Catholic magazine accepts article exculpating Jerry Sandusky, then rejects it because it didn’t want the Church to deal with accusations of pedophilia

August 16, 2021 • 11:15 am

In January, 2018, I reported how Fred Crews, former chair of English at UC Berkeley, had published an article in Skeptic Magazine that cast strong doubt on the conviction of former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky for child abuse. Sandusky has been in prison since 2012, convicted, as Wikipedia notes, of “eight counts of involuntary deviate sexual intercourse, seven counts of indecent assault, one count of criminal intent to commit indecent assault, nine counts of unlawful contact with minors, 10 counts of corruption of minors and 10 counts of endangering the welfare of children.” He was sentenced to 30-60 years in jail, which is a life sentence for a 77-year old man.

The “evidence” as reported in the press convinced nearly everyone (including me) that Sandusky was guilty. But then I read Fred’s article, which itself mirrored a book on the thin evidence by Mark Pendergrast, The Most Hated Man in America: Jerry Sandusky and the Rush to JudgmentKnowing that Fred was scrupulous in dealing with evidence, and that the evidence against Sandusky was, to put it mildly, very weak or even fabricated, I wrote a post calling for that evidence to be reexamined, which could lead to a new trial. As I recall, readers were mixed in their views, but many of them considered Sandusky absolutely guilty, and some felt that one shouldn’t even bring up the case, as it involved pedophilia and Sandusky must have been guilty to be convicted.

Well, I think that if you feel that way, you should read the piece on Medium below, a longer exposition of the Sandusky case by Fred. I won’t summarize it, as my letter endorsing its publication (also below) points out the weak spots in the case.

Fred then condensed the article for publication in a widely-read venue (“Saint Sandusky”, below) and, as you can imagine, had trouble placing it in any magazine or website. Finally, though, someone decided to publish it, and it does deserve to be published. If you want the short-form defense of Sandusky, read the following:

The place that accepted it, curiously, was the Catholic magazine First Things, and I was glad that these issues were finally going to get a public airing. At the very least, there are serious flaws in the case against Sandusky that need to be heard. Surely we all agree that everyone deserves a fair trial, and if the facts adduced in “Saint Sandusky” be true, Sandusky’s trial wasn’t fair.

After Fred submitted the article above to First Things, I, along with several others, wrote a blurb endorsing “Saint Sandusky”‘s publication.  But then the magazine got cold feet, and First Things bailed. They cancelled the publication of “Saint Sandusky.” That sad story of journalistic cowardice is recounted in a short piece by Fred at Medium, the “2 min read” below:

An excerpt from “The Unspeakable Sandusky”:

. . . Sandusky, now 77 years old, has been imprisoned since 2012, but he still insists on his innocence, and–believe it or not–there isn’t a shred of credible evidence that he ever molested anyone. Indeed, it is now known that he was physically as well as morally incapable of doing so.

Since Sandusky first began to be demonized in the press, 14 months before his trial, no print magazine has published a single word in his defense. Until recently, I hit the same wall myself when trying to place an essay detailing the many troubling aspects of the case. My luck seemed to change, though, in December 2020 when an editor at the conservative religious magazine First Things solicited my essay, provocatively titled “Saint Sandusky?” Although I am neither conservative nor religious, I found a tolerant atmosphere among the staff. The article was scheduled for publication on July 9, 2021, in the magazine’s August/September number.

Anticipating outrage and canceled subscriptions, the editors asked me to gather favorable opinions that could be posted online to cushion the blow. Easily done. In circulating my drafts to friends and acquaintances, I had already accumulated many heartfelt endorsements. First Things intended to post statements submitted by Noam Chomsky, Elizabeth Loftus, Carol Tavris, and Jerry Coyne among others. But those testimonials didn’t appear, because . . . the article didn’t, either.

First Things is a vehicle of the Institute on Religion and Public Life. At the eleventh hour, as the mortified editors informed me, the institute’s Catholic board canceled publication of my article. Perhaps you can guess the reason: the Church has a pedophilia problem, and Jerry Sandusky is assumed to be a pedophile. It was thought best to avoid any association, however remote, between Catholicism and his cause.

