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December 13th, 2011
07:46 AM ET

Sandusky's pastor stands by him through sex abuse crisis

By Dana Garrett, CNN

State College, Pennsylvania (CNN)–
As former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky faced his accusers on Tuesday for the first time since he was indicted on child sex abuse charges, his pastor of 20 years was at the courthouse.

Senior Pastor Edwin Zeiders of St. Paul's Methodist Church in State College says he speaks to Sandusky every day, and will Tuesday, when Sandusky appeared for a preliminary hearing at the Centre County Courthouse and waived his right to a preliminary hearing.

It was the first chance Sandusky's alleged victims could begin to publicly tell their stories.

Zeiders says Sandusky and his wife Dottie have been members of his church for about 30 years.

He has refused interview requests, but offered thoughts to CNN in an e-mail on Monday, a day before the hearing, and followed up by email on Tuesday confirming he had attended.

The pastor was careful not to take sides in the emotive case.

"All of our attention and energy is focused on those who are in need, those who are struggling to understand their circumstances and find their way through the wilderness of feelings, opinions, and hope," he said.

"These are difficult times for our community," he continued, "and for all of us who care deeply about the safety, health, and the suffering of others."

Zeiders said that pastors at St. Paul's "are providing care for anyone who has been sexually assaulted or abused, and do all we can to help them work through their pain and the reliving of those dreadful experiences."

"We continue to define the local congregation as a people of love and restoration, while giving witness and endless stream of mercy from our Lord and the forgiveness the opens the doorway to new life."

At a recent service, Zeiders preached a similar message of love and forgiveness, urging his parish to be "authentic Christians" in the wake of the sex abuse allegations against Sandusky.

"We are entrusted with the light of the world," Zeiders told his congregation. "We are the bearer of each others' burdens... (called) to care for each other as deeply as we can."

Neither Sandusky nor his wife Dottie have been to church since the charges were filed last month, parishioners said.

Asked after the service if Sandusky should be forgiven, even if the allegations against him are proved true, Zeiders said yes.

He quickly added that forgiving does not mean forgetting, nor that people should not be held accountable.

Zeiders declined to say who initiated his daily contact with Sandusky and would not describe the content of their conversations.

A grand jury report says Sandusky molested young boys after developing close relationships with them through a charity he founded for at-risk youths.

Pennsylvania's attorney general charged Sandusky, 67, with 40 counts in what authorities allege was the sexual abuse of eight young boys over several years.

Some churchgoers said they were still in a state of shock about the accusations against Sandusky, which he has denied, and some said the charges don't jibe with the Sandusky they know.

They seemed mixed on the question of whether the congregation would welcome Sandusky back.

Before leaving the church on a recent Sunday, a member of the congregation gave a CNN reporter a coffee mug emblazoned with the name St. Paul's.

Inside was a card with the service schedule on one side and a message on the other: "Do you know that God's love can and does achieve great things, even amid the turmoil of today's world?"

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Church • Courts • Crime

soundoff (161 Responses)
  1. Just Me

    Maybe we repubs should nominate Sandusky for President since morality is no longer a requirement to be a frontrunner!

    December 13, 2011 at 7:23 pm |
    • Notoj

      Morals are an obstacle to corporate ownership.

      December 13, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
  2. joe beau

    His pastor probably plays with little boys as well, that whole tribe over there is sick in the head, Sandusky needs to be castrated and locked away forever.

    December 13, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
    • Tiffany

      That'st the 1st thing I thought, bahahaha.

      December 13, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
  3. YourMom

    No way that's the headline! Was this taken from The Onion?

    December 13, 2011 at 7:19 pm |
  4. captain america

    There's nothing wrong with being gay! I'm gay and proud! Next!

    December 13, 2011 at 7:18 pm |
    • captain america

      captain america never uses the word gay to describe qu eers

      December 13, 2011 at 7:31 pm |
  5. imagine

    arrest the pastor to!

    December 13, 2011 at 7:15 pm |
  6. DefyTheGods

    OMG! I had a rude comment in mind, and so many of you beat me to it! His PASTOR stands by him? If I were Mr. Sandusky, I'd say to my pastor:"I appreciate the support, Father, but the timing just isn't right." After which, sarcasm personified would say: "Gee, ya think?!"

