Monday, January 21, 2013

Lizzy Seeberg or Manti Te'o's fake dead girlfriend: which ghost haunts Notre Dame the most?

A gravesite in Rome

Noting the unusual amount of online chatter linking Manti Te'o, his hoax of a (dead) girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, and Lizzy Seeberg (and perhaps connecting that to my long-held belief that the Fighting Irish would never be national champions again until Notre Dame better reflected its namesake), my wife, Jeanette, told me that "perhaps the good thing about the Kekua-Te'o tale is that it brings the Lizzy Seeberg story back out into the open." Trusting Jeanette's intuition, but not yet grasping the exact connection, I pondered the similarities (and differences) of the trusting girl naively thinking she was getting involved in a caring relationship with a Notre Dame football star, and the trusting Notre Dame football star naively thinking he was involved in a caring relationship with a (fictitious) online girl. But it wasn't until Lizzy's dad, Tom, re-emerged in the news, that I began to fully grasp the situation.

Concerning Te'o, the cynical reporters (i.e., the Notre Dame haters) have a hard time believing how an obviously intelligent and talented college student-athlete could fall for such an utterly fantastic fabrication unless he was in on the scam. Never mind the fact that they also fell for it; this story proves that Manti Te'o is a fraud...and that Jesus Christ (not to mention his latter-day saints), Notre Dame, and the Catholic Church are frauds too! Personally, I think that anyone who believes in Mormonism, which bases its religion on claims of ancient civilizations that are no more historical than Lennay Kekua, could be sweet-talked into many a dubious male-female relationship, especially one that involved a pretty-yet-spiritual girl, with a propensity for nearly deadly accidents and/or fatal diseases.

If Manti was guilty of anything (for naivete is not a sin) it was that in order to keep his dad from hassling him about the relationship, he misled his father (and later, others) into thinking that he had actually met Kekua, a small lie that has already cost Manti greatly, in everything from online humiliation (have you seen "Te'o-ing"?) to his subpar BCS play, to the lowering of his NFL Draft stock. But Te'o has already utterly apologized for his small mistakes in the hoax, which is more than Notre Dame can say about the Lizzy Seeberg scandal.

Lizzy Seeberg
When I last talked to Tom Seeberg nearly a year-and-a-half ago, he seemed like a man tired of fighting the Irish, a father trying to move on and let Notre Dame's involvement in his daughter's death fade into the background. But outrage does strange things to a guy's psyche, and once the Te'o story broke, Tom was back in the news again, telling the New York Times about the "amazing [job] that Notre Dame’s done...keeping the lid on Lizzy’s story the last two years." And later in the interview, Seeberg goes on to lament that, “Is it not ridiculous, that we sit here in 2013, and a woman who presents what could be a felony battery allegation" back in 2010, has not yet been investigated by Notre Dame, but, as the Times recorded, the University "began an immediate investigation over a matter that seems to be nothing more than a very embarrassing situation for its star football player."

To answer Tom's question, there is indeed a consistency in how Notre Dame handled both cases—it's just not the consistency of the Catholic Church. Rather, it is the consistency of lawyers, or rather the teams of crack lawyers Father John Jenkins and the boys employ when things get too hot under his priestly collar. To an orthodox Catholic (including St. Thomas More, who banned lawyers from his futuristic dream democracy "Utopia" despite being a lawyer himself) such logic is outrageous, yet to a corporate lawyer, it makes perfect sense.

For in Te'o's case, although Manti himself may or may not have claim to some money from the perpetrators of the scam due to emotional distress or loss of revenue in the NFL Draft, the real-life woman whose online picture the hoaxsters stole in order to portray Kekua to Te'o undoubtedly is "in line" for some significant cash, and Notre Dame has to establish their innocence so that the money doesn't come from them. On the other hand, not only do dead women tell no tales, but they seek no financial compensation, so even if the Irish player was indeed guilty of molesting Lizzy, they have no incentive to punish the player and take on his lawyer, or even to apologize to Lizzy's parents, for even that simple Christian act would give the impression to some that Notre Dame was wrong.

As much fun as my wife had in watching Notre Dame's spirited play (often led by Manti Te'o) this season, she also felt uneasy, for she feared that the player who allegedly molested the modest and honest Lizzy Seeberg was still running freely on the field. Until Lizzy's story is investigated as thoroughly as Manti's, Seeberg's death remains a cloud that hovers over the Irish football program, and the team can never become a truly Christian force (let alone win the national championship) until her ghost is appeased. But with Jenkins being ruled by lawyers rather than the Lord, and her accused free from the testimony of the accuser, who can set things right?

