25 June 2012

Lynn and Sandusky parallels

As you may have heard, verdicts on 2 big cases just came down in Pennsylvania. While former Penn State football coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted of 45 counts ranging from inappropriate behavior to outright child rape, former Philadelphia Archdiocese cardinal's aide -- executive assistant, I guess -- William Lynn was convicted of just 1 count of child endangerment.

Both of these child predator cases involved decades of known criminal behavior and cover-ups ranging from negligent non-reporting to intentional hiding and destruction of documentation. The circumstances surrounding Sandusky's case include possible Clery Act violations, and more than one federal investigation is continuing. (Imagine Penn State losing its federal financial aid funding!) Lynn's case involved a list of abusers that the cardinal ordered destroyed but that one person, in a half-assed, ineffective gesture of minimal concern for the abused children, retained in a secret, locked location for years.

I bring up the Clery Act (text: flip down to subsection (f)) because it effectively makes school administrators "mandatory reporters" of campus crimes and creates a paperwork parallel between the Sandusky and Lynn cases. McQueary's statements to Paterno and the campus police guy should have gone onto paper and become part of the crime log and annual statistics, even if the head of campus police decided it didn't need to go to local law enforcement. And the list that Bevilacqua got should have gone to the parishes, not into a shredder as he ordered. I mean, let's be clear: Bevilacqua should have sent the list to law enforcement; but at the very least parish leadership should have had the information that they were being asked to welcome child rapists into their midst.

Here's Philadelphia D.A. and noted Catholic Seth Williams's take on the Lynn result:

("This should be a lesson, victims of sexual assault need to report the crime [to] law enforcement...not only to the institution that victimized them." Or, as The Onion put it, "Nation's 10-Year-Old Boys: 'If You See Someone Raping Us, Please Call The Police.'")

I'm not a fan of the victim-blaming phrasing in the first part of Williams's statement, but I agree with the overall message, and for both cases. In the face of obfuscation, denial, and vigorous legal defense of child abuse scandals in Massachusetts, Canada, Ireland, and Australia since the 1930s and earlier [1], pedophile priest victims and their advocates cannot reasonably conclude that the Church will ever go to the least trouble of trying to bring the abusers in its house to secular justice. But more than that, outside of church abuse situations, victims need to go to law enforcement way outside of their rapists' organizations. McQueary should have gone to the actual police, not the campus rent-a-cops, when he saw that nobody was looking to have Sandusky arrested for the child rape he witnessed and reported. Clearly, the campus cops are too intertwined with the school administration to act as disinterested law enforcement. I'm not saying that the Penn State campus police should be disbanded and replaced with local and state patrols, but I'm saying that the Penn State campus police should be disbanded and replaced with local and state patrols. What else do you do with a pile of cops whose response to a report of child rape is to ignore federal reporting requirements and merely ban the accused from a single facility?

Which was still better than the Church response. Here's my take on the parallels between the Lynn and Sandusky results:
If Penn State were the Philadelphia Archdiocese, Sandusky would have been quietly shipped parish to parish until he died (maybe in repentance), Paterno would have died peacefully in his sleep at home (oh, wait), and McQueary would have been a low-level church bureaucrat left to take the fall on a two-bit child endangerment conviction.
As one of the Sandusky victim parents said, no one wins. Because even that said, Penn State football will go on this fall and Paterno's estate is likely judgment-proof since the man met his own legal reporting duties, and the Vatican is continuing to hand out mealy-mouthed fake apologies and fight civil liability awards tooth and nail.

Maybe the Vatican wins.

What's killed me throughout both of these cases is the staggering number of people who knew what was going on and said nothing. Note that I don't say "must have known." I'm asserting that people actually knew that Sandusky was raping children and Lynn was a participant in Philadelphia archdiocesean cover-ups, and that these people didn't do anything. I wonder what really made McQueary so shaky and upset after he went to Paterno. Was it witnessing Sandusky raping a child in the shower, or was it having to be a whistleblower against a campus full of people who would riot and destroy property after Paterno was fired for failing to properly deal with (read: report, follow up, expose, fire) a child rapist in his organization?

And finally, if you were surprised that Sandusky's son is also a victim, you're part of the Penn State and Catholic Church problem. And that's not 20/20 hindsight. That's a reasonable interpretation of the facts when a man and his wife have no biological children but have adopted half a dozen boys and fostered other boys from a charity he founded for at-risk boys. (And the man fails a background check for an ordinary volunteer coaching job.) The parents I know who foster and adopt at-risk kids don't select by gender -- except for the molester who adopted my mom, choosing her specifically rather than the brother just a year older than her.

[1] Here, have some low-hanging fruit.

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