Thursday, March 28

Dr. Joseph A. Cattano: The Tragedy of Premature Conclusions


Sometimes it is painfully difficult to hold onto something that in your soul you believe 
is true, particularly when that very belief has faced an onslaught by those 
parties and individuals who control the dialogue:  Maybe that is what faith is all about.  Penn State students, alumni, and fans who have followed the tragic situation at their university have had to sit tight and endure the anger, incrimination, and vitriol that were the manifestation of the Louis Freeh Report, a presentment that went without
 challenge or vetting: The fact is, that it was literally accepted in its 
entirety at face value.  However, in recent months we have had the opportunity to experience new
 and revealing reports commissioned by the Paterno family.   These presentments offered cogent,
 well constructed, comprehensive counterpoints and challenging findings by
 individuals with truly impressive credentials.  Finally, we have the opportunity to experience the long overdue 
vetting and rebuttal to what some considered the questionable findings of the Louis
 Freeh Report.  Yet for the most part, these new presentations have been ignored by the media or discredited for
 a host of what seem ill-considered reasons. It feels as if there is a dedicated
 unwillingness to countenance the possibility that the Freeh Report was flawed 
and overstated in its conclusions.

Let us not forget the response to the findings and pronouncements contained in the Louis
Freeh Report.  The popular hosts of television and radio talk shows, sports commentators, columnists, private 
citizens, fans, the Penn State Board of Trustees (BOT), and of course the NCAA 
all reacted almost instantly, ruthlessly castigating in particular the 
legendary coach Joe Paterno for allegedly being an accomplice in a disgraceful
 cabal to hide what happened at Penn State.  In my opinion, Mr. Freeh presented his findings in a manner
filled with hyperbole and overstatement, a theatrical, dramatic style clearly
 designed to "raise the ire" of the audience.  Of course, the media picked up the "drum beat" and opined in
 a similar style, the airwaves and editorial pages filled with commentaries couched 
in indignation and outrage. To be incensed with Jerry Sandusky after the trial revealed
 his guilt is totally understandable and maybe even welcome.  But regarding the "Penn State Four"
(Spanier, Schultz, Curley and Paterno), it quickly became apparent that for far 
too many there was neither the time nor the desire to be patient until a more
 complete picture could emerge - a picture wherein other sources of factual
 evidence could be put on the table and considered before reaching conclusions 
regarding any alleged cover-up.  And, regardless of the Paterno presentments, I fear that the particularly loathsome 
nature of sexual predation and victimization has permitted and justified in the 
minds of many a sweeping attack upon and sterilization of everything Penn
State-related.  A predator hurt young children; hysteria and the lack of due process damaged a great university and
 an iconic figure.

I believe it is incumbent upon us to at least wonder why so
 many individuals were willing to almost blindly accept one presentment and not
at least wonder if there should not have been a public vetting of a document 
that was filled with such damning conclusions, particularly since the 
conclusions were based upon a suspect methodology of investigation.  To me, that was unconscionable! It 
should not have been permitted to happen. Were those who based their opinions strictly on the Freeh Report not 
aware of his investigative record? It is both important and revealing to note 
the fact that Louis Freeh completed a report for FIFA, the governing body of
 the International Soccer Association, pertaining to corruption charges against 
Bin Hamman, a candidate for president. Upon review by the Court of Arbitration of Sport, many of the charges 
were dismissed as they found the investigative report by Freeh to be incomplete 
and lacking in the necessary comprehensiveness.  Should that not at least be a flag that suggests proceeding
 with caution before taking his findings at Penn State as irrefutable, rock-solid 
truths? I would think so.

Apparently in what has been termed a "rush to injustice," there was neither tolerance nor time for another 
narrative to develop.  Due process and in particular one of the most honored pillars of American jurisprudence, the
 notion of prosecution and defense, were cast to the wind.  It seemed everyone knew who the guilty 
parties were - so let's not waste time: Might as well just throw the rope over 
the limb and have a good old-fashioned media lynching!  It would have been helpful if someone 
had reminded those individuals who were so quick to convict and punish of that famous 
novel that so dramatically depicted the consequences of callous injustice ? The Ox-Bow Incident.

Unfortunately, like many media-generated stories, the Penn State saga has a "media life" wherein other more recent 
narratives and information no longer pique the interest of the media and general public; the once irresistible sensationalism of Paterno and Penn State has quickly lost consumer interest.  In essence, the damage has been done and the thinking of many has been set almost irretrievably in concrete.

