The many critics of my article on Joe Paterno proved that some people in our culture, thank God, have not become “non-judgmental.” Some still have a robust moral sense. Same for most sportswriters I have read or heard, who seem to have taken the same tack as my critics, impugning as with one voice Joe Paterno’s moral legacy. At the same time, this readiness to diminish the classic greatness of Joe Paterno’s moral responsibility exposes the dangers at the opposite extreme.
My critics are correct on one small point: I did choose not to assess whether Coach Paterno was guilty of moral fault. Any such assessment is morally corrupting, and for four reasons. First, Americans react with horror to anything smacking of child abuse, and properly so. But we have recently experienced massive rushes to judgment that turned out to have been calumnious. We have seen psychologists in court misuse “repressed memories” to falsely accuse child-care providers of molesting tots over a long period of time. What an agony for those falsely accused — and later acquitted, too late to get their reputations wholly cleansed.
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