I am not much of a sports fan but like most of America I have been following the sexual abuse tragedy at Penn State. The NCAA’s announced penalties against Penn State which many say, “Penn State’s football future looks like a death penalty.”
As I read the penalties most of them did not mean a lot to me since I don’t follow the sport closely, but they did cause me to think about the Tweet by Adam Taliaferro, who was paralyzed playing for Penn State before making a dramatic recovery, “NCAA says games didn’t exist. I got the metal plate in my neck to prove it did. I almost died playing 4 PSU . . . punishment or healing?!?” He was referring to the penalties that strikes the previous 14 campaigns from history.
Here is a young man who was there to play football. He almost died, and will always live with the physical cost in his body. He says, “Punishment or healing?” This is my concern. Not just for Penn State, but anytime we have the responsibility of dealing with hideous wrongdoings and compromise, like what happened at Penn State. Unfortunately, it seems like more high-level crimes of every type are happening, proving there is way too much lenience in our society. I applaud NCAA along with Christopher L. Gasper of the Boston Globe in saying, “The NCAA has done what Penn State would not — stand up and do the right thing.” The words of Adam Taliaferro also resound in my heart; “Punishment or healing!?”
Punishment is necessary. The one(s) who committed the abuse and those who ignored the abuse must be punished. The system that allowed the abuse has to be corrected and securities put into place to make certain this cannot happen again. The authorities have to use whatever powers they have to leverage the punishment.
It seems that it is impossible to impose punishment upon the predator; the enablers and the system, without the consequences affecting everyone else anyway near the epicenter. The fallout is like a tsunami. We will never know how many lives have been altered because of the sin and selfishness of a few people who loved power and money more than their fellow human beings. First and foremost our concern and prayers go out to the victims of the abuse. We know that there is no amount of punishment leveraged that can atone for their pain. I also feel for those who are caught in the wake of the tsunami.
The statement Adam Taliaferro made, “punishment or healing?!?”, I don’t believe is in anyway saying that punishment should not be administered. But the question is, how do we impose punishment on those who must be punished, require change where the system has failed, while setting into place a process for healing those caught in the tsunami?
We cannot tolerate abuse, nor can we stomach those in authority who are not willing to impose punishment and make changes to ensure that predators like Jerry Sandusky cannot abuse our sons and daughters. We have seen the tolerance of the Catholic Church that seems unwilling both to punish and to change their system that has allowed abuse for who knows how long. It is apparent that no authorities in the church or outside the church are willing to deal with it to the extent necessary.
Jerry Sandusky is in prison. Joe Paterno is dead and his legacy destroyed. I believe many who were in responsible positions at Penn State have resigned and will be held accountable. The proper authorities have scrutinized Penn State and the system and are imposing just penalties.
The question is, can we punish those who deserve punishment while protecting those caught in the tsunami? Can there be, Law and Grace, at the same time. Can’t Penn State be punished without punishing the, Adam Taliaferros? The freshmen that came to Penn on scholarships to play football? Do we always have to impose sanctions on the innocent’s future because of the past of the guilty? Does the next generation always have to bear the consequences of the former?
Perhaps there is no other way. When our leaders fail and our systems break down, everyone suffers. The victims suffer the most, but we all suffer.
Let’s hope that the example of Penn State will not stop with Football, Universities or Churches, but will somehow touch the souls of all Americans. Our financial systems have failed us. Our marriages and families are broken. Our government does not seem to be, “of the people, by the people, for the people” as President Abraham Lincoln declared at Gettysburg. We have left our moral foundations based upon, “In God we trust.” Unless we all do a deep soul searching, I’m afraid that there will be many more caught in the tsunamis of our failures.
Larry is president of Praise Chapel International, an author and international conference speaker.