As a psychoanalyst, I believe that what we are currently experiencing (as evidenced by the recent Piers Morgan and 
Matt Lauer interviews) is technically what we call resistance. Particularly, individuals are often rigidly resistant to facing the 
reality of their actions and misperceptions.  Simply - they would rather not know and remain attached to 
their false notions, delusions, and dysfunctional behavior.  When these individuals are confronted, 
they often become agitated and highly defensive.  A perfect example of this was the manner in which Piers 
Morgan attacked Ziegler and tried to dismiss his information as bogus and ridiculous.  

Unfortunately, Ziegler's 
natural manner is not conducive to having a reasonable conversation with someone as defended as Morgan. 
Resistance must be tactfully addressed and removed before an individual can engage in a conversation that might raise their anxiety and promote a degree of self-examination. Few have the capacity of a Bob Costas to entertain 
the notion that he was premature in his opinions and consequently found the capacity and strength to revise his conclusions.   For most of those who publicly denounced Paterno, they must either flee from or discredit the new revelations in order to save face and to sidestep the damage to a great university, its alumni, and a legendary 
iconic man, which in part they are responsible for.  Sadly, it seems to be a characteristic of our still immature
 and often tabloid-minded society.

I am particularly confused by the actions of the NCAA regarding the draconic sanctions imposed upon Penn State. To me, they seem a little "psychotic;"  that is, not in touch with the reality of what transpired at Penn State. 
And, it is important to understand that what happened at Penn State has likely happened at other universities and institutions across our country.  This is a national problem, not just a Penn State problem.

In my opinion, the NCAA wandered far out of bounds from their designated role; that is, to monitor and assure the fairness of competition and safety of college athletics.  And, it is important to keep in mind that the true scope of these sanctions or more to the point - punishments, intentionally or unintentionally, has caused substantial distress to the entirety of the Penn State: the reputation of a great university; the alumni of Penn State; the current 
student body; present and past football teams (wins vacated from 1998 through 2011); and of course the residents and businesses of central Pennsylvania that are reliant upon the revenues generated by football at Beaver Stadium.  Of course, it is particularly frustrating, as the justifications for these sanctions have now been challenged with some well-considered opinions that are rather convincing in their dismissal of the assumptions and poorly substantiated conclusions contained in
 the Freeh Report.

Again, I believe that the NCAA is in the same situation regarding resistance.  It would be rather anxiety provoking for them to change their position, as it might suggest that they were at least extreme in their actions regarding PSU, if not downright wrong.  Attacking or confronting them simply will strengthen their resistance and resolve to keep the sanctions in effect.  However, an empathic, non-confrontational strategy that helps reduce their resistance to considering the Paterno presentment might at least provide a stepping-stone to reducing or eliminating the sanctions.

When considering what happened at Penn State, we need to promote a rational perspective.  Jim Clemente, a highly recognized expert on child sexual abuse and a former FBI profiler, clearly points out in his report that the failure on the part of individuals and institutions to  quickly recognize the identity of sexual predators and the scope of their actions is both 
well documented and unfortunately all too common. Psychologists and sociologists have long elaborated upon how incredibly masterful predators are in covering up or obscuring the reality of their behavior with children - the so-called "grooming" process: familiarity with family members, a high level of regard within the community, and a revered image all work in the service of cleverly concealing that which is actually happening and can cause hesitation within the minds of those who might entertain suspicions.   In his report, Jim Clemente uses the expression "nice guy acquaintance" victimizer in referring to the pattern and style of predation that Jerry had mastered. Under an elaborately constructed disguise as a pillar of the community, legendary defensive coach, and the force behind the Second Mile program, he was able to satisfy his sexual needs with children with no suspicios by anyone.  In essence, he was a masterful and cunning "groomer;" but it was not strictly the children who were groomed for his needs.  Over a long period of time, the entire Penn State
 University - State College community was successfully groomed to cover up his deeds and provide for his special needs. 
It is well within reason to at least consider that the situation at Penn State was one in which anyone who may have had some questions regarding Jerry Sandusky's behavior with children may unfortunately have cavalierly dismissed 
them as just "Jerry being Jerry." And of course, his development of and commitment to the Second Mile
 Program put him high in the regard of the entire State College community.

