I fully intended to post this week's column about Criticism and the Athlete. But with the breaking news of pedophilia allegations against a former Penn State football coach, let's put that off till next week.
Regrettably, sexual predators are not news; it’s not shocking any more unless it occurs to very close to someone you know or within an organization which you value. As the famous bank robber, Willie Sutton once said, “why do you rob banks?” and he replied, “Because that's where the money is.”
It shouldn't be a surprise that we find sex offenders in the ranks of coaching, day care, education or other activities that require adult supervision of children. That is not likely to change. The psychological disease, the mental illness, is not going to go away after the fact, by publicity, public disgrace or incarceration. Therefore it is our duty to become ever vigilant before the fact and talk with our children; observe and listen to the things that may be out of the ordinary.
But that's not what this column is about. What concerns me, and what should concern you as well, is the evolution of the “organizational” cover ups. When pedophilia, spousal abuse, and other acts abhorrent to our value system are uncovered, there are often incidents of a systematic effort to hide the transgression and the transgressor from public exposure.
When did the importance of the organization become of greater value than the victim? Why? When did the coach’s reputation become more important than the player’s rights; when did the school’s status become more important than the athlete’s protection. When did the organization of the church become more important than its parishioners who built the church? When did the political position, the power of the office, become more important than the honor it represents and the constituents served?
In addition to our shared anger at the offender’s act of deprivation; we should be equally repulsed by the repetitive actions of others whose singular priority is protecting the organization as a whole, rather than the individual.
The process persuades future victims that their personal disclosure is pointless and the accusation presents the very real possibility of reliving the incident the second time, but this time in the public eye.
The perpetrators of victim-centered criminal abuse have serious mental illness. However the people who discover their activity and create the cover-up should be held equally accountable. It is reasonable to believe that the cover up is created by people whom we assume know right from wrong. What is puzzling to us all is the fact that they must know that their actions enable the predator to continue abusive behavior. Why then take the risk?
The cover up is not about the sport, educational process, the church or the government. Cover ups are not created to protect and shield the honor of the alma mater, parishioners, students or constituents. It’s about protecting dollars; revenue and power. The neverending circle of more money - more power, more power - more money, is a leadership model known to all and
recognized as the path to success by many.
Cover ups are about personal greed in deference to victim’s needs and justice. It is a preemptive strike based on the fear that someone will make a decision to reduce their donation or perhaps not donate at all. Or that someone will lose power or their job. Therefore they should be prosecuted in the same manner as if they drove the getaway car in the bank robbery.