Ironically, the only player man enough to apologize for his university's/teammate's actions may be Manti Te'o himself. While of course his situation is certainly not as grave as hers, I think that Te'o, especially after being taken advantage of himself, is one of the few men close enough to the Seeberg story that he could offer Lizzy's parents sympathy in a way that would be not only meaningful but healing. Not that Te'o himself has anything to apologize for, but I think Manti's the kind of guy who would try anything to make his team stronger and the fans (feel) better...not unlike a certain Irish apologist, who, while having little sympathy for the deeds of Notre Dame's current administration, writes constantly about the exploits of Her true loyal sons and daughters in hopes that the bums may someday listen.

Reprinted on RenewAmerica.
Related: Notre Dame reforms part I: the Lizzy Seeberg scandal and Mary's Immaculate Heart
Related: Notre Dame reforms part II: the two legacies of Lizzy Seeberg
Related: Manti Te'o, Lizzy Seeberg, Lennay Kekua pt II: fallout from the Katie Couric interview
Related: Shembo no prince in Lizzy Seeberg scandal


Anonymous said...

"Personally, I think that anyone who believes in Mormonism, which bases its religion on claims of ancient civilizations that are no more historical than Lennay Kekua, could be sweet-talked into many a dubious male-female relationship."

Just wondering what you say to those who will say that about adherents of all religions, including yours? And who put their trust in structures of authority, which Mormonism and Catholicism would fall under?

You make great points in this post, just watch which rocks you throw. Keep up the good writing.

Tom O'Toole said...

@Anonymous 4:15 -- My comment is NOT aimed at the failings of religious leaders of which all religions have many, including the many Catholic leaders I have personally exposed (note, Fr. Jenkins hardly comes out smelling like a rose) at great risk. I am talking about the dubious historicity of the ancient civilizations Mormons claim, which is not something Catholicism shares.

P.S. Are you willing to say publicly, unlike many Mormons, that because of the LDS's dismissal of the Trinity, Mormonism is NOT a Christian denomination?

Beth Steger said...

I have read most of the stories in print about Ms.Seeberg's very sad ordeal. Your article is the first ray of light I have read throughout all of my readings.
It gives me hope to see that those inside the ND school took note. Most did nothing but you chose to talk about it.
I was raised Catholic. Most of my family are ND fans. Four generations have gone there. It is deep hope that one day ND will rethink their response to her complaint.Those in the highest positions could reopen and transparently share with Lizzy's family what happened.Until the lies by Powers, Jenkins about Lizzy are apologized for.
The Seeberg family is a local family. The family is known for their strong commitment to giving to others. Lizzy was a young humanitarian. She was treated as dirt. That could be remedied.
I have been asking myself... is there no student at ND that feels sick inside about this?
You have given hope to a sad, sad, event. Thank You.

Tom O'Toole said...

Thank you for your comment, Beth. Just as heroic students rose up against Obama's coming to ND, so there are students who will defend Lizzy's honor. We just have to get them to speak up, and us keeping her memory alive is one way to inspire them to do so. Remember, even if Te'o's girlfriend wasn't real, the student body's support for him was; a shining sign of what Her loyal sons and daughters are capable of.

Go Irish! Love Thee, Notre Dame! And, love thee, Lizzy Seeberg, too...

Anonymous said...

Tom, (I'm Anonymous @4:15): Thank you for your response. My comment wasn't in reference to the failings of religious leaders, which you correctly stated that all religions have many (and yes, it appeared that way, and I apologize for the confusion).

My comment had to deal with the notion that many people today have that religious people in general are gullible. No Catholicism doesn't share Mormon claims of ancient civilizations, but claims of belief in a virgin birth, a great flood, a resurrection, even the notion of the existence of God among other things are ridiculed these days, and there are those — particularly atheists — who will say that religious believers of all stripes believe outlandish things, and are gullible and susceptible to deception.

