We are lucky that judgment here on earth is limited in its duration, even when it is for a lifetime, for we are all flawed, biased, hurt, scarred and scared. Judgment is provisional this side of heaven for our knowledge and wisdom are provisional. Judgment, true Judgment with a capital J, belongs to God. With the death of Joe Paterno, he now has the genuine and true Judgment that only God can render. I am certain that whatever the measure of the Judgment, there must be comfort in knowing it is True.
I was critical of Joe Paterno and his role in the Penn State scandal and with my limited knowledge of the events I remain so. This is what I wrote while at America Magazine in the Men Who Were Not There:
Tonight the Board of Trustees at Penn State University fired Joe Paterno and Graham Spanier, the university president. It is not clear that the former football coach yet understands his (in)actions or those of the school administrators, as he spoke to his football team today,Earlier Wednesday, Paterno talked to his team for about 10-15 minutes in an auditorium of the football facility on campus. Standing at a podium, he told players he was leaving and broke down in tears.Players gave him a standing ovation when he walked out. Junior cornerback Stephon Morris said some players also were nearly in tears as Paterno spoke."I still can't believe it," Morris said. "I've never seen coach Paterno like that in my life." Asked what was the main message of Paterno's talk, Morris said: "Beat Nebraska."Tears for the loss of his job, tears for his players are understandable; but does he understand he is not the victim?
The whole post can be read here.
I stand by what I wrote then, but some of the response to Joe Paterno's death has either wanted to ignore these events or judge him to hell. The reality is that all of us are accountable for our behavior and all of us will account for it, even if it seems we have slipped by accountability here on earth. This is not to suggest that I think that those who are guilty of crimes here on earth should not be punished for their crimes, or that some crimes, sins, are not more heinous than others, just that I am assured that both those who have suffered unjustly and those who caused unjust suffering will account for their deeds, both of commission and omission. But then we do not know how much good has been done by Paterno that also went unseen and many have spoken of his genuine care for those he knew. There will no escaping the Truth for Joe Paterno, for good or for ill, but that goes for all of us.
So, I do pray that Joe Paterno rests in peace and I do wish his family and his friends peace. I wish it, too, for all those who have suffered through the actions and inactions of others, especially in the sexual abuse scandal of Penn State, but for victims and survivors everywhere. When we include ourselves amongst those who do not do enough, or have not done enough, or could have done more, it is a chastening and humbling thought. It focusses one's mind on mercy and forgiveness.
John W. Martens
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