, if they mess up again, that's the end of their chances?

Given how much bad behavior it takes to get banned, I'd think one shot is enough.

jafs 6 years, 7 months ago

I don't "stalk" anybody.

And, I'm just offering my opinion.

I notice you didn't answer the question - is it really the policy that banned users get another chance now?

Nothing in my post suggested unequal treatment for conservative and liberal posters who've been banned (or any other folks).

jafs 6 years, 7 months ago


It's funny - he previously criticized me claiming that I only wanted to talk with people I agreed with.

I guess I can't win with him.

jafs 6 years, 7 months ago

I have no bias regarding conservative or liberal posters who break the tos so badly and repeatedly that they get banned.

I think all of them should get one chance, and that's it.

My comments to you about the banning of posters has always been a question about why you don't criticize the folks who've violated the tos repeatedly and badly enough to get banned, just the folks trying to "out" them.

And, I've always recommended that you flag posts and report behavior that you think violates the tos as well.

Personally, I'd like to see the tos become more strict, so that people can't post endless posts that are removed without being banned.

jonas_opines 6 years, 7 months ago

"Yes, it begins with human nature, but society — buttressed by religion — once did a better job of keeping human nature in check."

Nope. Even a casual glance at history shows that to be totally and unutterably false. Only difference now is that we Hear about everything, every day, because of the advances in media and information processing.

Stick to the politicians as topics for pumping your agenda, Cal. When you try to tie anything else in to the only topic that you know how to write about, you just sound silly.

geekin_topekan 6 years, 7 months ago

BAA said: "our traditional values which has led to moral decline." ++++ WHich traditional values are those? Human trafficking? Genocide? Segregation? Whites only and preferences? Darn that civil rights movement and the upholding of the founder's documents that state that all men are created equal.

Paul R Getto 6 years, 7 months ago

"Secular Progressives are "compromising" away our traditional values" ==== Huh? What is a secular progressive? Someone who believes in overtime pay and a 40-hour work week? BTW: All values, including 'traditional' values are human inventions. We need them, but to view them as something other than human edifices is naive and magical thinking. The tragedy in "Happy Valley" is one to which we should attend, but as usual, Mr. Thomas has a separate agenda to pursue which has little to do with protecting children.

tomatogrower 6 years, 7 months ago

So you aren't a libertarian conservative.

jonas_opines 6 years, 7 months ago

I think it's safe to say that they've put as much work into defining themselves as they have into defining everybody else. Fuzzy, diluted, non-specific nonsense, in other words.

jonas_opines 6 years, 7 months ago

OWS has a very simple platform. "Me first." Dunno why you'd consider that vague. Maybe all the hyperbole and rhetoric they've cloaked that simple platform underneath has confused you.

Am I supposed to be supporting OWS, or something? Because I don't.

It's laughable to see you try and fail to comprehend my personal belief structure. I'd appreciate it if you would continue to do so.

jafs 6 years, 7 months ago

The obvious flaws in these arguments are striking.

Equating adult consensual behavior with child abuse is absurd.

jayhawklawrence 6 years, 7 months ago

Today's younger generation is better educated and they have a better understanding of environmental and human rights issues. They are not as narrow minded and they are the first "internet generation" as my generation was the first "television generation" although we only had 3 channels and no such thing as cable.

Cal is struggling with the fact that the right wing positions he cherishes are obsolete. Like the steam engine, they are dying along the road and need to be replaced with something better to deal with a changing world.

Christian churches that have become politically active and promoted right wing positions have started to turn off a young generation. This is unfortunate because religious faith transcends politics.

The simple fact that 50 million Americans have no health insurance and a significant number of the population believes that is not their problem indicates that our priorities are skewed.

tomatogrower 6 years, 7 months ago

So Cal, guns don't kill people, people kill people. But Sandusky doesn't molest children, the homosexual lifestyle molests children? It never fails to amaze me the strange logic that the pious religious right uses to not make excuses for someone who was probably a "pillar" in society, belonged to all the right clubs, went to all the right parties. The gays made him do it. The devil made him do it. Yet, if someone is poor, it's all their own fault.

cthulhu_4_president 6 years, 7 months ago

"The gays made him do it. The devil made him do it. Yet, if someone is poor, it's all their own fault. "

This is great, and should be repeated. Cognative dissonance is a hell of a drug, and Cal's addicted!

