I just listened to the attorneys in the Jerry Sandusky case as they reported on the verdict. Sandusky was found guilty of 45 out of 48 charges in this horrific case, and although sentencing likely will not take place for several months, he will spend the rest of his life in prison.
I have to admit that I am pleased with the verdict. Although nothing can undo the trauma of abuse, at least those who were victims of Sandusky’s atrocities know that he is finally being held accountable. I cheered for the victims—not just his, but victims everywhere. I cheered for the survivors. I cheered for justice.
The State Attorney General said that at least one of the victims had asked, “Who would believe a kid?” She replied, “We would believe a kid.” I loved that. It was a powerful statement. I just wish it had been true.
People didn’t believe the kids. Not when there was one. Not when there were two. Not until there were many accusations, coming from adults, not children. Only then were their voices heard and honored.
This case illustrates so much of what is wrong in our society: that people will go to great lengths to look the other way; that those in power will do anything to preserve it; that the already-vulnerable continue to be targeted and preyed upon; that truth just simply doesn’t matter.
So yes, I cheered when the verdict was announced, for truth won out and the vulnerable were heard and the powerful were brought down and no one can look away.
I cheered. And then I was silent. I sat in prayerful silence. For the victims. For the survivors. For the families torn apart, including the Sandusky family.
And then I heard the church bells. As the Attorney General was speaking, the bells of some nearby church rang the hour. While the bells rang, she quoted a Supreme Court decision from 1988: the twofold aim of the law is that guilt shall not escape, nor innocence suffer.
Innocence has suffered. As the mother of one of the victims said after the verdict was read, “Nobody wins. We’ve all lost.”
Another verdict was brought down within hours of the Sandusky verdict, just two hundred miles away, in Philadelphia. Monsignor William J. Lynn was found guilty of endangering children, “becoming the first senior official of the Roman Catholic Church in the United States convicted of covering up sexual abuses by priests under his supervision.” He himself did not molest anyone, but he was found guilty of failing to protect children from priests known to be pedophiles.
I cheered this ruling, too, because the church must not tolerate abuse. The church of Jesus Christ—in whatever manifestation—must not allow any form of abuse, molestation, discrimination, marginalization, or intimidation. Not physically, not emotionally, and not spiritually. After all, Jesus said, “What you have done unto the least of these, my children, you have done unto me.” And what we have done unto Jesus is an abomination.
We have some important lessons we need to learn, and quickly, before more innocents suffer. Only then can we proudly let the church bells ring. Only then will they mean something.