I believe that we need to communicate to our detractors and doubters how incredibly difficult it was to even contemplate, let alone believe, that someone who maintained such high esteem within the community - an individual who had been the source of accolades and admiration- could be guilty of abusing those very children he purported to assist and protect.  And, in Jim Clemente's opinion, that is what happened at Penn State and that is why in fact there was no cabal - no sinister intent to cover-up of Sandusky's actions.  It is just those thoughts - those very misperceptions regarding "acquaintance victimizers" that enable masterful predators like Jerry Sandusky in particular, to go without revelation until the tragedy that has befallen the victims is finally recognized and confronted.  Finally, there now is a reasonable, plausible narrative presented by an acknowledged expert in the field of child sexual abuse and victimization that makes sense out of how things went down at Penn State in the late 1990's and early 2000's.  I suggest that it is relatively impossible to use 2011 eyes to see and understand actions in 1998 or 2001.  And that was Freeh's critical fault and the failing of his report; that is, the inability to grasp the true nature of what was happening at Penn State circa 1998-2001.

In my opinion, the Penn State Board of Trustees should have defended, not defiled Joe Paterno's reputation until
 due process, or at least further sworn testimony, showed that he was a knowing participant in any alleged cover-up.  The
 dedication of his life's energy as well as much of his personal wealth to Penn State should at least have warranted that consideration. You do not permit a great university, its alumni, and an iconic figure to be trashed on a singular,
 unchallenged, and suspect piece of so-called evidence.  Had the media and the board of trustees
 waited until the truth came forward, hysteria would have succumbed to the quieting light of due process and honest revelation  and that is the way it should be!

For reasons that are rather apparent, the assault on the legacy of Joe Paterno reminded me of the infamous
"Dreyfus Affair."  In 1894, Alfred Dreyfus, a French army artillery officer, was tried and found guilty of treason by a court martial on the basis of false and misleading evidence - evidence that was contrived and corrupted in order to reach a predetermined desired outcome.  It was later revealed that testimony on the treasonous actions of Dreyfus was perjured -filled with outrageous insinuations and assumptions. However, thanks in part to the relentless efforts of the fiery writer Emile
Zola (J'accuse) and a few dedicated individuals, the truth was finally revealed and the conspiracy against Dreyfus was shown for what it really was - anti-Semitism and the corruption of due process by entrenched powers.  After spending years banished to the infamous Devil's Island in French Guyana, he was found innocent and his rank restored.  But the similarities are disturbing: When initially found guilty, Dreyfus was paraded in front of a jeering public, stripped of his rank and insignia medals, and his sword broken in half.  In his disgraced and torn uniform, he was paraded through the crowd and spat upon. Think about it!  Joe's statue being removed, his placards torn down, his record from 1998 through 2011 erased, and his legacy being dragged through the media to be spat upon and his name a source of disgrace.  Again, are the parallels not compelling at least and frightening at worst?  All this predicated on assumptions and "must have knowns."  J'accuse the American media of a mass hysteria.  J'accuse the media of creating a man of mythical proportions, only then to revel in destroying him.

It is rather ironic to note that the NCAA chastised Penn State for permitting the culture of football to dominate 
and corrupt the affairs of the university.  What? Did I hear that correctly?  Are they joking?  Is the NCAA suffering from delusions? For decades, Penn State has been the absolute model for the student-athlete, with the annual graduation rates 
for football players consistently among the highest in the country - and often the highest.  Particularly,
the graduation rate for African-American athletes surpasses almost all other institutions.  Penn State is noted 
for producing academic all-Americans at an unprecedented rate; yet; the NCAA warns them about the culture of football - a
 culture largely created by the NCAA itself, as it has negotiated massive financial contracts with the media for
bowl games, play-offs, etc.  J'accuse the NCAA of blatant hypocrisy - of pointing an accusatory finger at Penn State when that very finger should be pointed at themselves.  And, J'accuse the Board of Trustees for cowering to bullies by not demanding due process to provide a more reasonable and factual understanding of what really transpired and illuminating any role that Paterno and others might have had in this tragedy.  J'accuse  the Board of Trustees of derogation of the responsibility of debunking the attacks regarding the "culture of football" at Penn State and demonstrating with facts what we have accomplished in the last forty years. J'accuse the Board of Trustees for not properly and openly vetting the Freeh report, before accepting it as fact and justification for their actions.  In fact, I now must wonder if the Board of Trustees had an agenda regarding Joe - maybe even the rare opportunity for a few to act-out some bizarre vendetta regarding Joe Paterno.  It surely begs the question: Was the Sandusky situation an ideal time to get some payback and destroy the legacy of Joe Paterno?  Maybe not to others, but to me that is the only way I can understand the impulsivity of the board in firing Joe and their refusal to stand behind a man who had done so much for Penn State.  There seems to be a play within a play within a play.

