There were actually two warning shots aimed at state and national institutions this week.
One, aimed across the bows of colleges and universities by the NCAA, we talked about yesterday.
The other, trained in the direction of clergy, took the form of a stiff sentence for a Catholic priest from the Philadelphia Diocese who had been convicted of covering for a pedophile priest who had assaulted an altar boy in 1999.
Only the timing of the cases is coincidental. Their outcomes, however, are not and telegraph the same stern warning: Society has a very short temper when it comes to child sexual abuse and little tolerance for both those who perpetrate it and those who attempt to conceal it in an effort to protect the reputation of an institution.
In the Philadelphia case, Monsignor William Lynn was convicted of covering up sexual abuse complaints against priests. The presiding judge didn't mince words at the sentencing and gave voice to the sentiment toward institutional coverups of abuse, saying Lynn "enabled monsters in clerical garb...to destroy the souls of children."
The judge sentenced Lynn to a longer prison term than that given to the priest who actually perpetrated the abuse, a signal to others that they could face severe penalties for institutional complacency and outright secrecy when it comes to child abuse.
It is much the same message delivered to colleges and universities by the NCAA, which could only sentence Penn State to financial loss.
There was a time when society turned away embarrassed by the tragedy of sexual abuse, resulting in countless thousands, perhaps millions of victims who spent the rest of their lives trying to overcome the trauma, usually in silence.