During the sexual abuse crisis (which still goes on) in the Catholic Church many were quick to condemn Catholic priest-abusers and the bishops that enabled them to abuse thousands of children and teens.
And rightfully so. Zero tolerance is the result of many people albeit much too late insisting on the implementation of the Dallas Charter—which has been routinely ignored by some as we know all too well. Even with the media coverage crushing the church’s reputation for the actions of some, there are bishops and other Catholic officials who just don’t get it.
The church was then, an old boys network that protected their own so as not to bring scandal on the church as a whole. That decision ironically brought exactly what everyone feared the most–the scandal.
And if we are this hard on our own institution than we have to be just as hard on Penn State today. Zero tolerance…and perhaps not just on Penn State, but on all academic institutions of higher education. Shouldn’t they be required to be as vigilant as the church has become about sexual abuse of children and even of teens who just turned 18 and may be in various states of vulnerability? You can’t tell me that young women especially aren’t victimized in college. And too often Universities turn a blind eye.
Which is what I think happened here. Here’s the story in a nutshell from the New York Times:
Jerry Sandusky, a former defensive coordinator under Paterno, has been charged with sexually abusing eight boys across a 15-year period, and Paterno has been widely criticized for failing to involve the police when he learned of an allegation of one assault of a young boy in 2002.
Additionally, two top university officials — Gary Schultz, the senior vice president for finance and business, and Tim Curley, the athletic director — were charged with perjury and failure to report to authorities what they knew of the allegations, as required by state law.
Since Sandusky’s arrest Saturday, Penn State — notably its president, Graham B. Spanier, and Paterno — have come under withering criticism for a failure to act adequately after learning, at different points over the years, that Sandusky might have been abusing children.
And for that, they all have to go. Done. Finished. Sorry, but you did the wrong thing.
And doing the right thing is almost never easy. In this case it was a beloved coach, who may have been the heir apparent to the legendary Paterno, sexually abusing a 10 year old that he befriended from a local charity. Maybe that’s one reason that Paterno stayed on at Penn State so long. He knew that he couldn’t give the reigns to the one guy who was capable and who everyone would suspect as the person to most likely get the job. I’m sure Sandusky was also a friend and calling the cops on a friend has got to be a tough decision.
Doing the right thing almost always is.
Was there pressure to cover this up? Or did Joe Paterno simply not just do enough? I can envision people coming to Paterno with the problem and him saying “OK, I’ll take it from here.” Perhaps, he did go further and have some back room meetings with athletic head honchos but all they did was ask him not to bring children to the Penn State Athletic complex. Were others pressured by Paterno or others to sweep this under the rug? We don’t know. But what was needed was simple:
Three words: Call the cops. That was what was needed to happen. But it didn’t…
And that, friends, is a sin of omission. And many are culpable.
Thankfully, the Penn State community has been outraged and vocal about this, as they should be. Sandusky has 6 adoptive children and often fostered many others. I’m hoping that we don’t hear more nightmarish stories about his home life.
The Catholic nightmare in Boston led to the hasty resignation of a prominent churchman. We can argue if that punishment is enough (I don’t think it is). Philadelphia quickly accepted their Cardinal’s resignation as well at the age of 76, one year after submitting his mandatory resignation. As things heated up with their own sexual abuse cases replacing him amid huge scandal and Philly’s failure to live up to the Dallas Charter became the obvious move for the Vatican to make.
Institutions always lean towards self-preservation. And in this case, Penn State leaned towards keeping themselves as a football powerhouse—a status that has enabled the university to make tons of money. Sandusky was responsible for creating a team known as Linebacker U. He was carried off the field in his last game, a shutout in a bowl game and was often spoken of glowingly as someone who was a great coach and one of the good guys. Dick Vermeil called him the “Will Rogers of football.” Penn State may be Penn State because of Paterno’s leadership and Sandusky’s defensive coaching—and up until recently, we thought they were above it all.
Well, I guess that was misguided, at best.
Catholics, especially, today should join their voices with those outraged at Penn State. We know what needs to happen and we’ve tried, despite the continued failings of others, to get this house in order.
Penn State should do the same.