Now you may ask yourself “How was Sandusky physically incapable of molesting children”?  This is what the article has to say:

But Jerry had another, even more telling, medical deficit that would have forestalled priapic feats. He had been born with vestigial testicles that left him almost devoid of testosterone and, necessarily, less interested in sex than other men. That is one reason among several that no pornography was found in his possession; he was closer to a eunuch than a satyr. Revealingly, his conspicuous deformity went unremarked by every “victim,” including all thirty-six who would eventually divide Penn State’s settlement pie of $118 million.

It’s unthinkable that the lawyers didn’t make a big deal of this in his trial, but it probably wouldn’t have mattered. If ever there was a rush to judgment, it was the Jerry Sandusky trial. You can’t even get the counterevidence published!

First Things‘s acceptance and then rejection is cowardice, pure and simple, and so Fred had to place “Saint Sandusky” on Medium as well. Fred’s comment on this pusillanimous site:

To my mind, this timidity is sadly ironic. Sweeping sexual abuse under the rug has been routine policy for the Church, and it has only magnified the worldwide scandal of predation and hypocrisy among the anointed. Moreover, we know that some priests have been falsely accused by fortune seekers–an exact parallel to the Sandusky case, as my essay shows. And finally, Jerry Sandusky himself happens to be a devout Methodist. The editors of First Things had supplied their guardians with every reason to believe that a man of faith has been wrongly incarcerated, but that consideration was overruled by image polishing. As I wrote to the editors, “Your board is Catholic, but it isn’t Christian.”

I’ll reproduce below the letter I wrote in support of the publication of “Saint Sandusky” in First Things, which gives some idea of the holes in the case:

Response to “Saint Sandusky”

Jerry Coyne

Although Jerry Sandusky’s conviction for pedophilia is universally accepted, until I read Frederick Crews’s “Saint Sandusky” I had no idea how thin the evidence for that verdict is. The legal conviction, as well  as the public’s firm view of Sandusky’s guilt, now appears to be based on a variety of evidence—all of it questionable. Much of the testimony from accusers is based on the discredited technique of recovered memory therapy, in which psychologists or psychiatrists, whose diagnoses are predetermined, induce people to remember things that didn’t happen by planting suggestions in their mind. Further, the evidence of Sandusky’s accusers was inconsistent, with some even asserting that Sandusky never engaged in a pedophilic act, but later changing their minds under pressure. The inconsistency extends to the timeline itself, with discrepancies of nearly a year in when Sandusky’s acts are said to have occurred. Some testimony was retracted but the retractions were ignored. And there was also an explicit pecuniary motive, with some accusers deciding to testify after a huge payday from Penn State was in view. Further, police questioning of accusers was hardly “neutral,” with the police telling them before questioning that Sandusky had been ascertained to be a pedophile.

Crews’s narrative shows that the conviction of Sandusky was a put-up job, confected by the desire of police, prosecutors, therapists, and Penn State itself to get Sandusky into prison as soon as possible.

While Sandusky may indeed be guilty of the crimes of which he’s accused, it’s clear that the investigation of his alleged pedophilia was motivated not by a desire to find the truth but to convict him.  As for a fair trial, forget it.  While one can’t judge Sandusky’s guilt or innocence from Crews’s article, the article makes a compelling case that Sandusky didn’t receive justice in any sense. Justice can be dispensed only with a retrial or a hard-nosed legal review of the record. Unless that happens, Sandusky will sit in prison until he dies.

But don’t take my word for it, read either of the first two links above and judge for yourself if there was a miscarriage of justice.

39 thoughts on “Catholic magazine accepts article exculpating Jerry Sandusky, then rejects it because it didn’t want the Church to deal with accusations of pedophilia

  1. If he is innocent, I suppose the only way this begins to unravel is if one or more of the purported victims or their associates begin to come forward with guilt-ridden retractions. This gets more likely with time.

    1. Remember the “victims” received a generous payout, so that may serve to keep them from coming forward.

    2. People who have been coerced by “recovered memory” techniques often become convinced that the memory is real. Some people sincerely suffer PTSD from things which not only didn’t happen, but couldn’t have happened — and will not doubt what they “know” even if confronted with conclusive evidence. The therapists, psychologists, and police officers who use such techniques are for the most part true believers themselves. They’re convinced they’re helping, and on the side of the angels.

      When some victims later do realize they were lead to say and/or believe false things and try to come forward to recant, the Recovered Memory “experts” typically explain this is denial and part of the condition of repressed trauma. Sometimes they get away with it; sometimes they don’t.

