Wednesday, November 9, 2011

What The Church Should Learn From The Penn State Sexual Abuse Scandal

"...with the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more."
 ~ Penn State Head Football Coach Joe Paterno 11/9/2011

For those who don't know, the institution of Penn State University has been rocked by failure to act in regards to alleged sexual abuse and molestation of children on the college campus by one of its former football officials. It all begins in 2002 when former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky a 32 year assistant coach who according to ESPN News retired in 1999, was alleged to have sexually molested and abused eight young boys under his direction over a 15 year period of time. Some of whom were abused on the college campus. The problem is heightened by the fact that it appears that no Penn State official took immediate action by either investigating or filing police reports. In essence, their silence allowed Mr. Sandusky continued access and credibility in dealing with young boys and potential victims.  

Here's What We Know:
  • In 2002, then intern, now assistant coach, Mike McQueary, witnessed former Penn State Assistant coach Jerry Sandusky having sex with a boy that appeared to be approximately 10 years of age, in the Lasch football building shower room on campus.
  • Mr. McQueary, who apparently was distraught over what he had witnessed, left immediately and called his father John McQueary, who advised him to leave the grounds and come home. McQueary, who is a former Penn State football player himself, DID NOT return to stop the act, confront the coach or even call the police. As a parent, I would imagine that he was advised to simply come home for his own personal safety and well being. 
  • The next day (a Saturday) Mike McQueary contacted coach coach Joe Paterno (now 84 years old) who had been at the University for about 54 years (at that time) 
  • Joe Paterno in turn contacted Athletic Director Tim Curley with the complaint. That Sunday (the next day) Mr. Curley came to Coach Paterno's home and was made aware of the incident face to face. 
  • Tim Curley in turn contacted Gary Schultz, vice-president for business and finance and both Curley and Schultz conducted a meeting with Mike McQueary approximately one and a half weeks after the initial report had been made. They promised to look into McQueary's allegations and Paterno was not present. 
  • McQueary was told 2 weeks later that Sandusky's keys to the building had been taken and a report had been made to Sandusky's  group to help disadvantaged boys, The Second Mile. 

  • Neither Curley, nor Schultz took any further action, did not involve police and under oath minimized the report received from McQueary stating that neither had any clue of the seriousness of the incident and  with Schultz stating that this allegations were "not that serious" and that he "had no indication that a crime had occurred". 
  • Schultz testified to the grand jury that he was aware of a similar incident that had been investigated in 1998 by the University police and Child protective services, but never ask for or received a report and DID NOT report the 2002 incident to the University police. The failure to report this incident was a crime under Pennsylvania law. 

Under Pennsylvania law, suspected abuse is to be reported within 48 hours of said incident this was further displayed by Penn State's refusal to identify the victim and see to their needs or assist them in reporting a potential crime. 

The University Response 

At the time the Penn State response was basically "don't do it here" as opposed to ANYONE who does this that we are aware of will face full reporting and penalties under the law. Penn State Trustees who will have an official regular meeting Friday Nov. 11th 2011, have announced that a special investigative committee will be commissioned to investigate the scope of the handling of the alleged abuse. They also released a statement saying:
"We cannot begin to express the combination of sorrow and anger that we feel about the allegations surrounding Jerry Sandusky,"..."We hear those of you who feel betrayed and we want to assure all of you that the board will take swift, decisive action."
Penn State University Board Trustee Paul Silvis has gone on record stating the following:
"We're making sure we put processes in place so that we never have anyone in a position of trust ever violate young boys ever again,"..."It's just shameful what happened. We need to focus not on football, not on Paterno or any of that crap. It's about putting systems, procedures, checks and balances in place so this can never happen ever again."
Both Curley, Sandusky and Schultz have been arrested and subsequently freed on bond, with Curley and Schultz relieved of their duties pending outcome of the investigation. The no less than legendary coach of Penn State University Joe Paterno who has decided to retire at the end of the 2011 football season and conversations regarding his legacy is the talk of sports news.

ESPN analyst and lawyer Jay Bilas has stated that this seems to be a "conspiracy of cowards" where no one wanted to do anything and made excuses for not doing anything by basically pleading ignorance.  Analyst Stephen A. Smith believes that Paterno should be moved immediately because it is unconscionable that in light of the allegations that this man (Sandusky) yet had access to PSU facilities and children for over a decade after he retired and even while he was assistant coach to Paterno.  He also noted that Paterno and the University have shown a greater interest in their NAME rather than in what has happened to the victims.

McQueary In Court:

What Should The Church Learn From This?

1- Covering up allegations of sexual abuse and clergy sexual sins is the fast tract to obscurity. God hasn't called the church to cover itself, he has called the church to minister to the needs of the people.