In closing, if due process should reveal culpability on the part of Joe Paterno and other members of the
 administration for the tragedy that occurred at Penn State, I will accept it and slowly, painfully work through it - always remembering that children were hurt.  But until that is established, although cantankerous in nature and imperfect as a man, I will continue to embrace the notion of Joe Paterno as a brilliant and dedicated coach, teacher, and philanthropist at a great university. He was steadfastly committed to an idealized notion of what college athletics should be and never veered far from that vision.  Unlike the falsified, aggrandized media image that made Joe Paterno a man for all seasons - the reality is that he was but a man made for the football season.

Joseph A. Cattano, Ph.D.,
PSU 1971


  1. '...a play within a play within a play.' Exactly. And I'm at a loss as to which 'play' people are referring to when they rant about JoePa and Penn State. It's maddening beyond belief! You speak for me, Joseph! Bravo!

  2. Read this at BWI. It is very good. I'm not affiliated with Penn State at all and I'm stunned how easy it is for so many to believe that the Penn State four would ever believe much less engage in concealing Sandusky's crimes to avoid bad publicity for the program. Why would there even be bad publicity if they turn him in and what temporary costs would there be anyway? I cannot imagine a recruit would turn down a scholarship to Penn State because Sandusky once worked there. Add to that, did they imagine Sandusky would never be caught exposing their cover up after all?

  3. On the other hand, a frontal assault via lawsuits would also be effective.......

  4. Awesome post.

    On my way to work this morning I was listening to Colin Cowherd on ESPN raido. He was talking about the nature of sports talk radio and was thanking the Miami Heat for giving him content the last few weeks. According to Cowherd, there are two times in a calendar year in which sports talk radio hosts and columnists are in search for sports content that appeals to the masses. Those times according to Cowherd are the end of Feb to mid March, and the entire month of July. He made the point that in the month of July, talking heads are praying for anything they can get. So naturally I thought back to last July to add some context to his point....Oh what a suprise...The Freeh Report released to the masses in a televised press conference on July 12th. I find it awfully ironic that the Freeh report (obviously imcomplete) was realeased precisley into the vortex of the slowest RATINGS month whereas sports commentators are salivating and praying for any story to grab onto. And to Joseph's point, I find in very puzzling that the report that was intended to help Penn State correct INTERNAL policies and procedures was released in such "a theatrical, dramatic style clearly
designed to "raise the ire" of the audience".

    As we try to put the pieces of the puzzle together I think it will become increasing important that we try to understand the timing of the Freeh Report. I think we can all agree that sports talk radio ratings were way up last July. Obviously imcomplete and full of holes (which obviously lead Freeh to draw conclusions based up opinions and not fact), we must ask WHY was the Freeh report realeased when it was? We already know that the Freeh group worked closely w/ the state's prosecutors. Is it also possible they worked in conjunction with the NCAA? Was there pressure from the NCAA to get things sorted out before the start of the 2012 season? Who knows more about tv ratings then the NCAA? Again to Joeseph's point-"a
culture largely created by the NCAA itself, as it has negotiated massive financial contracts with the media for
bowl games, play-offs, etc". Last time I checked, tv contracts are negotiated on a very simple concept, RATINGS. Did the NCAA influence a premature, and obviously extremely flawed, release of the Freeh Report? Did the NCAA consult w/ the Freeh group on the timing on the report in order to gain exposure and acceptance from a sports media desperate for ratings in the middle of their slowest ratings time of the year? I have found precisely zero explanations to support the timing of the nationally televised Freeh press conference (and subsequent realease of report). Anyone who has a brain has been able to see what seems to be the irrepairable damagae to one of the country's greatest reseach institutions due to a rush to judgment (ask Bob Costas). The question I have is why was the decision made to release a report that was obviously full of glaring holes? Was it really to help Penn State repair internal deficiences, or were there external influences? The BOT has the answers to these questions, the problem is they are largely unwilling to talk and when they do talk they say things like "We can take corrective actions without any need to resort to due-process reasonable-doubt standards. I don't care if they are acquitted".

