Unless you live under a rock, you’re aware of the goings on at Penn State University. But, on the off-chance you’ve missed it, I’ll give you a brief synopsis. Last week (November 4th, to be precise), Pennsylvania Attorney General Linda Kelly indicted former Penn State defensive coördinator Jerry Sandusky on 40 counts of molesting young boys, ranging in age from 7 to 15. Sandusky, who retired from Penn State in 1999, was very active in the Second Mile charity he founded in 1977. According to the Findings of Fact issued by the grand jury, Sandusky used the program to find his victims and the abuse occurred over the course of 15 years. The indictment identified 8 boys, but it’s a safe bet there are more out there. Sandusky’s actions are heinous and disgusting, to be sure. But, just as heinous and disgusting are the actions of the university and the state of Pennsylvania. In 1998, Sandusky was investigated when it he was accused of showering with several young boys and touching one inappropriately. The attorney general declined to press charges after Sandusky admitted he was wrong. In 2002, a graduate assistant walked in on Sandusky having sex with a 10-year-old boy in the shower. He reported the incident to head coach Joe Paterno, who in turn reported it to athletic director Tim Curley. After investigation, Sandusky’s locker room keys were taken away and he was told not to bring anymore boys from Second Mile to the school, but the authorities were not notified. In both cases, Sandusky could have been stopped, but it appears authorities put the reputation of the school and the athletic program over the good of these young men. That, my friends, is outrageous.
While it may be outrageous, it’s not the first time something like this has happened. In 2002, the Boston Globe reported on the prosecution of 5 priests who had molested numerous boys over several years. The incidents the Globe reported on were far from isolated and their coverage revealed a massive coverup, not just in Boston, but across the country. There is a common thread in these scandals and that is the fact that in both, people placed the welfare of an institution over that of people. Sadly, this doesn’t occur in just sex scandals; it happens everyday. It happens when financial institutions place profits first and precipitate financial meltdowns, then ask the government to bail them out. It happens when large retailers choose profit over the welfare of workers and do business with manufacturers overseas whose goods are cheap, but provide terrible working conditions for their employees. It happens when some of the wealthiest Americans vehemently defend their wealth at the expense of the poor and middle class. Anytime things are given dominance over people, I believe we are flouting the will of God.
Much is said about God’s will in Christian circles. People expend great effort to discern God’s will and some believe it’s a big, overarching plan for their entire lives. For me, however, God’s will is simple: to love us and be in relationship with us and that we do the same for our brothers and sisters in this world. People in relationship with one another don’t value things over each other. They certainly don’t allow the weakest and most vulnerable among us to be preyed upon because stopping such actions might tarnish the reputation of a venerated institution.