    December 13, 2011 at 7:10 pm |
  7. Mad The Swine

    Of course the pastor stands by him. That's what pastors do in these cases. The pastor mentored him and showed him what children to go after.

    December 13, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
  8. mrrp25

    Sandusky skipped church ?? He's definitely going to hell for THAT !!

    December 13, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
  9. warhorse1

    why do that have to use that big bright photo of sandusky?, its more than a little nauseate. I think the church pastor needs to wake up to the fact that religion had no role in his behavior. Someone needs to dump a full gatorade dispenser over his head. they should nickname sandusky "tommy boy" but that would be an insult to good comedy.

    December 13, 2011 at 3:44 pm |
  10. Snow

    looking to become catholic priest?

    December 13, 2011 at 3:32 pm |
  11. HP

    Shocking! Can you pass the small boy when you're done with him Jer....

    December 13, 2011 at 1:23 pm |
  12. Ungodly Discipline

    String 'em all up by their nads.

    December 13, 2011 at 12:02 pm |
  13. HotAirAce

    As an atheist, I of course do not buy into the basic premise of religion and imaginary friends. That being said, I would *expect* a pastor to continue to provide support to his cult's members in times of trouble without taking sides, as it appears that this pastor has done (as in provide support without taking sides). So, even though I believe there is no need for religion and pastors and that there is no punishment severe enough for abusing children, I would be very disappointed if a pastor, congregation or religion completely abandoned someone when they really needed help.

    December 13, 2011 at 11:47 am |
    • Hitch

      All you had to do was say you're an atheist. The rest of the bullsh!t is to be assumed.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Why is it my comment bullsh!t?

      December 13, 2011 at 12:59 pm |
    • captain america

      The ass hole is also a canadian so his opinion doesn't mean sh it here.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:42 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      My, my, my HotAir, your atheist buddy Observer just posted the following complaints about Jesus' truth (on another article) as follows:

      “Whoever does any work on a holy day: put to death”
      “anyone who blasphemes: stone him.”
      “worship other gods: stone the guilty ones to death”
      “stubborn and rebellious son: stone him to death.”
      “man is found lying with a married woman: both of them shall die”
      “virgin engaged to another man and he lies with her: stone them to death”
      “Whoever strikes his father or his mother: put to death”
      "Anyone who says cruel things to his father or mother: put to death.”
      “anyone who curses his father or his mother: put to death”
      “man who commits adultery with another man's wife: they shall be put to death.”
      "man or woman who is a medium or a fortune-teller: stone them to death"

      From the Quran? Nope. From the Bible
      December 13, 2011 at 12:52 am"

      Question: Guess how many Sandusky and his pastor are violating if he's found to be guilty?

      Amen.

      December 13, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
    • It's No Joke!

      Be careful captain america! You are fighting a ferocious foe!

      http://www.standingonguard.com/index2.html

      December 13, 2011 at 6:34 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      I am not defending Sandusky in any way! I am defending the actions of his pastor, whose job it is to help people through their troubles. I would have thought that christians, especially one such as wise and pure one as HeavenScent, would immediately agree. To more directly answer HeaveScent's questions: Sandusky has probably broken many of them and his pastor may have too, but as far as I know he is not charged with anything, so relative to this case, I believe the answer is none.

      HeavenScent, are you really condemning Sandusky's pastor for merely being his pastor and helping a member of his congragation? Is that something your jesus would do? If yes, yet another reason to continue to be an atheist!

      December 13, 2011 at 6:44 pm |
    • DefyTheGods

      It's refreshing to "see" someone demonstrate the ability to credit that, with which he/she disagrees based on the guidelines that define it. Ironically, you're seem more "Christian" than some who claim to be such! LOL...I agree with you and happen to be an atheist as well. Type on, my godless friend!...LOL

      December 13, 2011 at 7:25 pm |
    • PracticalPastor

      I appreciate your comment. I am a Christian, and a pastor for that matter, and agree 100% that any church who abandons one in the depths of their sin is no church at all. We are all broken, we have all done wrong (albeit, some have done more wrong than others...)

