By NICK CHILES
The allegations against the Boy Scouts of America are so enormous, so mind-bending, so unthinkable, that it’s almost too much for one mind to grasp.
According to a report in the Los Angeles Times, the Boy Scouts of America, perhaps the nation’s most revered and respected community organization for boys, covered up hundreds of child molestation cases across the United States over the course of the last four decades. In many cases, the organization wouldn’t even tell parents their youngsters had been sexually abused—and they would allow the molester to go free, oftentimes leading to more abuse in the future with other boys.
In the 1970s and ’80s, according to the Times, “secrecy was embedded in the Scouts’ policies and procedures for handling child sexual abuse.”
The paper said that a cover sheet that accompanied many confidential files included a check box labeled “Internal (only scouts know)” as an option for how cases were resolved. A form letter sent to leaders being dismissed over abuse allegations stated: “We are making no accusations and will not release this information to anyone, so our action in no way will affect your standing in the community.”
That letter was included in the organization’s 1972 policy on how to remove unfit leaders, which, according to an attached memo, was kept confidential “because of misunderstandings which could develop if it were widely distributed.”
In fact, it was the actual policy of the Boy Scouts to keep these cases secret, so as not to sully the reputation of the esteemed group.
But the BSA would keep its own internal documentation—something it actually called the “perversion files,” a blacklist of alleged molesters that they group has used internally since 1919. But according to the Times report, often the blacklist didn’t work—former molesters would slip back into the organization and molest again.
It is these internal files that the Los Angeles Times got its hands on, allowing the paper to rip the covers off a case so disgusting and appalling, I can’t imagine how the organization will be able to survive the lawsuits, public ridicule and national horror that is sure to follow the organization around for decades to come. I’m predicting a sure Pulitzer Prize for the LA Times reporters involved, Kim Christensen and Jason Felch. Their story makes Jerry Sandusky at Penn State seem almost minor in comparison. Which one is more monstrous, one man who wreaks havoc on at least a dozen young lives while the powerful turn a blind eye, or a century old group which has allowed the abuse of maybe thousands or tens of thousands over the course of more than a third of this nation’s history?
Knowing what we now know, what parent in his or her right mind would march their son down to the local BSA and sign him up?
When the Boy Scouts took their recent stand against allowing gays in the organization, many cheered the group for its “old fashioned” morality—not allowing something as amorphous as human rights to get in the way of Boy Scout traditions. But other onlookers, and I include myself in this group, walked away a bit amazed that this massive organization, which has served a total of 110 million people in its history, could come off as so unprogressive. So stunted.
But now it becomes clear: This was a group that has long been rotten at its core, so broken and dysfunctional that it would be much more interested in protecting itself from what it probably imagined was marauding waves of future gay molesters than considering the debased hypocrisy and homophobic paranoia that likely infects every fiber of the organization.
The sex scandals that rocked the Catholic Church over the past 20 years or so were so profound that their repercussions are still being felt—after the church has spent years paying out millions and trying to figure out a way to come to grips with its own complicity in the monstrous things that were done to young boys over the years.
We now only have to wait for hundreds or thousands of Boy Scout molestation victims to start coming forward, with horrifying stories, lifelong suffering—and attorneys primed to make this venerable organization pay dearly. And not for a second will I feel sorry for BSA. As surely as I pass my fingers over the keyboard, the lawsuits will come. They will be epic, operatic, profound.
To the Boy Scouts of America, I have just two words: Be prepared.
1. Church Bans Children So Pedophile Pastor Can Preach
2. Penn State Sex Abuse Cover-Up Puts Chill On Male Mentoring When We Need It Most
3. Wounded Village: In the Wake Of the Penn State Sex Scandal, A Mom Prays Her Son Is Safe With Others