Saturday, November 12, 2011

Thoughts on Penn State

The first thing to say about the news coming out of Penn State University this week is that we don’t know for sure what happened. All that we have been hearing has been surrounding allegations that have not been proven in a court of law. But, those at the university who are looking at the evidence and testimony to this point are making decisions which point to the allegations being true. There has to be much credible evidence to them that something seriously wrong did, in fact, occur in order for them to fire the university president as well as the long-time, legendary football coach, Joe Paterno. Anyone who knows how important Paterno is to Penn State knows that this is a knockout punch to the football program and maybe to the university itself. So, we can deduce from the decisions of the university’s board of trustees that the evidence points to the allegations being true.

If what we have been hearing is true, then the first thoughts are with the children (now young adults) who were victims of attacks by a pedophile. It’s unspeakable and unthinkable what they have gone through. Many of the heinous and criminal acts go back several years when the kids were very young. They had serious wounds inflicted upon them for which they have tried to find healing. These wounds have now been reopened with all of the public attention in the past week. And, new developments, statements, actions, and future trials might bring new wounds. Our deep, deep desire is that each and every victim of these and other sexual abuses finds some healing…some light in their darkness. We pray that they find healing.

One of the most pressing questions in all of this is how did nine years (or longer) go by without anyone doing anything about this? My guess at the main answer: pride. St. Augustine once said that, “pride is the root of all sin”, and I believe it. Pride in Penn State football and pride in Joe Paterno – they have become one and the same – is the only explanation, really, for how this can happen. In normal circumstances, there is nothing wrong in taking pride in a sports team, coach, or player. For example, I am proud to be a fan of the Washington Redskins (even though we STINK!). But, pride in college football teams runs deeper than most sports team, especially at Penn State. And, if the same man is coach at a very proud program like Penn State for 46 years and achieves much success, then there will be deep pride in him. This week, many people have described the situation at Penn State as a “cult”. Of course, he can become very proud in his own mind. While I wouldn’t say that Joe Pa is a proud man in general, it appears that his pride blinded him from doing what was right in regard to the sex abuse. Pride in him blinded others in the same way. This might have all been about him from the start. In other words, they were all thinking that if the charges against one of his coaches became public, what would happen to Joe and his legacy? They might have been thinking what would happen to Penn State, but, again, I think that Joe Paterno and PSU became one and the same.

One more thought from all of this is about the morality of our society on sexuality. It’s been intriguing to see how our relativistic society agrees with our Truth-filled Church on one aspect of sex: it’s good in some situations and bad in others. The difference is that society has reduced the amount of sinful sexual acts to almost nothing while the Church has maintained her view (any sexual acts outside of marriage are immoral). So, when society condemns a sexual act like abuse and actually shows an intolerance for evil, it is profound. I have heard the words “moral” and “immoral” on the TV more in the past week than in the past year(s). I just wonder, though: has tolerance of immoral sexual acts and opposition to moral absolutes by our society contributed to the sex scandals of our times?

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