A moral collapse is a very bad thing. It can be made worse, however, by failing to deal with the downfall appropriately and effectively.
It is instructive, given fairly recent events, to learn what not to do.
First, don’t make excuses. Mark Foley should have known better than to disclose his childhood trauma in the wake of his abject moral failure. As soon as his handlers said, “This isn’t meant as an excuse…” most people labeled it exactly that.
Are explanations ever in order? Perhaps, but timing is key. Foley should have accepted responsibility and, if sincere, communicated regret. (I’m quite certain he regrets getting caught, but haven’t seen any real remorse from him or his people about what he did.) At a later date, an explanation might have been in order, but I’m not sure it would have accomplished much. Foley’s focus should have been on responsibility first and then making amends.
Secondly, don’t point at others. The next extremely dumb thing Foley did was to name the priest he claims molested him as a child. This time, the “naming” was done (according to the spin from his representative) for the sake of “healing”. Healing is important, but it doesn’t need to be done in public. Foley would have been a bigger person to deal with the “whom” privately. What was gained by naming the priest? Nothing, other than to bolster Foley’s excuse about why he behaved inappropriately.
Does Foley’s past have bearing on his current situation? Yes and no. We are all affected by our pasts, but we don’t have to be controlled by them. Foley’s childhood provides context for some but is mostly unneeded by most.
My friend John Crudele, who has worked extensively with young people once said, “Kids are victims. Adults are volunteers.” Once we recognize a problem, as responsible adults we do whatever we can to address them. Leaders take responsibility, they don’t place blame, and they don’t try to hide their blame in lame explanations.