2- Friendships, relationships and public perception should be thrown to the wind when it comes to taking a stand for right, righteousness and true equity among the people of God, the community and the world. Healing those who have been abused and ministering to those needs should be be first and foremost 100% of the time. 

Unfortunately too many of us think like this:

“Media coverage of any sexual oriented event and the church will have a negative slant. The pessimistic coverage will have a direct impact on the overall public perception of the church involved, its corporate body and its membership. Additionally, this negativity will directly affect new membership and outside donations.” ~ Elder Now Bishop Enoch Perry COGIC as reported by COGIC Abuse Watch 3/2010  in "Did Enoch Perry, COGIC's Top Lawyer, reveal coverup strategy?"

Prov. 28:13 ~ "He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy."

3- Image, assets, names, positions and seats of "power" are nothing when it comes to the lives of people effected by sexual abuse, misconduct and plain sexual SINS. Those things are secondary to getting it right. 

4- Yes, in everything there will be liars, and those who are simply disgruntled or seeking "deep pockets" however that should not discourage the church from going to God in prayer, seeking truth and remembering our mandate and obligation to him above all others. 

The Presiding Bishop of the Church Of God In Christ has said this regarding the issue: 
"We now live in a litigious society. People file lawsuits for every conceivable grievance, whether real or imagined. To protect the name, image, and assets of the Church of God in Christ, we must take positive steps to seriously investigate every case of alleged sexual abuse by the clergy. We must stand behind and support those who are falsely accused of sexual improprieties and found innocent by the courts. We must also insure that the Church act quickly to take firm and positive action against those who violate the sanctity of their positions and are found guilty of sexual abuse and other sexual improprieties." ~ ‘Person To Person 2007’ The Most Rt. Rev. Bishop Charles E. Blake Presiding Bishop Church Of God In Christ Inc. Memphis, TN. 
Though Presiding Bishop Charles E. Blake wrote this in 2007; during the 2011, 104th Annual Holy Convocation of the Church Of God In Christ, to my knowledge (please correct me if I am wrong), there was not ONE mention of care or concern for the victims of clergy sexual sins within this church. Not even by the Presiding Bishop within his official day message.

UPDATE: 11/10/2011 ~ I am informed that there was an address regarding sexual abuse during the Men's session and meeting Friday 11/4/2011. This was a discussion that was led by Bishop Enoch Perry. However the extent or scope of this talk is unknown to me at this time. Any additional or specific information regarding this address would be welcome.  

Out of over 44 documented cases and allegations and at a minimum 25 more received within the offices of Witness Freedom Ministries, there was no ONE minister,  missionary, evangelist, prophet, mother, bishop, trustee, general board member or otherwise who mentioned that we have any obligation to the sexually abused by our church or that anyone would help file reports or help seek justice for those who have been treated unjustly. 

5- What the church should learn is that silence only perpetuates abuse and insulates the abuser and damages public perception. Unfortunately the Bishop's commentary above confuses two issues that should not be confused when it comes to this issue. The issue of assets and the issue of creating systems and procedures that will swiftly address the sins. Both of these areas should be addressed separately, but within certain agreement and confines. 

6- The church should learn that it has a higher obligation to act than secular institutions. Though Penn State is troubled and certain leaders and former leaders are receiving negative publicity, certain ranking officials have at least spoken out and expressed outrage over the incidents and the failure to act or address the issues. It may be too little at this point, but it is never too late to address these type of improprieties.

7- Silence among church leadership in light of the knowledge of such atrocities is tantamount to committing the crime itself. When an official knows of this type of sin among the saints and fails to act they are just as equally guilty of the crime and sin. Silence is not golden!

8- If we do nothing, not only will people continue to be destroyed, our image (which we are trying to preserve) will forever be tarnished and we will be relegated to the trash-heap of irrelevant philosophers.  In other words it will be said that we had a form of godliness, but denied the power thereof.

How shall we escape? Should we seek to? As for me and my house, we shall sever the Lord!


Penn State Investigation Grand Jury Report

Joe Paterno's complete statement:
“I am absolutely devastated by the developments in this case. I grieve for the children and their families, and I pray for their comfort and relief. I have come to work every day for the last 61 years with one clear goal in mind: To serve the best interests of this university and the young men who have been entrusted to my care. I have the same goal today.
“My goals now are to keep my commitments to my players and staff and finish the season with dignity and determination. And then I will spend the rest of my life doing everything I can to help this University.” “That's why I have decided to announce my retirement effective at the end of this season. 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. 
“My goals now are to keep my commitments to my players and staff and finish the season with dignity and determination. And then I will spend the rest of my life doing everything I can to help this University.”


  1. Temporarily Allowed Comment:

    Pastor B,

    I hadn't been to your site in quite some time, and hearing of Paterno's
    firing this morning I wondered if you were going to cover the story.
    Well, lo and behold I see that you've taken on the task already...