    3. Most of the settlements were paid as annuities over decades. The false accusers will not risk losing their future payments to recant. They have all concluded that the freedom of an innocent old man is not as important as their monthly checks. Some have come to believe that they did no wrong by falsely accusing him, because they rationalize that he must have done something sexual to one, or more, of the other accusers, or they would not have accused him. Such crazy circular logic abounds in the world of false prosecutions and big civil settlements.

  2. He had been born with vestigial testicles that left him almost devoid of testosterone and, necessarily, less interested in sex than other men.

    This is certainly not my area of expertise, but perhaps another reader could weigh in. Is this supposed to be super compelling? Because, I’m finding it to be less than that. Testosterone does not a predator make.

    1. Exactly. Crews seems to be badly uninformed at a minimum. There have been numerous cases of child abusers being chemically castrated and still abusing after. Also, the usual medical procedure in this case would be to give testosterone replacement therapy. I don’t know if Sandusky was on testosterone replacement therapy, but acting like since he has low natural testosterone it was impossible to abuse is just inane.

      This seems like an argument that a lawyer would make, not someone who was honestly trying to find the truth. What I have read from Crews reminds me of another book I read basically argue that Thomas Jefferson was completely blameless with Sally Hemings and has been falsely accused. It also used a bunch of “facts” that were misleading, contradictory, or scientifically dubious, and ignored any contrary evidence. Just the fact that Crews states Sandusky was “morally incapable” of abusing kids indicated to me that this was not an unbiased look at the facts. There may be a strong case to be made that Sandusky was falsely accused, at least by some of the many accusers, but I don’t think this is it.

      1. That may well be, but Sandusky’s medical condition would still be a potential avenue of defense that Sandusky’s lawyers would at least have a duty to investigate. It would be enlightening to hear from them whether they did so and, if if they did, what they found — or, if they failed to do so, why.

      2. Oh I think that endocrine fact is VERY relevant indeed, given testosterone’s effects on the body (although it is more about preparation for sexual competition than most people think) its levels in the body (if unusual, like the defendant here) it is totally on point.
        As a (fmr) criminal defense atty I’d be negligent to NOT bring it up.
        An aside – although I don’t know anything about this case – as a general proposition when it comes to pedophilia as a crime normal, sane people go berserk and throw all reason and logic out the window. Thank goodness I never had to defend such a case.
        D.A., J.D.

        1. Again, the medical standard of care would be to give someone testosterone replacement therapy if their testosterone was really that low.

          According to what I read, Sandusky said in an interview in Pendergrast’s book (that Crews reviewed) that he was having sex with his wife 2-3 times per week on average right up until he went to jail. I haven’t read the book, but if true Crews now claiming Sandusky was physically incapable of abusing kids is bizarre.

          Also I don’t know what “vestigial testicles” are, that isn’t a typical medical term, and could mean any number of things. From what I read Sandusky and his wife tried to have kids for a while before being told he was infertile and it was a disappointment. Why would Crews think abused kids should have commented on “vestigial testicles” when evidentially Sandusky and his wife didn’t know anything was wrong until seeing a doctor after she couldn’t get pregnant? If Sandusky’s pediatrician and PCP didn’t catch these “vestigial testicles” until a work up for infertility why should children be expected to have noticed while he was abusing them?

        2. I emailed Crews yesterday about what being born with “vestigial testicles” means, and he kindly replied. He said his information is from an unpublished article; portions of which he included in the email. The article never uses the term vestigial testicles and doesn’t say Sandusky was born with any testicular abnormality. It does say that his testicles, when evaluated at an older age, were about 1/2 the size of the average male, and speculates it is possible that Sandusky had Klinefelter’s. There are many other reasons for testicular atrophy, including testosterone replacement therapy, which according to the unpublished article Dr. Crews sent me Sandusky is on, and appears to have been on for some time.

          Seems sketchy to me that Crews says it was physically impossible for Sandusky to abuse kids due to low testosterone levels and “vestigial testicles”, all based on an unpublished article that says Sandusky is on testosterone replacement therapy.

          1. Thanks for doing that research. Certainly seems far from a slam dunk for the impossibility of his ability to do what was alleged.

    2. Testosterone does not a predator make.

      Well, men are about 30 or 40 times more likely to be a sexual predator than women, and the main relevant difference is the developmental effect of testosterone.

    3. That’s not the point. well, it is part of the point, but the main claim is that none of the alleged victims were aware of Sandusky’s condition despite the fact that they were claiming to have been in intimate contact with his genitals.

