Thoughts On the Penn State Scandal, On A Friday

Back in March of 2010, when the sexual abuse scandal in the Church got its second wind, I wrote a post where I said if any of us knew of abuse of this nature occurring, we should “call the cops. Serious people with guns and badges looking for bad guys tend to get things done a little quicker than the average bureaucracy.”

A few weeks back, I shared some thoughts about how institutions that don’t do that become accessories to the crimes, which is a pretty dumb thing to do. And now, as if right on cue, we have the Penn State scandal coming to light, which is an example of the same phenomenon writ small.

Then, as now, calling the cops is the best strategy. Colleen Carroll Campbell writes at the website STL Today,

The story related in last week’s Pennsylvania grand jury report had all the ingredients of a classic sex abuse scandal: a popular, successful authority figure suspected for years of molesting boys, a host of higher-ups unwilling to report him to police and a trail of vulnerable children left to suffer unspeakable violations while powerful adults looked the other way.

That stomach-churning pattern — of a wily predator victimizing children with impunity while his bosses passed the buck — is sadly familiar to Catholics. For nearly a decade now, Catholics have watched their church’s reputation dragged through the mud thanks to a mix of predatory priests and negligent bishops who enabled their abuse.

Some have blamed the secular media for unfairly picking on the Catholic Church, by scrutinizing priests and bishops more than other authority figures accused of similar offenses. That argument, even if valid, misses the point: When it comes to child abuse, every adult with knowledge of an abusive situation has a moral responsibility to act. Adults in positions of esteem and authority — such as religious leaders — bear this responsibility all the more. And their sins of omission can do nearly as much harm as sins of commission.

The Penn State case illustrates that truth, albeit on a far smaller scale than the international scandal that has engulfed the Catholic Church and shaken so many of its faithful.

Go read the rest. There are plenty of best practices lessons to be learned from these tragically similar scandals. The celibate priesthood isn’t the problem, but lack of moral courage certainly is. Because, as Campbell writes, “Genuine love for and loyalty to an institution never demands the sacrifice of a child’s safety or innocence.”

I don’t think I am going overboard in saying Our Lord agrees,

And whosoever shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in me; it were better for him that a millstone were hanged around his neck, and he were cast into the sea. (Matthew 18:6; Mark 9:41; Luke 17:2)

Because we need to be like the passengers on Flight 93, and be willing to take criminals down. All.the.way.

Pray for all of the victims of sexual abuse, in this scandal, and in all the scandals that have gone before it. For the truth is that we have failed to protect our most vulnerable from predators now, and in the past. Pray for the moral courage to never shirk our duty to protect our children again, no matter what the personal cost.


Update: Why calling the Police is your only option.

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