    1. Very thoughtful post, Jon S.

      I also think that the BOT wanted a release during the Central PA Festival of the Arts with the hope that people would riot in the streets of State College (happened at at least 2 other Arts Festivals). Also explains why the BOT was meeting in Scranton and the Freeh presser was in Philly. If a riot did ensue, those guys didn't want to be anywhere near it.

    2. Jon S., very good post. The timing of the Freeh report gives away its true purpose as a marketing document issued to validate the BOT's descision to fire Paterno and Spanier within the media and the public. Most companies/organizations like to issue bad news late on a Friday afternoon when everyone starts to focus on the weekend and have forgetten about it by Monday.

      If you look not just at the month of July in a sports contexted, but the actual day of Thursday July 12, you would realize that was the last day of the Major League Baseball All-Star break. There are no games going on and the All-Star game was 2 days ago. There is NOTHING going on sportswise that day. It is a prime day to maximize attention with the sports media.

  5. Merci, merci Dr. Cattano. Would you please comment on a puzzling piece of the Sandusky story? According to analysis presented earlier at notpsu (Feb 4,, many of the young men who described abuse by Sandusky when they were boys, continued a personal relationship with JS for years. Some of these relationships have included their mothers and even wives. My question is: How do we, these young men, and their families reconcile these reportedly comfortable and even loving years-long relationships with JS with their current efforts to receive money for earlier abuse? At some point along the arc of child sexual victimization, does the young person or his/her guardian assume some responsibility for exposing or at least no longer associating with the victimizer? Professional insights, please!

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Page 9, part D. Compliant Victimization and Page 14, part G. The Case of Richard Taus of The Clemente Report ( ) might be helpful to understand the first part of this question.

      As for whether the victim or unknowing guardian should assume responsibility at some point, I'm curious about Jim Clemente or his law enforcement peer Ken Lanning's opinion and experience. Experts like Joan Tabachnick or David Finkelhor might also be insightful. I think to err on the side of 'no, all blame belongs to the abuser' is a good place to start.

      A third-party who suspects abuse is obligated to report it.

    3. Thank you. I re-read parts of Clemente's report. The story of the 15-yr-old who freely remained with Devlin provides some insight (pg10,E). I'd welcome a reference or comments here on assigning monetary responsibility to various parties. E.g., is the $$ claim weighted, or is every entity held equally responsible?

  6. Just about the best post I've seen. Thank you, Joe, I'll share and repost it.

  7. Outstanding Joe. Have already shared with my friends and family.

  8. Dear Ray and Dr. Cattano, I can not thank both of you enough for this post. The insight provided by Dr. Cattano along with the other posts by Ray and in conjunction with what John Ziegler has endured the past week as it relates to 'resistance' has been very educational. I have admitted to anyone that asks I fell for the MainStreamMedia/PSU Board of Trustees False Narrative in November 2011. I had to literally 'divorce' myself from all tv, newspaper, magazines in order to patiently review all of the information presented by Ray Blehar and his staff, Franco Harris at his King of Prussia, PA presentation, and John Ziegler at I have not watched the news on tv or read a newspaper since late November 2011. I no longer am distracted or controlled or manipulated. I have much more mental clarity and Dr. Cattano has reinforced my approach to how i slowly and peacefully gather information relative to The Truth. The article is simply outstanding, my comments are more of a macro view of the entire situation. Thanks for letting me comment. Keep up the great work Ray. I know you have a full time job, but your commitment is much appreciated. Someday we will find out why Scott Paterno distanced himself from John Ziegler on 3/25/13 just prior to his Today Show appearance. Until then i remain patient. Joe Paterno i am certain looks down from heaven and is also greatful for your commitment Ray. Thanks again. p.s. Dr. Cattano, i look forward to more contributions from you on Ray's site. Your phsychological perspective is greatly appreciated. This entire situation, althogh presented in the logical and factual sense, is all about our care and love for Joe and Sue Paterno and The Truth. You bring the psycholgical perspective which is a graceful balance to Ray's awesome logical dissection.