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Boy Scouts abuse cases echo Catholic Church, Penn State scandals

By Curtis Tate, McClatchy Newspapers –

WASHINGTON — The publication Thursday of 20 years worth of secret records kept by the Boy Scouts of America reveal a widespread effort by the organization to cover up a scandal involving allegations of sexual abuse against 1,200 scout leaders.

The records, known within the Boy Scouts itself as the “perversion files,” cover the years 1965-1985 and detail the names of the alleged perpetrators, their hometowns and other information. The files were results of the organization’s own internal investigations into sexual abuse among its leaders and include court documents, newspapers clippings in cases where charges were actually filed and other material.

Not every person whose name was contained within the thousands of pages — which the scouts officially called the “Ineligible Volunteer Files” — ever actually faced charges or was convicted. Some files only reflected concerns about someone.

But they span the nation, involving Boy Scout organizations and leaders from small towns to bustling cities. Their disclosure also again marks an embarrassing betrayal of public trust by another prominent and respected social institution.

Like the recent pedophilia scandals involving Penn State University and the Roman Catholic Church, the Boy Scout cases involve trusted members of the community who had access to children they were supposed to mentor and to protect, but who instead exploited that access to groom and to molest the most vulnerable of them.

Attorney Paul Mones, whose Oregon law firm was involved in the lawsuit against the Boy Scouts and which led to the files’ disclosure, told a news conference on Thursday that they symbolize “the anguish of thousands of scouts.” The Oregon Supreme Court ordered the release of the documents.

In a statement Thursday, Boy Scouts National President Wayne Perry apologized for the abuse and the failure to protect children.

“There have been instances where people misused their positions in scouting to abuse children, and in certain cases, our response to these incidents and our efforts to protect youth were plainly insufficient, inappropriate, or wrong,” the statement said. “Where those involved in scouting failed to protect, or worse, inflicted harm on children, we extend our deepest and sincere apologies to victims and their families.”

Based in Irving, Texas, the century-old Boy Scouts of America is one of the nation’s largest volunteer organizations, with more than 100 million youth participants and 33 million adult scout leaders. Those few scouts, around 2 percent, who attain the highest rank of Eagle Scout comprise an elite group that includes members of Congress, governors, astronauts, professional athletes, business executives and film directors.

Trustworthiness is one of the 12 points of the Scout Law. But experts said that creates an opportunity for predators because few people would look for them in a respected, long-standing institution like the Boy Scouts.

“As a society, we’ve just got to somehow get over this notion that some men, some women, some institutions, are 100 percent pristine and trustworthy,” said David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “We’ve got to look at actual behavior, not reputation.”

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