Just when you didn't think Penn State's sexual abuse scandal could get any worse, last week's independent investigation revealed that it's done just that.
A seven-month study comprised of more than 400 interviews and a review of 3.5 million documents found that top university officials seemingly cared more about the school's football program than they did the safety of innocent children.
It turns one's stomach to think of the abuse of any child, let alone a child abused by a predator who was being protected by people with the power to prevent the evil.
It is a sordid and terrible story, isn't it?
Former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky has been tried and convicted of abusing young boys. He now sits in a jail cell, where he will be imprisoned for the rest of his life. We're now told the former head football coach to whom he reported, Joe Paterno, knew of the alleged abuse. He is now dead.
And what about the victims?
It is a sad but familiar story. The boys are now men and trying to pick up the pieces from a childhood that was interrupted and corrupted. They must find their way forward to the "normal" life they so desperately want – and that so many of us take for granted.
How does one heal from such abuse? How does one defeat and hold back the demons that lurk in the aftermath of such an ordeal?
Please join me in praying for these anonymous men. We do not know their names, but God does. The Lord loves and cares for each one of them. Let us pray for a day, if it hasn't already come, when they will likewise love Him and turn over all their hurts and burdens to Him.
Incidentally, Focus on the Family counselors are available to assist anyone who is struggling with an issue of this nature. Our number is 1-855-771-HELP (4357).
There is another unfortunate consequence of this evil.
This story has rocked the country, as well it should, and caused many people to reevaluate the boundaries between adults and children. From coaches to teachers to pastors to scout leaders, every parent wants to make sure their son or daughter is safe and secure when entrusted in the care of another. After all, you can never be too careful.
Here is what I wonder: How many well-meaning adults will now think twice about volunteering to mentor a child?
I know of a gentleman whose teenage son received several text messages from a Sunday school teacher encouraging him and letting him know he was praying for the young man. The parent was alarmed and immediately called other parents. Church officials were notified. A meeting was called. Was this man a pedophile? By all accounts, no. He probably should have used better judgment, but his motives were apparently pure. He endured several sleepless nights, worried that his reputation was being questioned.
Sin is corrosive and it's also cumulative. Sin also touches everyone and everything in its path. The sins of one man at Penn State can be addressed in a court of law, but the consequences ripple like waves from the wake of a big boat.
How many adults will keep their distance from kids out of a desire to protect and preserve their reputation? I think of Paul Moro, my high school football coach. He was such a good example to me and probably the most influential man in my life up till that point. We grew very close, and in many ways, it's thanks to him that I became a Christian. What if he had kept me at arm's length? What if he had decided that working closely with teen boys was too risky?
When it comes to helping and protecting children, we must pray that good men and women will resist the urge to retreat from close interactions with kids out of fear of being falsely accused of abusing them. Yes, the sins at Penn State make every man a suspect. But with prayer, wisdom, a spirit of accountability and careful planning, Christian men and women have an enormous opportunity to show God's love and care to the most innocent among us.
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