Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Further Thoughts: Penn State

Now that Sandusky has given his first interview, I am still very uncomfortable with the defense of his actions and his inability to see that most of his interactions were inappropriate due to the power he had over those boys.  He wasn't simply horsing around...

There have been three articles on this scandal that I have read and were very thought provoking (here are some excerpts and links to the original articles):

A Word in Defense of the Witnesses—and the Word Is “Ambiguity” By Scott Huler (Scientific American)
You and I – and every single other decent person on the planet who has heard about the Penn State abuse allegations – are having the same revenge fantasy. Or, I don’t know, call it a Guardian Angel fantasy. We would have run into the shower and wrapped the kid in a towel; we would have grabbed a bat and whacked the coach; we would have blown our trusty whistle and dialed 911 while simultaneously pulling the fire alarm and screaming “Stop!”

Every radio sports jock on the dial has said the same thing: “You just can’t see something like that happening and walk away. You just can’t!”

Except the grand jury testimony shows – well, yes you can. People do. People did. People saw unspeakable things happening, and instead of putting on their superhero costumes and running to the rescue they … hesitated. They hoped it would stop. They walked away, and then thought better of that and called their bosses. And you know you would have done better, right?
Let’s All Feel Superior By DAVID BROOKS (NY Times)
First came the atrocity, then came the vanity. The atrocity is what Jerry Sandusky has been accused of doing at Penn State. The vanity is the outraged reaction of a zillion commentators over the past week, whose indignation is based on the assumption that if they had been in Joe Paterno’s shoes, or assistant coach Mike McQueary’s shoes, they would have behaved better. They would have taken action and stopped any sexual assaults.

Unfortunately, none of us can safely make that assumption. Over the course of history — during the Holocaust, the Rwandan genocide or the street beatings that happen in American neighborhoods — the same pattern has emerged. Many people do not intervene. Very often they see but they don’t see.
And finally, A priest’s view of Penn State By James Martin SJ (Washington Post)
The terrible parallels between the horrific sexual abuse cases at Penn State and those in the Catholic Church are by now well known. But as a priest, I must say this at the outset: the vast number of children and young people abused in the worldwide church dwarf--by an order of magnitude--the number of victims at State College.

The similarities between the two institutions are striking: In both cases children were abused in the most sordid and tragic ways, scarring individuals for life. In both cases well-meaning adults reported the abuse, or at least their suspicions, to officials in the institution, assuming that this would put an end to the crimes. In both cases high-level officials could have reported these crimes to the police but did not do so (for a variety of reasons.) In both cases the abuse happened in an institution that seemed for many to be at the center of their lives. (The cheer “We are Penn State” shows a deep identification with the university.) In both places the desire to avoid “scandal” led to even greater scandal. In both cases there were complex emotional reactions about a person (a coach or a priest) who was also thought to have “done much good” in other parts of his life. And in both cases longtime members of the institutions (parishioners and students) responded with intense emotions over the scandal. (The rioting at Penn State may have shown not only frustration over the removal of Coach Joe Paterno, but also shame and anger over the public denigration of their school.)

All food for thought.  Let us pray for the victims and work for justice and safe places for all children.

Dear God our Creator, we remember those children affected by abuse.  We remember those who have lost their lives to this malfunction of our society. We pray that their souls are now at rest. We remember children living in homes of domestic violence. Deliver them and protect them from further harm.  We pray for perpetrators, that they may seek help. Help them to relinquish their need to exert power and control.  We remember current victims whose lives are filled with fear and uncertainty, those who are trapped in the psychological cycle of violence and abuse, hope and false love. We ask that you give them a new vision. Guide them with your wisdom to make sound choices that will lead to new life.  We give thanks to those who dedicate their lives to providing education, shelter, and support to the victims of abuse. Finally, O gracious God, be present with us, restore peace and hope, help us to strive for justice that we may persevere with your Holy Spirit. In faith we pray, Amen.

Adapted from a prayer written by the Rev. Angela F. Shepherd (from “Women’s Uncommon Prayers)

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