Should There Be A Statute of Limitations on Sex Crimes?

This is the debate that should be, but isn’t really, happening in Pennsylvania.  The bills are dying on PA Rep. Ron Marsico’s desk.   Bill White, one of the panelists at the November 17th edition of Beerituality, shares one of the reasons in this post.

To my many Catholic friends and readers: please know that this isn’t meant to single out your faith tradition.  God knows this sin is everywhere.  And it’s also important for the public, Catholic or otherwise, to know where local or regional incarnations of the institution, complete with legislative apparatuses, stand on bills like PA HBs 832 and 878. Given what we know about how long it can take to remember abuse, let alone feel confidant about reporting it, statues of limitations for sex crimes without any kind of “window” for adults recalling childhood abuse seem counter-intuitive to my way of thinking.

What do others think?



Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, Where, Precisely, Do You Stand on PA HB 832 and PA HB 878?

Is the stance you took on similar Colorado bills while you were Archbishop of Denver an indication?

I’m asking because:

  • I don’t know.
  • It’s important, and is especially prominent now.

PA Rep. Michael McGeehan (D – Phila) said in piece in yesterday’s Philadelphia Inquirer that the Penn State scandal “explodes the idea that sex abuse is just a problem in Philadelphia, or of priests, or that window legislation targets the Catholic Church.”

When in Denver, Chaput fought similar laws because he felt they unfairly targeted the Catholic Church while ignoring other institutions.

Charles Chaput, what say you now?

Beerituality Panelists Discuss the Penn State Scandal and Wider Concerns

Friends, this is a re-post from the Beerituality blog.  Beerituality is a monthly gathering at the Allentown Brew Works in Downtown Allentown that aims to bring people together from across traditions “at the crossroads of the sacred and secular.”

Peter Schweyer, Bill White, Tammy Lerner, and Alan Tjeltveit @ Beerituality (November 17, 2011)

Last night’s discussion featured Peter Schweyer, a PSU grad, Allentown City Councilperson and the Chief of Staff for PA Rep. Jennifer Mann with experience in abuse legislation; Bill White, noted columnist for the Allentown Morning Call, a long-time advocate for abuse survivors and abuse prevention; Tammy Lerner, State Director and Vice President of Abolish Child Sex Abuse; and Alan Tjeltveit, Professor of Psychology at Muhlenberg College.

This was an extremely important night of engaging, educational, and candid reflection and dialogue about the wider context of sexual abuse in the midst of the Penn State scandal.

From Tammy Lerner’s organizational website,, a plea for legislative action: Please contact members of the PA House Judiciary Commitee, and demand they hold Public Hearings on H.B 832, H.B. 878, H.B. 549, H.B 1867 and H.B. 1895

Some of the things that struck me immediately:

  • the need to keep talking about this issue, and to encourage people to tell their stories in safe environments. Speaking out about abuse can help dispel the culture of shame we’ve built up around it, so that victims can be empowered to come forward and legal and civil recourse can be taken.
  • In Pennsylvania, coaches are not mandatory reporters.  In some states, they are. Legislation to make coaches mandatory reporters was introduced in Harrisburg this week.
  • In Pennsylvania, university police departments like those at Penn State or Lehigh University are the accredited law enforcement agencies on campus. Unlike other police departments, these don’t report to any elected official or body, but to Boards of Trustees. There are inherent conflicts of interest there on many levels.
  • The need for changes to statute of limitations laws for these kinds of crimes. Currently, if the criminal and civil statutes of limitations have expired before charges are brought, even admitted offenders cannot be named as such in newspapers or with respect to Megan’s Law. This is an area where better legislation can, indeed, help with prevention.

Thanks again to our excellent panelists for the interdisciplinary perspectives and conversation on this hard issue.  We were blessed to be able to assemble this panel.  In the larger context of advocacy and support, this conversation must continue.

People With Cooler (Or At Least Other) Heads Are Making the Same Point

I don’t think I jumped to any conclusions last night when calling for, and continuing to call for, Joe Paterno’s termination.  Some friends disagreed, either with my assessment or with my contention that I wasn’t rushing to judgement.

