Boy Scout Bankruptcy Reveals Similarities with Catholic Church Abuse Scandal
As the Boy Scouts of America continue down the path of their landmark bankruptcy, proceedings are beginning to reveal a more complete and tragic story of sexual abuse within the organization, exposing thousands of abusers and many thousands of victims. Our hearts ache for those victims and their suffering.
The importance of secular law enforcement investigating these revelations cannot be overstated. According to reports, the BSA hired an expert who appears to have vastly undercounted victims, thereby understating the scope of this disaster. The paper trail also makes clear the duplicitous actions of BSA supervisors who tried to conceal and cover-up instances of sexual abuse. Just like the Catholic Church and other institutions embroiled in scandal, those leaders chose secrecy and organizational survival over the welfare of the children entrusted to them. We hope that law enforcement examines these findings to look for cases to prosecute both of abusers and of those who were required to report allegations and did not.
We have no doubt that as the BSA bankruptcy proceeds that we will see an overlap with Catholic, Mormon, and other religious denominations that provide chaplains to scout troops. Those connections must be publicized because it is likely some of those religious abusers are still alive and may even be unknown to the public. The BSA is tightly tied to the Catholic Church and other religions. For example, in Guam, a Catholic priest named Louis Brouillard was also a scout leader who had dozens of victims.
These are other striking similarities:
The Catholic Church and BSA both had "playbooks" for handling and hiding child abuse that involved supervisors covering up the crimes and quietly removing abusers: in the Catholic Church, bishops would shuffle perpetrators form place to place, whereas BSA supervisors would quietly encourage abusive scoutmasters to resign without notifying their troop as to why. Similarly, both organizations used euphemisms to sanitize the abuse and tried to keep their secrets hidden from the public; the bishops have the "secret archives" while the BSA has its "perversion files."
But the similarity that matters the most to us is this: just like with the Catholic Church, there is an overwhelming need for a nationwide, secular investigation empowered by search warrants or subpoenas. The only way to get to the bottom of a scandal like this is for outside, trained law enforcement professionals to be allowed to fully investigate these crimes. We know that once-silent victims are coming out of the woodwork because they know they will be believed, and we hope that their claims will be fully investigated by police and prosecutors.
We applaud these brave survivors for coming forward, sharing their stories, and forcing change on an institution that has been resistant to it. We hope that their truths will lead not only to internal change, but external pressure and investigation so that future children are protected from the lifelong scourge of child sexual abuse.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)