The Church of College Football
A former defensive coordinator for the Penn State football team, Jerry Sandusky (a priest in the Church of College Football), has been arrested and charged with sexual abuse of boys over a 15 year period.
A former defensive coordinator for the Penn State football team, Jerry Sandusky (a priest in the Church of College Football), has been arrested and charged with sexual abuse of boys over a 15 year period. Two top Penn State University officials (assistants to the Bishop of the Diocese of Penn State University), Gary Schultz and Tim Curley, have been charged with perjury and failure to report the allegations of sexual abuse to law enforcement. President Graham Spanier (the Bishop) was made aware of the allegations in 2002.
Football Coach Joe Paterno, known to many as St. Joe because of his stellar reputation and success at Penn State, learned of one allegation in 2002 and reported it to Tim Curley. He did not report it to police nor does it appear that he followed up with Tim Curley. Sandusky continued to abuse boys.
The alleged assaults took place on boys who were part of Sandusky’s foundation, Second Mile, where he had access to vulnerable kids through 2010. Although he retired from Penn State in 1999, he still had access to Penn State facilities and an office there.
So the Bishop and St. Joe have been fired. The Assistant Bishops have been indicted. The alleged perpetrator arrested and charged. More action and more quickly than anything we have seen in the actual church in response to credible allegations by adult survivors against priests.
Last night the students on campus reacted to the firing of St. Joe with a riot. They are angry that this institutional mess has tarnished their school and a beloved coach. But St. Joe himself puts it in perspective:
“At this moment the Board of Trustees should not spend a single minute discussing my status. They have far more important matters to address. I want to make this as easy for them as I possibly can. This is a tragedy. It is one of the great sorrows of my life. With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more.”
The bottom line: no one did enough. Even after a report by a graduate assistant that he had seen Sandusky rape a boy in the shower, no one did enough to protect other kids. Who knows the motivation of the various university officials who had responsibility to act? Fear, minimization, protection of the university, ignorance - - - but no longer are any of these excuses adequate for the failure of institutions to hold their people accountable. Finally the Board of Trustees stepped up and acted.
Some students are planning a vigil Friday night for survivors, hopefully they will express their outrage that the university they love betrayed their trust and allowed vulnerable youth to be abused for 15 years.
Sadly, Penn State University took a page out of the playbook of the Diocese of Philadelphia. Both spent years protecting their institutions at the expense of young children. We can do better. Survivors deserve justice. Our children deserve protection.
Rev. Dr. Marie M. Fortune