07/25/2012 11:57 am ET Updated Sep 24, 2012

Both Sides of Sin

There is a Book of Common Worship prayer of confession of sin that asks for forgiveness for "those things that we have done that we ought not to have done and for those things that we have not done that we ought to have done." The two kinds of sins: the sin of commission and the sin of omission.

There are glaring examples of both in the news at the moment. There is a horrific example of the sin of commission in the act of the shooter in Colorado. One twisted and evil man goes to a movie theater and does an incredible evil act. We will talk about what caused him to act that we. We will talk about what we could do to prevent others from acting that way. We will talk about the wisdom of banning assault weapons from individuals. We will have lots of discussions of how and why one intelligent young man became a vicious killer, but this was a sin of commission by an individual. The pain and suffering that one act of commission is almost more than the mind can comprehend.

But there is also the glaring example of what the sin of omission can do. The pain and the suffering that is caused by the sin of omission is also more than the mind can comprehend. So often the first line of defense from human beings is "I did not do anything."

Penn State University is still discovering the pain and suffering that is caused by not doing anything. The act of silence by responsible leadership at the University resulted in continued abuse of young men. Now that silence is continuing to cause pain and suffering to the university, its alumni, its students and its state. The sin of omission, of not acting, of not doing anything, is having massive ramifications through out the whole university and state.

We are all people who have to make choices everyday. The choices of what to do and what not to do. There may be evil in what we choose to do, and there may be evil in what we choose not to do. If there is one lesson that the sexual abuse of the Catholic Church, the trial of Jerry Sandusky and the airport security people want us to learn, it is this: "If you see something, say something." The sin of commission here may not be nearly as bad as the sin of omission.