The state college trustees were right to fire Joe Paterno and the college president. They have acted to protect the integrity of their institution, and more importantly send a powerful message about how they expect their university leaders to always act to protect children and not the image of their institution.
The grand jury testimony was clear: Paterno turned a blind eye toward a pedophile coach that used the Penn State showers for multiple sexual assualts against minors. When he was told of a specific episode by a distraught graduate assistant, Joe didn't call the cops. His graduate assistant didn't. Joe didn't have the sense to use his influence on the graduate assistant to encourage him to call the police as an eye witness to a sexual assault.
And according to the grand jury report, more boys were needlessly assaulted after this.
We know the lesson of Sandusky: there are perverts everywhere posing as coaches, teachers, preachers, Sunday School teachers, mentors, and seemingly all-around good guys that want to prey on your children. This makes it incredibly difficult for us parents to know who really wants to help our kids. We didn't need Sandusky to teach us this, we already knew it.
But Paterno's firing teaches us three lessons:
- it tells us that in the secular realm, we hold our legends and heroes to much higher standards than we do our ordained "men of God" in Christianity. Look at the Catholic priest scandals all over the world, evidence that molesting priests were shuffled from parish to parish. Look at Baptist preachers who knew of sexual molestation in their church by preachers and ministers that didn't report the abuse to authorities - and in some cases even allowed the pedophile to simply move away to be someone else's problem.
- it tells us that even the most respected and revered coach in the history of college football is not so powerful as to be not accountable for a moral failure to protect children. Citizens in Pennsylvania - and Paterno himself - never envisioned a day that a group of trustees would deem him unfit to be the coach of the state university football team. It was not his God-given right to be the coach of Penn State...many pastors think they are appointed by God himself to their position as pastor, leading many to think they are above being held accountable for a moral failure to protect children from perverts in their church.
- there was an institutional arrogance within the Penn State university that led employees from the janitor all the way to the president of the university to not do all they could to protect children from a sexual predator posing as a powerful assistant coach. Thankfully, this arrogance may have come to an abrupt end by the actions of the state trustees yesterday and in the days to come. Question is: when will "trustees" of the Southern Baptist Convention realize they can do much, much more to protect children from predator ministers?
Thankfully, Paterno will not be on the sideline this weekend coaching Penn State for turning a blind eye toward a pedophile coach.
Sadly, there are many pastors and priests who this weekend will be in pulpits preaching who should have been fired for turning a blind eye toward molesters in their church.