Friday, November 11, 2011

The Penn State Scandal

I listen to sports talk radio every weekday morning, so I am always aware of the top sports stories of the day.  However, the recent child sex abuse scandal at Penn State has been a national news story extending beyond the sports world.  I have heard a wide range of opinions.  There is no question that this is a very disgusting and sad story that brings out very intense and real emotions from people.  I have heard people call in to radio shows who had been abused as a child themselves.  I have heard Penn State alums call into radio shows with mixed emotions.  I have seen students riot in defense of their ex longtime coach Paterno.   Their anger is misguided.  While I don’t believe we should be vilifying Paterno, rioting in support of Paterno is just foolish and ignorant.  Paterno was fired as head football coach of Penn State this week; an action that when considering all the information in the Grand Jury Report had to be taken for the betterment of the University.  College kids often do dumb things that they later regret, so I hope that these students that have been rioting can step back and take a look at the bigger picture and realize that their actions are not justified.  There are far too many different areas that could be discussed regarding this Penn State scandal, but I want to focus on how we can process this story and take it as an opportunity to educate ourselves and others about the issue of child molestation, and how everyone can better react and respond when they have knowledge of such a situation.

What Happened?

In case you are unfamiliar with the Penn State Scandal, you can find the Grand Jury Report on the Sandusky case HERE.  One word of warning, the report is at times graphic and extremely disturbing.  There are 8 victims listed in the report, but there is reason to believe there may have been many more victims.  Most of the talk has been surrounding the story of victim #2, because witnessing the abuse was a Penn State Football grad assistant named McQueary.  McQueary was disturbed at the sight and called his dad.  His dad advised him to leave immediately and come home.  The next morning McQueary notified head football coach Joe Paterno.  Paterno passed the information on to his superior, the Athletic Director at Penn State.  Apparently the AD sat on the information and failed to report to the police this criminal activity.  Paterno failed to follow up on the situation.  There was known child sex abuse that failed to get reported to the police; therein lays the great controversy.

Where is the Compassion?

I think far too many people hearing and reading about this story are looking for as many people as possible to vilify.  There is no doubt that many people used very poor judgment at Penn State and those people should and are now being held accountable for their actions or inactions, but I am more interested in finding solutions to addressing the very serious problem of child molestation than I am in finding people to vilify.  I think that many look at this story with hatred in their heart.  I admit that the story is very frustrating and sad, and that it is natural for us to feel angry.  In fact, I believe we all should feel some sense of righteous anger, because there are so many innocent kids who are victims to a terrible crime, and there were adults with knowledge of the situation that could have done something to stop the abuse.  However, we must not harbor hatred in our heart for the people involved regardless of their actions or inactions.  I understand that this can sometimes be difficult, but harboring anger only makes the problem worse for everyone including ourselves.  We should have compassion first and foremost for the victims.  No child should have to be subjected to what these poor kids were subjected to, and we must not forget the victims in the story.  We should have compassion for the victims’ families.  We should have compassion for the players on the football team, who through no fault of their own have had to endure a torturous week of media scrutiny and have lost their football coach.  I also believe that we should have compassion for those at Penn State who displayed terrible moral judgment.  Their failure to report the incident to police seems unfathomable, but they still are human beings.  We also must pray for Mr. Sandusky who has very serious and sick problems.  No question that what he did was terrible.  Terrible!  It is one of the worst acts that any person can do, and it was not a single act but a series of acts.  No sane person can understand why he would do what he did.  However, he also is a human being and I do not believe it is productive for us to wish this man damned to Hell even if it appears to many that his actions warrant that justice.  In the end, God is the final judge.  We should pray for this man.  This in no way does or should diminish the compassion we have for the victims and their families.  We must also pray that the victims receive the support that they need from family, friends and the entire community.  With all this being said, I do think that there is some irony in the public’s reaction to this story. 

The Irony of the Public’s Reaction

I do not want to minimize the very real tragedy of this scandal or the severity of the allegations, and I want to emphasize that the victims in this case have my full support and deepest sympathies, but I contend that we accept child abuse every day in this country because we accept abortion, the killing of innocent children in the womb, as a legal “choice” for pregnant women.  Somehow the killing of a child is not nearly as disturbing to the majority of the public as the abuse of children who have been born.  I guess it is much easier to accept and understand an injustice when we can see a face and acknowledge the humanity of the victim.  Personally, I find both extremely disturbing.  Doctors who perform the abortions are seen by many as “compassionate” to the women who find themselves in difficult situations.  We can discuss the similarities between abortion and child abuse another day, but I did want to mention the irony in how we think of these two issues completely differently in our society. 

Lessons Learned

At the end of the day, there is no turning back the clock.  What has been done has been done.  However, the future is ahead of us, and we can learn from this tragically sad story.  We can let this story ignite hatred in our hearts, or we can look at this story with a compassionate heart.  We can see the terrible mismanagement of this situation as a chance to condemn people, or we can use it as an opportunity to educate ourselves on the appropriate response to sexual abuse of children and reflect on how we would react if we were in a similar situation.  It is easy to say now from the outside and after the fact that we would do the right thing to immediately stop the abuse, but are we absolutely certain that we would?   Sometimes the right thing to do is not always clear to us especially in the moment.  That is why it is so important that we property form our conscience.  Hopefully, with a properly formed conscience we will know what the right thing to do is when we encounter such situations.  We can become better people and a better society because of this story.  The only way we can accomplish this is if we look at this story with a compassionate heart and with a determined resolve to take the news of this story to motivate positive change in a messed up world.  My thoughts and prayers go out to all victims of child molestation, especially the victims in this case.  May God grant them peace.

God bless,


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