I am still amazed at the irony of the two cases: Penn State, Jerry Sandusky and that of a couple of priests, one being a monsignor – William Lynn.
Now of course no one could have aligned these two sagas. It’s just one of those things.
But after months here we are: Joe Paterno has died, his football victories from 1998 to 2011 vacated, the university fined $60 million, bowl bans, reduction of scholarships and his statue in front of the football stadium removed. All of this as a result of the sexual abuse scandal involving Sandusky.
Lynn, meanwhile, became the first U.S. church official branded a felon for covering up sex abuse claims against priests. He was sentenced today to three to six years in prison. A jury convicted him last month of felony child endangerment for his oversight of now-defrocked priest Edward Avery, who is serving a 2½- to five-year sentence after pleading guilty to sexually assaulting an altar boy in church.
Both cases involve sexual abuse. And both involve people formally held in high esteem. That is Paterno, Sandusky and the many priests in the Catholic Church. People who were once thought to be the pillars of society now regarded as social pariahs.
But how did we get here? And how many others are there who we are unsuspecting of right now? Who can you trust? Who are our heroes and our role models? What do we tell our kids? Those are all great questions – without a lot of good answers.
It’s as if we look at people first as the criminal and then as the hero. We don’t trust coaches, mentors, anyone who shows an interest. If they show interest they must be pedophiles or sex abusers. When the kid belts a homer, stomps on home plate and charges back to the dugout no coach should dare smack the kid on the butt and shout, “great job.” Nor should the other coaches or maybe even his or her teammates.
But the question remains: how did we get to this point? And how can anyone wonder why no one would want to coach a team, be a Boy or Girl Scout leader, lead a group or organization involving kids, anything at all that could be perceived as freakish?
It’s really a shame.
In the Lynn case, Judge M. Teresa Sarmina said Lynn enabled “monsters in clerical garb … to destroy the souls of children, to whom you turned a hard heart.”
She added: “You knew full well what was right, Monsignor Lynn, but you chose wrong.”
That may be true for Lynn, Sandusky and all the others who have been caught. But the problem is not everyone is like “them.” There are lots of men and women out there who donate their time in the true spirit of wanting to give of themselves.
Sandusky was a monster. Paterno may or may not have been the monster he’s been portrayed as and Lynn probably could have done something to end the cycle of the pedophile priests. But what about those who are the good people? We read in papers like the Daily Local the horrible stories of adults abusing children, ruining their lives. But what we don’t hear enough of are the good works.
While coaching a youth hockey team once (where none of my kids were involved), a parent asked me why I was coaching the team – as if I was doing something weird. With a bit of an attitude I responded that I was coaching because I liked it, that I liked trying to inspire the kids to work hard and do their best even if I wasn’t an NHL coach. I was just a dad like the guy asking the question – except I was actually putting in some effort.
Not that anyone is at fault for the cases of Sandusky and the issues with the Catholic Church. Most of the blame falls on those within those organizations.
But maybe if we as adults and parents remain active and involved we could be the ones blowing the whistle on these horrific crimes against our kids.
Look, there are always going to be bad people out there looking to harm people – even little kids. And we’re not going to stop them all. But there are also lots of good people. And we should work with them and encourage them to inspire our kids. But we should also become involved ourselves. Not only to keep our eyes open to potential problems but to maybe contribute ourselves.
Jerry Sandusky got what was coming to him. Monsignor Lynn is going to jail for his role in allowing horrible things to happen to innocent children. The system can work and it’s sad it is this way. But we need to make sure our kids understand not everyone is bad and out to harm them. That would be a scary way to live your life when you’re a child.
Let’s make sure we talk to them about potential danger signs and what to do when forced into a bad situation. Let’s make them aware. But don’t scare them to death. There’s a lot of good going on in our world. Let’s make the best of it.