I'm a different sort of Mormon. I plead "no contest" to the charge of not being a Christian denomination. It doesn't matter to me what other people consider me based on beliefs and interpretations of doctrine. If I'm not living my life as Christ taught, repenting of sins and doing my best to love God and neighbor, then it doesn't matter if I claim to be a Christian or not. Too many Mormons (including LDS leadership) are obsessed with wanting other Christians to consider them Christian. I'm done with that whole debate. I'd love to live in a world where one of the worst things someone could do is have incorrect beliefs, and where that issue is worthy of such dramatic discussion.

But excuse me for getting way off topic. It's practically a crime that the Te'o story is getting more attention than the Seeberg story. Not that the Te'o fiasco shouldn't be getting attention (it should), but Lizzy was a real person whose life took a tragic turn, and the leaders who should have helped her and her family are failing. It's also a failure of journalists. Thank you for doing your part to bring attention to it.

Boj Wolb said...

Once again, America’s “football ├╝ber alles” mindset rears its ugly head! On top of that, it appears at a so-called Christian school(Notre Dame is a Catholic college). Why is it so commonplace nowadays to hear about Christians being bad representatives of God? Is it any wonder why God allows tragedy after tragedy to happen here in America!? We’re only reaping what we’re sowing. America, turn away from your football idol and direct your attention back onto God! Follow His standard! Aim to please Him and only Him and only then you’ll get pulled back out of the abyss!

Tom O'Toole said...

@Anonymous 4:15 -- Thanks again for your response as well as your honesty on the Mormons not Christians issue.

As far as Christians being gullible, Catholicism has a 2000-year history that includes some brilliant philosopher-saints (Augustine, Aquinas, etc.) whose ability to combine logic and faith makes that gullible claim ... illogical. As in the C.S. Lewis "Lord Lunatic Liar" explanation of Christ's Divinity, Jesus, who claimed to be God, was either deluded, dishonest (and therefore closer to the anti-Christ than to Christ for deluding so many) or who he said he was -- God. His mighty works, chronicled by both Christian and agnostic historians alike, and coherent philosophy of life may not prove (without faith) that He is the Christ, but history itself seems to support it as the most logical of the three possibilities.

Tom O'Toole said...

@Boj -- G.K. Chesterton said Protestantism can be defined as taking part of the Catholic faith and making it the whole (which leads to distortions) which is what you seem to be doing here.

I doubt you would make these claims if you read my Sports and the Catholic Faith, Sports and the Catholic Fan or my Knute Rockne posts (let alone my book Champions of Faith) but the recent history of Catholicism is full of examples where sports have inspired faith and vice versa, and even the controversial Tebow has shown some positive impact that a Christian in football can have.

Also, most theologians would say St. Paul is on my side; his famous comparison of faith to sports in 1 Corinthians 9: 24-27 does not say the discipline/dedication of athletes is BAD, only that the discipline of Christianity is BETTER, and certainly leaves open the possibility that one could combine the two disciplines for the Greater Glory of God.

Anonymous said...

Your article is very cognizant of the moral crisis at hand for Notre Dame football. But it is indeed a "ray of light" as it comes from the inside viewpoint of a real Domer. You are not alone. I graduated from Notre Dame long ago. Like other freshman, I arrived with intense school spirit and support of our student-athletes. But the recent turmoil with Lizzy Seeberg caused me to withdraw my support. I could not find it in my heart to support the football team's 2012 season. Ironically, I was working in Florida as an engineer at the time and was within a mile of the practice site of ND which was just off I-575/University in Fort Lauderdale. I told my coworker, a Purdue graduate, about the Lizzy Seeberg story. He was disappointed and understood. As a Catholic, I do believe in Divine Retribution. I am convinced the one-dimensional route was Divine Retribution - severe humiliation on a national stage due to the Lizzy Seeberg aftermath. The corporate-style lawyers can only do so much. They can't stop Divine Retribution. I am Catholic and spent a lot of time at the Grotto. To be fair to ND, I still support the other sports. I attended an ND women's soccer game back in 2009 during the NCAA tournament. This winter I want to watch the ND-Miami basketball games (men/women). I still am a Domer for non-football sports. In modern times, Skylar Diggins is the current answer to continue Joe Montana's greatness of ND athletes. I still revere Dan Devine's teams of the 70s. I just learned to block modern ND football from my support but still consider myself a Domer overall. I loved the bookstore basketball tournament and only returned once for the campus championship after 16 years by the new bookstore. We won our game by Lyons long ago when I turned 22 - lol. I am middle-aged now.