The Scandal at Penn State and the Message Of Accountability

I am a Penn State graduate, and the current sex abuse scandal playing out in Happy Valley really hits home.  I am not a huge football fan, but I have fond memories of going to the games at Beaver Stadium during my college years.  There was the tailgating, the excitement of watching your team win one game after another, and behind it all was JoePa.  We loved JoePa, in fact really the man could do no wrong.  In a University where football is, well, everything, Paterno set a high standard for his players during his 46 years as coach.  It wasn’t just that he won more games than in other coach in the history of college football. He also insisted that his players study and work hard academically, and football players at Penn State graduated at a rate that was well above the national average for football players. Not only did Paterno build a first rate college football program during his tenure at Penn State, he also donated over $4,000,000 to the University, much of it to programs that were not sports related.

Last week Jerry Sandusky, who at one time was Paterno’s assistant football coach and right hand man, was charged with 40 crimes related to child sexual abuse.  He is accused of molesting 8 children over a total of 15 years.  In 2002 a graduate assistant, Mike McQueary, reported to Paterno that he had seen Sandusky sexually assaulting a young boy in the shower of the football building at Penn State.  Sandusky was no longer employed by the football team in 2002, so Paterno passed the information on to other University officials but did not report it himself.  Those other University officials did not report it either.  Nobody called the police to report this crime.

Two Penn State officials, Tim Curley who is the athletic director, and Gary Schultz, the senior vice president for finance and business, have been charged with perjury and failing to report to authorities what they knew of the allegations.  The University President, Graham B. Spanier, and Joe Paterno were not charged with a crime, but were both fired last night by the Board of Trustees.  They were informed of the abuse at the time it occurred and although it wasn’t technically their job to report it either one of them could have stepped forward, but neither one did.

Paterno say he is grieving today for those children and their families, but he must not have been grieving much for that victim back in 2002.  As we have learned from many mission apologies, your statement doesn’t mean a whole lot if you only say it when you are forced out into the spotlight.

It seems to me to be a no-brainer.  Large prestigious organization knows of sexual abuse going on and the people in charge weigh the consequences of bringing it to light. What kind of negative publicity will they get when the press finds out one of their employees is a child molester?  Do they really want to allow that conversation to take place?  Look at how well respected the abuser is in the community.  What if supporters stop sending in their donations because of it and it affects them financially?  Wouldn’t it be better to just keep it quiet and deal with it internally?  Why is anyone surprised that this is the way Penn State handled the situation when they found out about this abuse?  We have seen it over and over again with mission organizations, including SIM.  The needs of the organization come before the needs of the victims.

Because no one at Penn State reported Sandusky to the police back in 2002, he was allowed to remain at large for another 9 years, and who knows how many more victims he had during that time? I keep hearing of how tragic the situation is for Penn State.  It is even more tragic for the victims who will live with the effects of sexual abuse for the rest of their lives.

I am happy and proud that the Board of Trustees sent a message that no one at Penn State is too powerful to be held accountable for their actions, or in this case their inaction.  I hope that message gets out to all the organizations, especially the missions, that are knowingly keeping child molesters on their staff, protecting them from publicity, shielding them from their victims.  No matter how big and prestigious and righteous you think you are, you will also be held accountable one day.


9 thoughts on “The Scandal at Penn State and the Message Of Accountability

  1. Pingback: What do Penn State Football and Serving in Missions Have in Common? | SIM Missionary Kid Survivors

  2. Now that I have that off my heart I just wanted you to know I have been following your name since the ABWE sin saga appeared. I almost feel like I know you and I am grateful there are so many people like yourself who are willing to put their names in the firing line. I am gobsmacked there are so many blogs and forums trying to right this terrible wrong against children. Earlier this year we were informed of the ABWE situation by a lady in Queensland via email and what a horrible discovery of so many “Christian” organizations that have the same sin in their camp.

    • You are welcome at the SIM blog, Pamela. I don’t find it surprising that there are child molesters and other abusers in the ranks of SIM, ABWE and most likely all missions. They are all human after all, and I would expect them to have those types of people just the same as the rest of the population. What is really disturbing is how they refuse to acknowledge it when they know that some of their missionaries have this history and they know exactly who these people are. The special treatment that missionaries get and the way victims are discouraged from coming forward is what truly amazes me. I will never look at SIM the same way again after seeing the way they handle complaints of sexual abuse.

      • Liz,
        Thank you as since I don’t have a “dog in this fight” I sometimes think I don’t have much to offer except I care deeply for children who have been abused and then the people who should care and do something about it covers it up and tells the little ones to just go away. I started this horror journey with ABWE like I said and what do I find but more and more of the same. In the name of Christianity what is wrong with us? We tried to leave ABWE but instead they terminated us and people would tell us they treated Dr. Donn Ketcham better than they did us, we didn’t know why he had to leave the field of Bangladesh until the bangladeshmksspeak blog started. We are now serving under a local church and have none of the politics that
        goes on with a mission board. Seems Christian organizations and some churches as well are a law unto themselves. This sin against children and subsequent cover up needs to be brought out in the open and those guilty must be made accountable. Full stop.

  3. I would like to ask if anyone who reads this would please vote on the poll on Biblical Accountability in Missions. The results thus far are 98 yes and 54 no. I find these results amazing and worrying. I can’t say for a fact but I am assuming most people who voted would be Christians. This poll is open until 30 November. The poll reads thus:

    “Should ABWE continue operating as a mission agency after having willingly harboured a criminal pedophile within their ranks for decades?”

    If you need more information on ABWE and their sin and cover up you can “read all about it” on bangladeshmksspeak blog or forum.

    I for one would not want anyone who voted yes on this poll to be around my grandchildren or for that matter to be around any children.

    Let’s send a clear message to ABWE as so far I don’t think they get it. This kind of sin and cover up must stop now. There are so many blogs and forums exposing this sin and cover up and yet there aren’t many hands up saying, “I/we take responsibility.” Full stop.

  4. Excellent article, Liz. I had just posted a similar article on my site drawing comparisons between Penn State and ABWE. You did a fantastic job laying out the Penn State details. Thanks. But you are so right in laying out the similarities of someone like Paterno being too big too fail, almost god-like, versus the way leaders in mission agencies are treated, in spite of sins and cover ups. Well done.


    • Thanks Wes. I read your post as well and liked the perspective you share from the students on why they are disturbed by this. They are angry about the abuse and the cover-up. Missions should take notice of this.

    • Of course, that would be great if you share it with Fanda Eagles! All I ask is that you give me a link back here so they can come and read more about SIM. I welcome any Fanda Eagles visitors and commenters.

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