I will admit I am a latecomer to this news. I heard it on the radio when it first broke but it really did not register in my mind until I really started to listen. Let me state right up front that I believe the greatest crime anyone can commit is a crime against a child and second to that is the cover up of that crime. And let us be honest we are talking about rape here rape of a child!
I don’t care who you are, priest, bishop, Pope, coach, or man on the street, if you hear about or see any form of child abuse you have a moral obligation to do whatever you need to do to stop it and make sure it never happens again. I am sure that some who read these words will disagree with me and tell me I have no right to speak out on this because I am a priest. Well all I can say is you are entitled to your opinion.
As I understand the case, Mr. Paterno was told of suspected child abuse by one of his Asst. Coaches, he told his boss and then left it there. His boss obviously did nothing or we would not be at this point in the story. This has gone on for some time and I hear there are 8 cases of suspected abuse. Mr. Paterno, the Asst. Coach, and the President of the University have all been dismissed, but the horse is out of the barn.
For me, the most disturbing thing is that the students rose up and protested not the inability of the administration to act to protect the “least” of these, but they rose up to protest the dismissal of the longtime coach. Yes he was much beloved, and yes he won many games and championships, but he did not do all he could to protect the children and in my mind that wipes away anything that he might have done! I also heard interviews with fans of the football team and they made statements like, “we need a win today so we can put this behind us.” I bet the victims would like to put this behind them as well! How about we show a little humanity! I think the team should not have played today, not as a punishment, but as a show of caring and humanity.
I also cannot help but think about the parallels between this and clergy abuse. Many commentators have been drawing these conclusions all week, some in the church think this is unfair, but it is what it is. The same thing happened in both situations, although the University Administration did not move the coach after they heard about the suspected abuse they just did nothing. In my way of thinking those who did nothing are just as guilty, morally speaking, as those who actually victimized the children.
Adults have a responsibility to protect children and I have a hard time with adults who not only rape children or abuse them but adults who do nothing about it. It scandalizes me to think that people knew about this, as clergy did, and chose, made a conscious choice, to not do anything about it. That is reprehensible and I hope they all seek forgiveness for their actions and their inactions.
I pray for all those involved but especially the children who had their innocence stolen from them in a most violent way. They will never be the same and will face a lifetime of problems, they were raped by this coach and then the system raped them, and now they will be raped again as more details come out about this. My only hope is that their names are never released. There is no reason for us to know who they are.
If you suspect child abuse at any level, you have an obligation to attempt to stop it and report it. Just imagine if this was your child!