In the larger context of this story, I want to share a few thoughts from some other people opining on the issue.  They’re not all calling for his termination, but they’re making the same basic points about what Paterno’s specific (and egregious) failings were in this sad, disgusting turn of events.  I believe those failings mean  Paterno must be fired.

Penn State vs. Kent State
Image by seng1011 via Flickr.

Paterno Still Hasn’t Answered The Question That Matters by David Jones of The Patriot-News.

Joe Paterno, Penn State Failed Miserably in Sad Sandusky Case by Michael Rosbenberg at Sports Illustrated.

An excerpt from Bill Plaschke:

What do you think would have happened if, say, Paterno had gone to his athletic director requesting a change of the shade of black on his football team’s legendary shoes. What if Curley had done nothing with the request? How long before Paterno did something himself? Maybe nine minutes?

Yet he tells Curley about an alleged child molester frolicking in his showers and then casually forgets about it for nine years?

At some point after informing the athletic director of the report, Paterno should have gone to Curley and said, “If you don’t do something, I will.”

Although this is not a gesture mandated by state law or school handbook, it is a fact of simple humanity.

“If you don’t do something, I will,” is a statement that now needs to be directed at the coach by the school’s board of trustees.

For the sake of a university whose continued association with him would damage its success and stain its honor, if Joe Paterno doesn’t quit, they should fire him.

Others are rightly pointing out that Paterno’s statement yesterday directly conflicts with the grand jury report which found that Paterno was told that Sandusky was seen committing acts of a sexual nature with a child in the locker room shower.

The upshot for Paterno is this: the national sports media will begin exposing the narrative that Paterno, rather lamely, tried to cover his ass with a tepid statement that stands in direct contrast to things he told the grand jury.  Things about what he knew and didn’t know.  In that light, Paterno’s press statement is callous at the very best, but is also slovenly, self-serving, and, frankly, despicable.

Because, as Paterno’s nominal superiors know, lying to the grand jury is perjury, let’s assume Paterno told the truth to the GJ and lied today to the press.  See paragraph immediately above.

Last night,  I felt as though PSU would let Paterno finish the season and then make him retire.  Now I think this cover-up of the cover-up of the cover-up has real traction.  A few more heads will roll before the week is out, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see Paterno “resign” in short order.


The Grad Student’s Failure Doesn’t Make the Coach’s Failure Any Better

I didn't say "Penn Sate" or "Joe Paterno" once in this post, but look what WordPress did.

You’re a grad student. You witness a crime. Of course you should go to the police. Instead, you go to one of the most powerful people you’ll ever meet, a man who has prided his career on the development of men of character, and rather than go to the police, said coaching legend tells the AD and the VP of business and finance about what you said you saw. No one ever goes to the police. Heinous crimes against children continue for ten years. If you’re the grad student, you made a huge mistake and are as guilty or almost as guilty as the coach. Legally, you’ve both violated state law by not reporting to the authorities.  If you’re the coach, you’re still guilty, at least as much as the grad student, maybe more so because of your position in the community and because of your immense credibility. You should be fired. That’s it, and that’s all.

Should Penn State Fire Joe Paterno?

Main entrance of Old Main, at Penn State Unive...
Image via Wikipedia

First, let me be clear: I don’t know Jerry Sandusky or anyone involved in the investigation, but I believe the allegations against him are true.

Even if they’re not, Penn State should fire Joe Paterno.

In one instance, Sandusky’s alleged conduct was reported to Paterno by an eyewitness over 10 years ago.  Paterno passed the information on to Athletic Director Tim Curley and Senior VP for Business and Finance Gary Schultz.  Curley and Schultz did nothing with the information.  On Saturday, Penn State either fired or forced the resignation of both men, who now face arraignment and further criminal investigation.

Paterno claims he did what he was supposed to do by reporting the information to Curely and Schultz.

Consider this:  If Paterno were a Catholic bishop reporting alleged abuse to some peers or cardinals instead of the police, his ass would be in the fire in the court of public opinion (if not actual court).

He needs to go.