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Penn State Sex Scandal

November 14, 2011

The Penn State Sex Scandal is, for me, one of the most shocking events this year, not that we did not have plenty of other scandal this year, and we still have a month and a half to go! It is most shocking because it involved children.  This scandal is at its infancy. There are five investigations in process and we will soon learn the extent of this devastating story.

According to the 23-page Grand Jury report, Jerry Sandusky, assistant coach at Penn State, has been raping, assaulting and molesting minors male children, some as young as 10 years old, for a period of 15 years.

Mr. Sandusky has been arrested and is free on bail! Graham Spanier , the President of Penn State, and Paterno the Coach have both been fired. Mike  McQueary the assistant coach has been suspended “indefinitely.”  They all were aware of Mr. Sandusky’s  behavior and did nothing or not enough to stop him.

The alleged rape of a child and the molestation of 7 other children are not in the realm of ethics but of criminality.

From an ethical perspective what is most concerning is the failure to report what had been witnessed or known by a great number of people and for a very long time to the proper authorities. Apparently that complicity of silence and cover-up enabled the sexual predator to continue his criminal activities, undisturbed.

That failure to report is a total moral failure.

Some professionals such as the clergy, teachers, health care providers are required by law to report to the authorities, suspicion of abuse but most “ordinary” citizens in the U.S. are not obligated to do so.

We all have a natural reluctance to get involved in other people’s lives. Self-preservation and fear are probably to most influential motivators. Fear of losing our security, physical and financial. We may also fear a disruption of our comfortable lives.

Turning a blind eye is human but it is wrong.

Joe Nocera in his New York Time Op-Ed entitled “the Institutional Pass” makes an analogy between the cover-up at Penn State and the cover-up in the Catholic Church on the abuse of minors by Catholic priests for a great number of years. He thinks that Joe Paterno, who is known to be a “devout Catholic” should have learned from that disgraceful history.

I can think of another analogy: the Holocaust. There were millions of bystanders that knew what was happening to their neighbors yet very few spoke out of did anything about it. The Holocaust could not have happened without them.

The key word in such situation is responsibility. Once we know, we lose our innocence or any claim to ignorance. Once we know we are responsible. We are responsible to protect against potential harm our fellow man and woman and particularly children.

As the Torah says:

“Do not stand idly on your brother’s blood” (Leviticus 19:16)

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