Today I checked the BBC website and the top two stories on the “US & Canada” tab both dealt with sexual abuse of children — the guilty verdict in the Jerry Sandusky trial and the guilty verdict in a trial of a Philadelphia priest accused of covering up sexual abuse of children by the Catholic clergy. Ugh. Obviously, it’s not the kind of image of America we want to present to the world at large.
Although Sandusky and Monsignor William Lynn have been brought to justice, the overriding theme of their stories is of institutions and adults that failed to stand up for children. It’s bad enough that there are sexual predators and abusers lurking in the dark corners of society, but it is inexcusable when people who could stop the criminal acts of those twisted individuals do not do so.
Children are among the most vulnerable people in society. Parents know this, and also know that they must trust adults who interact with those children on any given day to protect and help them. When those adults abdicate that responsibility — and instead seem to look the other way, or even worse, actively enable the sick abuser — it is frightening and infuriating.
We need to figure out how the Sandusky and Catholic priest horror stories happened, and how to stop them from ever happening again. We have to determine how to restore the basic notions of right and wrong that should have caused the adults who failed to act to instead fulfill their obligations as members of a civilized society.