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This morning, I caught a squib in The Wall Street Journal reporting that the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) is contemplating filing for bankruptcy as a consequence of “dwindling membership and escalating legal costs related to lawsuits over how it handled allegations of sex abuse.”
I was aware of the decline in participation and I had a pretty good understanding of some of the causes. But I had somehow missed the fact that there was a sex abuse scandal — perhaps because 27 years have passed since it was exposed in The Washington Times and 24 since Patrick Boyle published his book on the subject: Scout’s Honor: Sexual Abuse in America’s Most Trusted Institution.
The article in The Wall Street Journal was strangely reticent. It did not specify what species of sexual abuse was involved. When I turned to Wikipedia, which has a good entry summarizing what Boyle and his colleagues at The Washington Times turned up, I discovered that what I suspected was true — that the misconduct involved was very much like that which plagued the Roman Catholic Church worldwide in the five decades preceding 2001. Prior to 1988 — when, in response to the problem, the BSA set up its Youth Protection Program — there had been quite a number of scoutmasters and others involved in scouting who had abused the trust of the boys and young men under their care for the purpose of sexual gratification. Put simply, in those years, pederasty was almost as much a problem for the Boy Scouts as it was for the Roman Catholic Church.