Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Second Chance Wednesdays - Part 12

Welcome back to Second Chance Wednesdays! It is once again time to turn to the People of the Second Chance's poster series, Never Beyond. If you are new to this campaign, you can read more about it and find links to all of my Never Beyond posts here.


So let's jump in. This week we have for your viewing pleasure Joe Paterno, formerly the head coach of the Penn State football team and more recently an out-of-work old guy who has been accused of following the letter of the law but not the spirit of the law when it comes to protecting children from pedophiles, specifically an alleged pedophile that worked for Coach Paterno.

There are others involved in the scandal alleging that several people covered up the child-molesting activities of one of the Penn State assistant coaches. However, Paterno is the most famous of all involved and therefore has become the face of the matter. Being the poster child (or poster grandfather) for bad decisions is never the way one wants to be remembered, but it looks as if that will be a large part of Joe Paterno's legacy. The administration at Penn State has already decided that Joe will not be getting a second chance to be a leader at their university.

Many people I know have been asking why Joe Paterno, after being told that a little boy had been raped in the Penn State locker room, did not call the police. Why did he only tell his immediate superior and then not follow up to see if some action had been taken to protect that child and many others? One of my very favorite questions that I ask about many people is, "What was he thinking?!?"

At this point we can only speculate. We have no idea if anything like this had been brought to Paterno's attention previously. I would imagine he was quite shocked. Pedophilia and football are not usually linked together in people's minds. But where there are children...

And what were the men at Penn State who chose not to call outside authorities thinking would happen to the little boy? Were they thinking he would just "buck up" and get over it? Did they expect that there would be no lasting damage to this child? Was he supposed to just "take it like a man" and move on? Not being a man, but having grown up in a testosterone-overloaded football town that taught me plenty about male attitudes, I would imagine that it is pretty hard to get your macho on at the same time that you are being abused and emasculated. What were they thinking?

I do not know exactly what those men were thinking. What I do know is that I am going to have to decide what I think. Can I be willing to share radical grace with these fallen men?


Some of my lovely readers might vaguely remember a small reference to when I had to turn somebody in to the authorities for molesting a child.* It was my friend Lesley. She had been sexually abused as a child and she was re-enacting those events (which is what many pedophiles do) with her own son. I found out later that she had also molested another friend's daughter and an ex-boyfriend's son.

I did not handle that situation in a textbook manner. I did not hang up the phone after Lesley had admitted her crime to me and turn around to call 911 or Child Protective Services. I was in shock. There must be a minuscule amount of us who have received those types of confessions outside of a confidentiality-protected relationship and you are never prepared for it. I asked a friend about it. I will admit that we even spent a little time debating on getting Lesley some help, because we knew about the abuse she had suffered and we knew her actions stemmed from that. Did we think about covering it up completely the way it seems was done at Penn State? No. We snapped to pretty quickly and realized that the children needed protection more than our friend needed help. Calling CPS was not easy but it was necessary.

The whole situation was surreal. For weeks afterwards I felt like I was in a really bad episode of the Twilight Zone. I found out later that there were quite a few of our mutual friends that knew that Lesley had molested her son before. They never said a word to me. They never cautioned my other friend not to let Lesley babysit her daughter. I hated them for that. I felt like I would not have had to be included in the situation in any way if somebody had spoke up sooner, although I have no way of knowing that for sure.

I was not in the mood to share grace - not with Lesley; not with the people who already knew she was a pedophile and didn't say anything about it; not with myself, the licensed social worker who knew better but did not have the SWAT team busting down Lesley's door within minutes of her confession to me (for clarification, she was not my client, but I would have been obliged to report a client as well). I did not want to share grace with the District Attorney who promised me Lesley would see some jail time and then took a plea bargain that kept her from being incarcerated. I hated the system that would not sterilize Lesley so that she could not have any more children of her own to molest. I hated all of us and I hated my heart for still loving any of these people. I hated my heart for still beating when I saw the effects of the abuse on my friend's little girl (we never saw Lesley's son again). For some reason I still cannot explain, I hated Lesley more than I had ever hated the man who had molested me.

We were a large group of people who needed to be slathered in grace. There was no second chance to handle that situation better. I wanted so many of those moments back so badly, but there was no do-over. God was merciful. He showed grace to many of us in tangible ways throughout the months and years after Lesley's confession to me. It has been a very long time and I still need to work on forgiveness in this situation, but I see it clearer now. I see how every single one of us needed grace that could only come from an Almighty God. And I see how all of the people involved in this scandal up at Penn State need to be slathered in grace.

Can you see the need for grace in this situation or do you only see the need for justice? You can tell us in the comments here or come over to People of the Second Chance's blog and join the conversation.

*For those who are curious, you can go here, scroll down to the list, and look at #11. Is anyone besides me wondering if this whole series of Never Beyond posters was tailor-made for my life experiences?


  1. Thank you for your courage. Your courage to do the right thing in the face of fear and anger and hurt. Thank you for having the courage to share your story which may, in very tangible ways, may equip others to face and address similar situations in the best possible ways.

    Thank you for your bravery and willingness to address issues head-on. I appreciate your candor on this and many other occasions. I look forward to future posts.

    Proud to be POTSC with you!

  2. Wow, I naturally long for justice, but we all need grace. We all fall short of God's glory.

    Thought provoking post, Carolyn.


  3. Your telling of all of this is your worship. It's beautiful in its rawness. The truth is an example of how amazing His Grace is, how much we need Him, and how much we can be set free. It's hard stuff, but there is purpose in it all.

  4. @faithchaser, so glad to be POTSC with you as well. I could not face these things alone.

    @Mel, always glad when you stop by. We do all fall short of the glory, but we sometimes compare our falls as if one is worse than the other. It still comes out to us all needing grace.

    @Amy, glad you are here. I keep telling myself that there is, indeed, a purpose in it all. If I thought it was pointless, I would lose my hope.

  5. "Slathered." Good word! Reminds me of the old KJV word: "abound". "But where sin abounded, grace did much more abound." (Romans 5:20). Praise God!

  6. @dpkkpowell I grew up using KJV, but I still need the abounding availability of dictionaries to understand it. :)


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