Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Institutional Cover-ups of Child Sexual Abuse - Can It Be Stopped?

Do children matter?  In the larger society, do they have a purpose or a place?  I hate that I have to ask these questions.  But thanks to the Sandusky trial/Penn State scandal and the Msgr Lynn trial/Catholic Church scandal, I am forced to question.  What value do children have?  What is it about them that discredits their needs and protection? 
But as I write this, I realize a commonality between the two big cases I mentioned.  The cultures of both institutions have an all male hierarchy.  I am not a man hater.  I actually love the men in my life.  I even produced two future men.  And with that in mind, I don’t believe that any society can thrive or function without equally male and female leadership.  No institution that is powered by one gender can thrive and be complete.  The Catholic Church which is so powerful, has all men at the top.  The same can be said for large universities’ football programs.  These football programs are the lifeblood of these schools.  They bring in major profits to the schools and they are tax-exempt.  Money and power go hand in hand in both these institutions.  
I want children to be protected.  I want children to be safe.  I want children to be valued.  In these institutions they were not.  The men who allowed Jerry Sandusky to rape children for over 14 years, not only did nothing, but HELPED him continue to do it.  There is a very comprehensive article in The Philadelphia Inquirer hereThe first line of the article says it all:
“Three days after Mike McQueary saw Jerry Sandusky molesting a boy in a shower in 2001, two top administrators at Pennsylvania State University had begun to craft a plan:They would not notify authorities.”

This instantly shows the callous disregard for the child who was raped.  Even if - and this is a BIG if - they thought it was just “horseplay” - between a 50 something year old man and a 10 year old boy, who were both naked and alone, showering together - Penn State officials had the duty, the right and the authority to report it to child protective services and the police. Or at the very least, try to find out the identity of the poor boy.  They chose to avoid scandal. (How’s that working out for ya?)  The paper trail is there, in black and white; Paterno knew, Spainer knew, Curley knew, they did nothing of value.  Not one of them worried about that scared 10 year old boy forced to be naked in the shower with a dirty old man.  Not one of them worried about the countless other victims.  They worried instead about the money. If they lost the money they would lose the power.  That very same power that they used to sweep the incident under the rug.  
Now Penn State is being punished.  Sounds about right.  Although, the students are taking a huge brunt of this scandal and that is not entirely fair.  The students or the football players for that matter, really have nothing to do with this.  Maybe we should stop having these huge for-profit, tax exempt, football programs that also provide college education.  Maybe college should be about learning and then we can allow the NFL and the NBA sponsor teams at the schools, like a minor league. Then the school can still have it’s big football and sell tickets to the game but the money goes to education, not recruiting and funding football.  I don’t know.  Maybe that is a ridiculous idea.  Maybe that is coming from someone who did not attend a traditional 4 year college.  I am just trying to figure a way to follow the money which leads to the power, which needs to be eliminated in order to protect children in large institutions.  
Msgr. Lynn was sentenced to 3-6 years for endangering the welfare of a child. Here is a very compelling letter to the judge regarding the case.  It is from Dr. Bob Fisher.  He was raped and molested by Fr. Avery in 1982. (Fr. Avery plead guilty of raping a 10 year old boy in the sacristy at St. Jerome’s Parish in 1999)  Dr. Fisher went to Msgr. Lynn in 1992 to make sure that no other child would be hurt by Fr. Avery.  He did not ask for money or retribution, or vindication.  He simply wanted to protect innocent children.  Msgr. Lynn did not help him to do that.  Msgr. Lynn was told by Dr. Fisher in 1992 that Fr. Avery was a child rapest. Msgr. Lynn hid that truth and then 7 years later, Fr. Avery was caught raping again.  
Hiding the truth is what seems to be the problem.  A prime example in going back to the Penn State case, is the University’s decision to remove the Joe Paterno statue. The decision was dumped onto the lap of Penn State President Rodney Ericksson.  The Board of Trustees did not want to make that call.  Nor did they want an OPEN and honest discussion of ways to handle the situation. So Penn State’s president said “take it down.”  Here is how they did it.  They went in, hidden in the dimness of an early Sunday morning, behind a large fenced off area, covered by huge blue tarps.  They draped the statue and removed it from its foundation and scurried it away.  Please people, don’t pay attention to the men behind the curtains.  Let’s just pretend this did not happen and the large 900 lb. statue was never there.  Isn’t that what started this whole thing?  Stop trying to “handle” situations and start dealing with them.  Deal with them in a public forum, out in the open, for all to see.  This was a big FAIL for the Penn State Board of Trustees.  
The problem as I see it, is the failure to expose the truth.  The hidden agendas that obscure people’s visions.  The dysfunctional family of the  “Brotherhood” of priests who chose to ignore their fellow brothers who touch kids.  The powerful bishops, archbishops and cardinals who put their flock on a “need to know” basis on everything from where our collection plate money is going, to where the new parish priest came from, to why a priest is being removed from ministry.   The power hungry pimps of athletes who use the talent of college students to further their careers and expand their revenue.  The power that comes from fame and wealth and “winning” that clouds judgement and distorts morals.   And finally all those who blindly follow and support these men after they are exposed for who they really are.