      If the charges are true, Sandusky should be held responsible – that doesn't mean he should be abandoned by his spiritual leader. Which is what the pastor in the article claims for all of you who apparently didn't take the time to actually read it...

      It should also be acknowledged that this pastor is in a really sticky situation – he is called to care not only for Sandusky but for an entire congregation that is now involved in this ugliness... not easy waters to navigate and I applaud the grace he shows in this interview.

      December 13, 2011 at 7:49 pm |
    • JT

      Don't you just love it when a braindead, deluded xtian quotes from their iron age text to an atheist? You might as well quote lines from Moby Dick.

      December 13, 2011 at 8:11 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      JT, I assume you are referring to HeavenScent. I do look forward to her next post.

      December 13, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
    • HeavenSent

      HotAirAce, you posted "I am not defending Sandusky in any way! I am defending the actions of his pastor, whose job it is to help people through their troubles. I would have thought that christians, especially one such as wise and pure one as HeavenScent, would immediately agree. To more directly answer HeaveScent's questions: Sandusky has probably broken many of them and his pastor may have too, but as far as I know he is not charged with anything, so relative to this case, I believe the answer is none.

      HeavenScent, are you really condemning Sandusky's pastor for merely being his pastor and helping a member of his congragation? Is that something your jesus would do? If yes, yet another reason to continue to be an atheist!"

      Answer: The pastor can mentor him during his time of troubles. No problem there. But, if he finds out the allegations are true he needs to tell Sandusky Jesus' truth. I suspect this pastor isn't teaching Jesus' truth book by book scripture by scripture. Most churches I've attended in my life pick and choose scriptures randomly. Preach what they choose and no Q & A after services are complete.

      Amen.

      December 13, 2011 at 8:45 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      HeavenScent, did you read the article? Here's what the pastor was reported to have said:

      "He quickly added that forgiving does not mean forgetting, nor that people should not be held accountable."

      Seems rather christian to me.

      December 13, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
  14. Nonimus

    I'm shocked!

    (Ok, not really.)

    December 13, 2011 at 11:35 am |
  15. GSA

    WOW! So all those who spoke up against Lowes for supporting Muslims on tv in a positive light and show who they really are will you pleas step up and write letters and e-mails to condemn this....anyway....hello.....thought so, silence.

    December 13, 2011 at 10:50 am |
    • HellBent

      Holy apples to oranges, batman!

      December 13, 2011 at 10:53 am |
    • HotAirAce

      Why is it bullsh!t?

      December 13, 2011 at 12:57 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      Sorry, my response above was intended for another pst.

      December 13, 2011 at 12:58 pm |
    • captain america

      Why don't you post in your own country? We don't need you to tell us what to think or do.

      December 13, 2011 at 1:44 pm |
    • Keith

      Hot Air Ace, Don't you guys still have the queen on your money? We took care of that problem here over 200 years ago. I agree with captain america on this. Keep your damn opinions to yourself-open a window and share them with a moose or caribou.

      December 16, 2011 at 9:38 pm |
  16. William Demuth

    A band of buggerers.

    Sandusky is in good company in the church. They can be a trusted advisor for pedophilles

    December 13, 2011 at 10:12 am |
  17. John Richardson

    Everyone thinks their friends should be forgiven, their enemies hanged and we'll sort out the rest.

    December 13, 2011 at 9:16 am |
    • Bo

      Your right John, I just shook my head once when a lady complained because her husband was arrested on a DUi. She seemed to think there wqs nothing too seriously wrong with her husband being a "little tippsy" when he left a bar.

      December 13, 2011 at 9:52 am |
  18. Death penalty for child molesters NOW

    Sandusky deserves to be skinned alive, rolled in salt, and buried in a fire-ant hill. But o yes let's "forgive" him too.

    December 13, 2011 at 9:06 am |
  19. Douglas

    The pastor stands by him? Sheesh, this is not exactly the litmus test. Who's next... Phillip Garrido?

    December 13, 2011 at 8:49 am |
  20. Bill

    "stands by him"? More like, "stands behind him". It starts either at home or at church, apparently.

    December 13, 2011 at 7:52 am |
    • CHRIS

      Couldn't have said it better myself Bill...A pastor is not exactly a true measure of believability......

      December 13, 2011 at 8:34 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.