Philadelphia Daily News columnist Ronnie Polaneczky says what I’m thinking:
It goes without saying that Paterno, Curley, Schultz and a host of other Penn State administrators acted with a disregard so bloodless, it’s hard to believe that they’re actually human.
But the behavior of McQueary, whom the grand-jury report paints with a degree of high regard, baffles me more.
As an eyewitness, he knew firsthand the horror that child had experienced. It was not a rumor that he heard, and dutifully reported. It was not a frightening hunch he determined should be brought to the boss’s attention.
McQueary saw, with his own eyes, a child being brutalized. And he did not attempt to stop it.
One or two McQueary sympathizers I have spoken with have told me: “You weren’t there. You don’t know the shock and revulsion he must have felt. He was stunned. He tried to do the right thing. You can’t make a judgment. He is the hero in this thing.”
I know, like I know the sun will rise tomorrow, that if I’d seen what McQueary saw, nothing would have stopped me from screaming bloody murder. From using every ounce of strength I possess to pull that naked, repulsive predator off of that little boy. From gathering the child in my arms. From telling him, “I am here. You are safe. It’s over.”
Yeah, me too. But I don’t know that it’s as easy as that.
For many, many years, Catholic laypeople have known that children were being raped by some of their priests, and that bishops were covering it up. This didn’t come out of nowhere, in 2002. True, few if any were in the position of catching a pedophile priest in flagrante, as McQueary supposedly did with Sandusky, but the evidence that these things were happening, and that neither priests nor bishops were being held to proper account for it, if only morally (as opposed to criminally), has been present and undeniable for a long time. It’s as if the horror was too great to believe, because if what we’re seeing is true, then the world isn’t as we thought it was. So these children were sacrificed to false idols: the reputation of Penn State football, the reputation of the Church, and so forth. Ultimately the false idol is … oneself. Preserving one’s own peace of mind is more important than saving a child, and seeing justice done for the weakest and most vulnerable.
I don’t know that I can think of an act of everyday cowardice more vile than Mike McQueary, big strapping 6-foot-4-inch Mike McQueary, walking away when he came upon an old man sodomizing a little boy.
Or take the recent situation of the 18 people in China who walked past a child lying in the road, wounded after being struck by the car. Why did they do that? What is it about us that allows us to see a child being tortured by another person, or by circumstance (e.g., lying in the road broken by a car accident), and not do everything in our power to help? Where is the line between exculpatory psychological impairment and moral collapse?