Richard Payton 6 years, 7 months ago

The grand jury report listed 8 victims. How many more will come forward. Did Sandusky's six adopted kids or wife suspect anything? Why did the Judge reduce Sandusky's bail and not require him to wear an ankle device? Heard she was a volunteer for Second Mile.

Ron Holzwarth 6 years, 7 months ago

People are getting awfully quick to judge. I already posted this on another thread on LJWorld:

Here's the news from Reuters.

Clipped from: http://ca.news.yahoo.com/boy-2002-shower-incident-denied-abuse-sandusky-035602476.html

"Boy in 2002 incident denies abuse: Sandusky lawyer"

"The lawyer for the Penn State football coach charged with child sex abuse said in an interview on Monday the boy at the center of a 2002 incident detailed in the grand jury's report had been identified and said it never happened."

"Speaking to sportscaster Bob Costas, Joe Amendola, who represents Sandusky, said "we anticipate we're going to have at least several of those kids come forward and say, 'This never happened.'""

I wonder if this might end up like the Duke lacrosse case at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina did.

"The fallout from the case's resolution led to, among other things, the disbarment of lead prosecutor Mike Nifong."

funkdog1 6 years, 7 months ago

Sandusky's lawyer is also a pedophile. He got a 17 year old girl pregnant when he was 49.

Paul R Getto 6 years, 7 months ago

"The lawyer for the Penn State football coach charged with child sex abuse said in an interview on Monday the boy at the center of a 2002 incident detailed in the grand jury's report had been identified and said it never happened." http://www.thedaily.com/page/2011/11/14/111511-news-sandusky-lawyer-teen-web/ == Not that's it relevant, but this guy knocked up a teen-bopper and married her a while back. This whole thing is gonna be messy for all concerned.

Richard Payton 6 years, 7 months ago

Wonder if Cal is going to write about the Citadel civil lawsuit that settled for $3.8 million. US Marine Officer Michael Arpaio was court martialed in that case. Citadel didn't release the information to the police also!

beatrice 6 years, 7 months ago

If Sandusky were running for president rather than being a former assistant football coach, there would be people on here making the case of his innocence and blaming the accusers for being little himbos. Sandusky says he is innocent and besides, why didn't people make a bigger deal of it back when it actually happened? Why is it coming out now? He wasn't convicted in a court of law, after all. I'll bet the accusers are just trying to make money ... we should investigate their financial background.

Cal: Accept personal responsibility, except when you can blame society. Brilliant.

beatrice 6 years, 7 months ago

You are right. He is just blaming liberals. The big bad liberals made him do it. Too bad the conservatives are so weak they can't do anything to stop the horrible influences of the big bad liberals.

Katara 6 years, 7 months ago

For Gandalf... since he asked.

Tanner (1981) has summarized the available data for average age at menarche in 19th century Europe for several groupings of countries. Average ages at menarche in the United Kingdom, Scandinavia, Germany and Russia were between 15.0 and 16.8 years in working women and between 14.3 and 15.0 years in middle class women. For France, Spain and Italy, corresponding ranges were 14.5 to 15.4 years for working class samples and 13.5 to 14.3 years for middle class samples. The most complete overview of age at menarche for modern populations is given in Eveleth and Tanner (1990). The range given for European samples (all social classes) collected since 1970 is 12.1 to 13.5 years, indicating a decline of several years with respect to 19th century data. In Oslo, where serial data are most complete, the mean menarchal age declined from 15.6 years in 1860 to 13.2 in 1960. Recent values for the US are 12.8 years for whites and 12.5 for Blacks.


"Foraging women are 16 years old at menarche, 19.5 year old at first birth, nurse for three to four years, have a completed family size of 5.9 live births, and an average age at menopause of 47 years. They experience a total of 160 ovulations in their lifetime. Contemporary American women are 12.5 years old at menarche, 24 years old at age of first birth, nurse for 3 months (if at all), have a completed family size of 1.8, and are 50.5 years old at menopause. American women experience approximately 450 ovulations within their lifetime (Eaton et al 1994)."


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