The Least Of Our Brethren

Andrew Sullivan —  Nov 9 2011 @ 11:42am


Alan Jacobs asks:

For me, the question that looms largest about the Penn State sexual-abuse scandal is this: How could someone see a man raping a child and fail to intervene? Fail even to call 911? I can contemplate many difficult, challenging, frightening situations that cause me to ask myself what I really would do if faced with them — and cause me to have no clear answer. This isn't one of them. How could Mike McQueary not have done more?

Jacobs thinks part of the problem is believing that football is like the military. The hideous truth is: the more hierarchical the system, especially if headed by someone regarded as beyond reproach, like Paterno (or the Pope), the more likely that these crimes can be overlooked to protect the system. As recently as last week, the accused rapist was working out in the Penn State gym. But what is staggering in this case is that someone independently witnessed an act of rape by a grown man on a ten-year-old boy, something very rare in most abuse cases. But the cult of authority triumphed over basic justice and humanity. Just as in the Catholic Church. And children, the most vulnerable, are the least in this system of power.

Paul Campos explains why confronting abuse is so critical:

The point of calling out McQueary’s physical and especially moral cowardice is to remind us how we are all capable of sinking so low, if we do not remind ourselves constantly, in whatever way is most useful for each of us, of the truth of Samuel Johnson’s remark that, "courage is reckoned the greatest of all virtues; because, unless a man has that virtue, he has no security for preserving any other."

Dreher shares a personal experience:

You want to know why stuff like this makes me so damn angry, and why I can’t drop the subject? Because I was, to a lesser degree, that kid in the locker room. When I was an adolescent, I was held down by bullies who threatened to sexually humiliate me. The two chaperones who saw this happening, and who heard me begging them for help, literally stepped over me to get out of the room where this was happening. 

(Photo: A State Trooper covers his face as Penn State university vice president Gary Schultz and athletic director Tim Curley (not pictured) sit in the conference room at the Magisterial District Court on November 7 before being arraigned on charges of perjury and failure to report under Pennsylvania's child protective services law. The two high-ranking Penn State administrators have resigned and will face arraignment on charges they lied to a grand jury investigating suspected child abuse involving the university's former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky. By Patrick Smith/Getty Images)