  3. That is a sad and long story. It is very interesting that the family of Paterno suddenly turned against Sandusky as if that would somehow show that Paterno did nothing wrong. It seems the piling on never stopped from beginning to end.

  4. I’ve been skeptical from the beginning. Why was all the attention focussed on Penn when the victims were apparently recruited from The Second Mile? Surely the charity itself would have pretty carefully vetted adults allowed access to the children? Why did the folks Mike McQuerry talked to that night (his dad and a family friend who was a doctor and legally obligated to report suspected child abuse) tell Mike to talk to Paterno rather than the police? Paterno didn’t see anything. The only person who could have reported child abuse to the police was McQuerry himself.

    1. The only person who could have reported child abuse to the police was McQuerry [sic] himself.

      That’s not accurate. McQueary may have been the only potential witness with first-hand knowledge of the incident, but anyone with knowledge of a potential crime — even if that knowledge is based on hearsay or simply on suspicious circumstances — is free to report that crime to law enforcement. Indeed, people who have a special responsibility to the putative victim (it is unclear, under the circumstances of this case, whether that would include coaches and school administrators) have a duty to report such potential crimes once they have a good-faith basis to believe such a crime has occurred.

      1. So why didn’t the father’s friend ,the doctor who had a legal obligation to report suspected abuse do so? McQueary was an adult. He’s the one who saw something. All they knew was what he told them. If at least one of the father, the father’s friend or Paterno didn’t report suspected child abuse it was presumably because based on what McQueary said at the time, they weren’t convinced that there was suspected child abuse.

        1. I’m sure a lot of mandatory reporters don’t. Particularly if the person they are supposed to report on is liked, respected, etc. and they may have doubts. Mandatory reporting is a good rule, but we shouldn’t assume if someone doesn’t report, no abuse took place.

          1. Still, why go after Paterno and the Penn administrators for not reporting something they were told (when we don’t actually know exactly what they were told) and not go after McQueary for not reporting what he saw and interpreted as a rape? It has just always seemed odd to me.

            1. Simple. McQ was the prosecutor’s primary “witness”. The state AG fabricated the story that McQ witnessed “anal rape”, when that was never what he told them or the grand jury. When McQ tried to correct them, after the big presser revealing their case against Sandusky, they hushed him up. This case was rigged against Sandusky at the highest levels, including the Gov of PA (who was AG when the investigation began). Everyone who has serious interest in this case MUST study the work of John Ziegler, who has spent thousands of hours, over a decade, to investigate this case in depth. If you do not review Ziegler’s evidence, then you are speaking without the required knowledge to speak intelligently, and you need to simply shut up, because your words lack credibility.

    1. Look, could you address the arguments and not where they were published, especially given the reluctance of media to publish stories like this because of the inflammatory content.

      Frankly, I’m sick of people dismissing reporting because it’s not in a place you like. Are you saying that NOTHING published on Medium can be trusted because EVERYTHING EVERY PUBLISHED THERE was wrong?

      1. I’m reading through, and plan to address issues and events, however, the platform is not of insignificant consequence. Nothing is reviewed or vetted, by peers or otherwise, as I have read so much mis information publish in “Medium”, regarding COVID alone. Proper review would hopefully separate fiction from fact. Until I finish my own review, we should consider all of these articles as valid, in particular because survivors of child sex abuse display textbook behavior, independent of memories, hidden, uncovered…

        1. Well, you are aware, aren’t you, that the article was vetted by First Things and accepted. It was published on Medium only after First Things got cold feet.

          What about journalism? Do you take everything the NY Times says as true. It’s not vetted by outside reviewers, either?

          1. No, i absolutely do not take everything the NYT publishes as fact, or as being vetted. I was going to include this comparison in my comment, but thought it superfluous. I get, and accept the points made, but when one is used to peer reviewed material read a lot of peer it can be hard to compromise. When there is one voice against what seems to be established data, I think of Duesberg. In effort to not drag on, I will refrain from further comments until I review the Crews essay thoroughly.

  5. Frederick Crews’s piece “Sandusky: the House of Cards” is essentially a defense lawyer’s brief. In some respects it is tendentious. (For example, I find its claim that the trial judge asked the lead prosecutor for advice regarding the admissibility of evidence dubious. When a close evidentiary question arises at trial, it is commonplace for a judge to entertain argument from counsel on the issue. Such argument will often take the form of the judge asking one side “Why should I let this in?” and asking the opposing side “Why should I exclude it?” There is nothing untoward regarding such a discussion. Crews’s piece also claims to know why the jury found Sandusky not guilty on some counts. Perhaps one or more jurors was interviewed after the trial — although the piece does not say this or give any other basis for this knowledge. The jury is certainly not required to provide reasons for an acquittal on the verdict form.)