    Certainly a sobering situation requiring much prayer and reflection. And
    yes, the church can learn much from this ordeal. I pray that the glory
    of Christ be seen through this and that all parties involved come to
    real, authentic, repentant and powerful salvation in our Great Savior.

    In the Grip of His Grace,


  2. Joe Paterno was fired last night 11/9/2011. ESPN's Mike & Mike In The Morning on 11/10/2011 referenced the scene in a few good men when 2 soldiers had been convicted of following orders for a "Code Red" from their commanding officer which resulted in the death of a fellow soldier.

    When they were dishonorably discharged from the military, the thought was rendered by one soldiers that they did nothing wrong. The question was posed, "why were we being punished for doing nothing wrong?" The other soldier said something to the effect, "yes we did something wrong...we didn't fight for those who couldn't fight for themselves"

    Ooh, that the church would get the message, that we MUST fight for those who can't fight for themselves. This is why no church can afford to simply shuffle off individuals to the next post or position when they have done wrong in a similar manner. The victims must be ministered to and the perpetrators must be restored.

    When will the church be the church that Christ has called us to be?

  3. This whole thing is disturbing on many levels, but one question I have that is arising...

    It seems that it could be the case that McQueary, and Paterno are responsible for their failure to act or contact the proper authorities...

    Now, what if a person is a church member and knows and sees this type of thing happening? Does the average church member have a legal responsibility to report to the authorities when these type of things are presented before them? Then what obligation does the church member have when these sort of things (basically equivalent to criminal activity) are noised within the congregation? Does the member that is aware of this type of activity hold a moral and civil responsibility to act and address the situation in the appropriate venue, even if that is the legal venue?

    I think the church has an obligation to be definitively clear on this issue. This is a matter of people's lives.

  4. Now, Sandusky was only on campus because of his negotiated University agreement...NOT because Joe Pa had him there...He had access to almost everything and keys to the gym, sports center and all. So since we're firing people, let's begin by firing those who negotiated his retirement agreement!

  5. My commentary sent to ESPN regarding this issue:

    Concerning Joe Paterno and Penn State University, I would like to say that as an advocate for victims of clergy sexual abuse and misconduct, my heart has been overwhelmed with grief this week over these events. I look at the young people who were victimized and the individuals who have been caught in the wake of sins that went without rebuke or correction. However, what I find also disturbing is the confusion and rush to exact "justice" in this case. My concern centers around this: Mr. Sandusky retired and negotiated a retirement agreement in 1999 with PSU. At that time he was already under investigation for sexual molestation or abuse stemming from involvement with the children of the Second Mile. It seems that some of this was known to PSU officials with whom he was negotiating. Instead of PSU demanding a strict end to their relationship with Sandusky, they enabled him by granting him keys and unfettered access to the facilities. From what I understand, NONE of the current personel including Coach Paterno were privy to any of this information...What am I saying? I am saying that if ANYONE broke either the law or displayed bad moral judgement, it begins and ends with the team, group, or individual who negotiated a retirement agreement with a pederist. The fallout of destruction and subsequent demolition of lives including those of the victims, DOES NOT rest on Coach Paterno, nor does it rest on Mike McQueary. I believe it rests squarely upon the decision makers who allowed a suspected criminal, under investigation to continue to have unfettered access to the university and children right under their nose. THEY are the guilty party. Only problem...who are they? Are they the Trustee Board of PSU? Are they human resources? Who are they? Rather than allow this tragedy to have victory over all in it's path, I say that PSU refrain by first reinstating Joe Paterno and retireing him appropriately and with honor. He was NOT the one who granted access to this man. In fact this university placed both Mr. Paterno and his players in harms way knowingly for years without so much as a warning. They set a BOMB on campus and expected it not to blow up. SHAME ON THEM!!!Whoever "they" are, they are the guilty party and the ones who are responsible for following the laws set in place to keep pederists away from children. It is too bad that PSU feels their only recourse is to punish honest men and ulltimately speak after the fact that they have concern for victims that they KNEW existed before the 2002 incident. Yes, I am a strong advocate for victims rights, and they will have their day to confront their abuser, Thank God. However ALL of us, including teh good men on campus who dealt with a situation for which they should have had much greater support, direction and insight have been destroyed as a result of "business as usual" type decision making. Let not this evil destroy everyone in its wake. In doing so it will fulfill its purpose. Let us have the unity and boldness to stand with those who have acted as best they could givine the circumstance they were given to work with. Let us focus on bringing thsis pedophile to justice, and most of all healing and helping our fellow citizens and young people who have been destroyed as a result. We need no more sacramental lambs. We need forthright thinking and all of these young people and students of PSU need our support. I stand ready in whatever capacity, but for now I deliver my support in earnest prayer for the healing and blessing of all who have been caught in this disaster. Thank you.

    Pastor Harvey Burnett


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