Saturday, July 14, 2012

Penn State and Paterno

The original 'I am sexy and I know it' person for me may have been a young woman that Asa W. "Bill" DeLoach, M.D., interim chairman of Psychiatry at UT Southwestern, interviewed some years ago. In morning Rounds he used to interview a patient in the hospital or ER. She had some history of what might be called sexual indiscretion. I won't get into, in the manner of alcoholic evaluation, well 2 beers is normal but a 12 pack etc., in this case partners, situations and present facts and figures because, in part, you know, I don't remember it. I remember her tentative affect, her sincerity, her innocence. She was Catholic and, it would fit for the story to have had a strict Catholic upbringing. Dr. DeLoach thought so, and this was not a jarring idea given the history. I pictured her when he said that the superego was so strict, too restrictive to live with, that it was excised. I recall an attractive classmate at Jesuit, Bob Barreuter, noting on a writing pad 'live' is 'evil' spelled backwards.

St. Augustine was if I recall correctly a Roman lawyer, libertine, and later formalizer of Catholic dogma among which is the doctrine of original sin. I think a certain potential logical problem in 'Christ having died for your sins' bothered him. What if you didn't have any sins? The centrality of the dogma about Christ demands original sin. Perhaps the harshness of this, original sin, is reflective of the ease with which Roman law was harsh if concurrent with logic.

This leads to an insight about potential weak points in Catholic culture. I have no doubt that Joe Paterno was a good family man and loyal to them. In the matter of sexual morality, he had undoubtedly found the Catholic morality too strict. So some parts of that morality were at least temporarily suspended perhaps, though he regretted it later, and he know that would be the case with others. The Church teaches consideration for your neighbors which helped with his relations with his wife, family and probably team but also made for a loyalty or protectiveness to Sandusky.

Thus a problem with Catholicism may be that excessive moral demands are made on its adherents which may actually increase a rate of certain aspects of failure. One might point to a historical example and wonder if it played a role. There was the amusing concern during the election of John Kennedy that the Pope would be directing things here if he were elected. Maybe Catholicism did have an impact on the conduct of his presidency however. President Kennedy was not not sufficiently considerate of the strain that sending young men drafted into a war that was not a war in which national survival was at stake. This led to rebellion, an 'excising' of the obligation of the youth to the state. It was an excessively harsh superego demand, a demand ultimately done away with by the Quaker Nixon and a Jewish liberterian economist, Milton Friedman.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I worked for Dr. DeLoach during the last few years of his life. He was an inspiration to me, in the way that his students and residents whom he supervised, hung on to every word that he spoke. I still will never forget one of his favorite quotes: "No good deed goes unpunished."

In the beginning people used to distrust him, because he was hired as "A hatchet man" for the Department of Psychiatry because the President of the University did not support Psychiatry as a field (unknown why). But over his last years, I grew to love him as others did. He was a brilliant mind and capable of so much more than the task to which he was assigned.

On the subject of Paterno, and Catholocism, and the subject of original sin, I, personally, have never understood why babies could be considered to be "born" in original sin. Nonetheless, Paterno was only able to summon from his small trove of defenses that of DENIAL. No doubt he suffered as a child from an event in which he was molested and raped. This, in no way, excuses his behavior, but it helps to understand how such monsters are created. Paterno should have received psychotherapy following the event, but in all liklihood, never confessed the horrid event to a parent or teacher. In the Catholic faith, he would not have been believed even if he HAD come forth to tell of the molestations, no doubt. But those of us who understand defenses, and who are lucky enough to have developed high order defenses, and to have the opportunity for long-term therapy, are luckier still.