I’m sure that many of you have seen the news of the serial sexual abuse of young boys by a trusted football coach at Penn State University.  Reading the grand jury report on the case is a harrowing look into the reality of evil — demonic evil.  It tells the story of the charming, charismatic father-figure who, for years, was abusing children in the most horrendous way.

Looking back at the situation,  you can see all the warning signs that were overlooked — the “special” relationship, the gift-giving, the rough-housing and wrestling, the private time alone.  At the time, people didn’t understand their significance — the warning signs of a predator are hard to distinguish from the behavior of a charismatic, empathetic mentor to needy children.

The worst part of the story is that on two separate occasions, people caught the predator in the act of raping young boys.

Twice.  In the act.  Rape.

And nobody rescued them.

This story is very, very real and very, very disturbing to me.  I am having a hard time getting it out of my head.

I am the director of the child protection program here in the Archdiocese.  This means I think about child sexual abuse on a daily basis.  Every day, I dread answering the phone, because of what it might bring.  From time to time, victims of sexual abuse come and speak to me about what happened to them.  Men and women sit in my office and describe the abuse they suffered, sometimes as long as forty years ago.  I sit there while grown adults weep over the suffering they endured as children.

Because nobody rescued them.

We in the Church have learned from our failures in the past.  We can only hope that others will learn the lessons from the Penn State catastrophe.

Awareness.  Prevention.  Vigilance.



4 Responses to “Rescue”

  1. lauren says:

    Ed, you and I do not always see eye to eye on some issues, but this is something that I wholeheartedly agree with you on. We must do more to protect and educate society on child abuse. I commend the church for the steps it has taken to grow and respond to this crisis. Thank you for writing this post.

  2. I share your horror of sex abuse for children. But you say our beloved Church “has learned from our failures in the past”. I disagree. The abuse by a staff member at Penn State brought down the house. Coach Paterno, the president of Penn State, and several other officials thrown out not for what they did but for failing to do what they should have done. Two officials indicted. People made accountable!

    Our Church: Not one bishop who knowingly transferred an abusing priest has ever been disciplined. Cardinal Law, driven from Boston by his priests and people as poster boy for wholesale secretly transferring abusing priests and probably to avoid indictment was welcomed to Rome by JPII, installed as rector of st mary major’s ,mantained in several Vatican dicastories, given a six figure income , celerated the other night with Vatiucan granddur for his 80th birthday. Please, our higher ups have learned nothing. Cardinal Rigali of Philadelphia was caught misleading a Grand Jury, quickly replaced by Caput, sent by B16 as his personal rep to an event in the Czech Republic, his Msgr in charge of Clergy indicted instead of Bevilaqua and Rigali. Please, our Church has learned nothing, certainly nothing of humility in the face of gross facts.

  3. Ed Mechmann says:

    I certainly can’t disagree about the failure to hold people accountable. In my opinion, the failure to enforce the Canon Law was at the heart of much of the problem — offenses went unpunished, and the duty of episcopal oversight was not exercised diligently. I’m not a Canon lawyer, but I can’t help but think that there are ways in the Canon Law for the Holy See to hold bishops accountable for these failures.

    I do disagree that the Church has learned nothing. The massive child protection efforts that we’re engaged in is proof that we are serious about preventing abuse in the future.

  4. Peter Rox says:

    I logged in to write exactly what Msgr. Harry Byrne wrote, above. I agree completely.

    I would add that it was a moment of huge embarrassment when the American Cardinals all went to Rome as a group to meet with JP II to learn what to do about the huge crises. If a level headed person knew that if there is information about alleged abuse, that person knows without a trip to Rome to report it to the CIVIL authorities, the police or the prosecutor, for investigation. It boggled the mind to see that all these men of the Church in such high position felt that they and the alleged criminals were above the law, the CIVIL law. I heard ( on several occasions) a monsignor who is popular with the very right wingers of the Faith say for years every time that there was a story about a sex abuse case that “these are nothing but stories spread by enemies of the Church”. Lots of clerics denounced the secular press for their stories. Thank God, for the children’s sakes, that there was a free secular press.
    We have too many instances yet today in which dioceses are not following the guidelines and criteria established. There are even a couple bishops that are claiming total autonomy under Canon Law and asserting that they do not have to have the over sight board established. Members of the oversight boards and commissions have resigned on numerous occasions, saying that they are being conned by their bishop, not getting the full files or true picture.
    I think that the current campaign crying “religious persecution” of the US Bishops, lead by our own Archbishop, is a false crises. Why is our Church entering politics all the time, especially when our own house is in such dire need of a total housecleaning, no a total renovation? Rigali is a perfect example of one who was always in the civil political arena, fighting the gays by calling for US Constitutional Amendments with Bush, then fighting against Obama to defeat health care reform. Look at the mess he was overseeing in his own diocese. Look at Bishop Finn in Kansas City, who once criminally indicted, made a deal where he now must meet with the prosecutor every month to go over the reports and allegations which come in, for five years ! The bishops can not be trusted. Our bishops are not doing their work as bishops, and instead have all gone into civil politics. They are probably already making their lists of who they should fuss about concerning receiving communion next election season.
    Holy Spirit, enlighten us to the true work of Our Lord, and may we Christians truly be known for our love, rather than the political action committees, legislative liasons, and hysteria about religious persecution being promoted in the name of God.