If you asked anybody, nobody in their right mind would allow a sex abuser to go on abusing young people, if the abuse is known about. Sometimes doing something equates not doing enough. Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, says that the firing of Joe Paterno has lessons for us all.
But the world has not only changed for college athletics. The detonation of the Penn State scandal must shake the entire nation into a new moral awareness. Any failure to report and to stop the sexual abuse of children must be made inconceivable. The moral irresponsibility that Penn State officials demonstrated in this tragedy may well be criminal. There can be no doubt that all of these officials bear responsibility for allowing a sexual predator to continue his attacks.
What about churches, Christian institutions, and Christian schools? The Penn State disaster must serve as a warning to us as well, for we bear an even higher moral responsibility.
Mohler goes on to say that Christians are reluctant to report sexual abuse because they don't want to make a wrongful accusation. He says that shouldn't stop Christians from doing their moral duty:
The moral and legal responsibility of every Christian — and especially every Christian leader and minister — must be to report any suspicion of the abuse of a child to law enforcement authorities. Christians are sometimes reluctant to do this, but this reluctance is both deadly and wrong.
Sometimes Christians are reluctant to report suspected sexual abuse because they do not feel that they know enough about the situation. They are afraid of making a false accusation. This is the wrong instinct. We do not have the ability to conduct the kind of investigation that is needed, nor is this assigned to the church. This is the function of government as instituted by God (Romans 13). Waiting for further information allows a predator to continue and puts children at risk. This is itself an immoral act that needs to be seen for what it is.
A Christian hearing a report of sexual abuse within a church, Christian organization, or Christian school, needs to act in exactly the same manner called for if the abuse is reported in any other context. The church and Christian organizations must not become safe places for abusers. These must be safe places for children, and for all. Any report of sexual abuse must lead immediately to action.
Mohler says that internal reporting is not enough. Paterno knew about the abuse as far back as 2002, and while he reported it internally, nothing was done. The abuser was still allowed to use Penn State facilities, and continued to do so even after his retirement.
In a real sense, the whole world changed today. We all know more than we knew before, and we are all responsible for that knowledge. The costs of acting wrongly in such a situation, or acting inadequately, are written across today’s headlines and the moral conscience of the nation. The tragedy at Penn State is teaching the entire nation a lesson it dare not fail to learn.