    Nonetheless, Crews’s piece raises substantial questions that at the least merit further inquiry. It would be interesting to hear the take of others involved in the case — prosecutors, police, defense lawyers, witnesses, and consulting experts among them — regarding what happened in the course of the investigation and trial.

  6. If you want to take REALLY DEEP and fascinating dive into this case, and why Sandusky is clearly innocent, please check out my new podcast, “With the Benefit of Hindsight,” which you can find on iTunes and Spotify. You will NOT regret it!

    1. We did listen to all 16 episodes (more than 40 hours) of John Ziegler’s podcasts. Highly recommend, if you want the truth of this tragic story. It is addictive. If you enjoyed War and Peace for its many characters and complex intertwining plot, you will absolutely love listening. And, I predict, you will come away from the experience being convinced of Sandusky’s innocence, as well as that of Curly, Schultz, and Spanier. You will also be appalled at the dishonesty of the prosecutors and the accusers. Follow the money, folks!

  7. I think it was from a Pendergrast piece that I learned this quotation from Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly after the Sandusky guilty verdict. It was incredibly difficult for some of them to unearth long-buried memories of the shocking abuse they suffered at the hands of this defendant.

      1. The concept of “recovered memories” is not scientifically valid, and they should never be admissible in court. There is no credible study that says people forget (repress) terrible things that have happened to them. Recovered memories are, more likely than not, the inventions of bogus psychologists who “plant” them in the minds of their patients. We should always be very skeptical of the claims of persons who say they now remember something, after many sessions with a psychologist, especially the ones who refer such patients to particular tort lawyers.

  8. “Surely we all agree that everyone deserves a fair trial…”

    It always astonishes me how readily many people* abandon this principle when the defendant is accused of a particularly egregious crime. In such instances there is often simply a widespread public presumption of guilt and reluctance to accord any legal rights to the accused. In fact, of course, the more serious the crime one is accused of the more vital the need for fair trial since the consequences of wrongful conviction are so severe.

    * I am not suggesting anyone in this thread is guilty of that!

  9. I remember watching something about the McMartin daycare trials back in the 80s, and this reminded me of that–the way the children/minors were questioned. This was particularly an issue in the McMartin case because the resultant accusations were really bizarre, and the children were young.

    One other thing that caught my attention related to the “recovered memory” evidence was the endorsement by Elizabeth Loftus–just thought it was interesting because of that article you did a few month’s ago about The New Yorker ripping on her. Her research isn’t exactly popular right now, either.

  10. Some comments on the comments:

    1. My essay, in either of its versions, is indeed a “lawyer’s brief” for Sandusky’s innocence. I’m encouraged to see that no respondent, thus far, urges any grounds for concluding otherwise. Given what is now known about the baseless McQueary and Petrosky charges and about the recruitment and manipulation of the other accusers, could anything be said in an opposing brief? There is simply no evidence that Sandusky molested anyone.

    2. The implausibility of the charges needn’t be reduced to the size of Sandusky’s testicles. He was represented in court as an insatiable sadistic rapist–capable, for example, of a three-day sex rampage against an imprisoned teen. Nothing in his known history–sexual, medical, psychological, or moral–fits such a picture. And the logistics of his supposed activities, if believed, would make him the invisible Energizer Bunny of child abusers, rushing from one crime to the next while constantly working for the taskmaster Joe Paterno, yet never being observed, reported, or even suspected. Again, no one can explain why heterosexual boys, many of them teenagers, would have allowed themselves to be abused again and again without resistance or complaint. And stranger yet is the fact that none of Sandusky’s “victims” had lost respect for him or come to regard his exhortations to clean living as hypocritical. Several of them continued to seek his company until shortly before he was indicted. My argument rests on the totality of such considerations.

    3. We who are not in prison have the luxury of armchair debate about the fine points of the Sandusky case. Meanwhile, Jerry himself seeks and deserves a retrial. Two of my essays are followed by an appeal for contributions to his defense fund. Even the smallest gift would tell him that he hasn’t been forgotten.

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