It’s a sad fact of life that almost wherever an organization exists that gives adults a chance for unmonitored access to children, pedophiles are likely to gather. It’s easy to confuse correlation with causation: “The Catholic Church has a problem with pedophiles because they don’t allow their priests to marry” is one of the more asinine theories I’ve heard. Who among you would resort to preying upon children were you forbidden by social contract to avoid intimate contact with the adults you find sexually attractive? It’s a repulsive implication, and one that should raise more questions about those who posit it than the behavior they seek to explain. No, open access to children along with a plausible justification for having it will attract pedophiles.
Avoiding a segue into the general psychological healthiness of imposed celibacy or criticism of the stated values of organization like the Boy Scouts or the Catholic Church (suffice it to say that I hold major criticisms against both) there is a problem with throwing out the baby with the bathwater when it comes to pedophilia: There are well-meaning priests and good Boy Scout leaders, men who want to help the young people entrusted to their care. Unfortunately, there are predators among them, and screening them out is an imperfect process. A few occasionally slip through.
It is with the stringency of this screening process and what these organizations do when confronted with criminal sexual conduct that our criticism – and damnation – should be directed. (At least, when it comes to the issue of pedophilia) The Catholic Church’s well-documented protection of pedophile priests and cover up of their crimes is despicable. The growing rumors that Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger engaged in this process yet still managed to be elected Pope points to a deep level of complicity that should trouble even the most devoted Roman Catholic.
Now, the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) find themselves in a similar predicament following the release of the “Perversion Files”: a document of 14,500 pages documenting individuals barred from the organization following incidences of child molestation. These files were held confidentially by the BSA until a 2007 lawsuit by former Boy Scout Kerry Lewis who accused the organization of failing to protect him against child predators. The files, posted online by Lewis’ attorney, is damning: that the organization, much like the Catholic Church, had full knowledge of criminal sexual acts and in most cases its only response was to ban those who committed them, speaks to a deep institutional sickness. How many adults knew about this and made the decision not to speak to authorities? Too many.
The organization that describes itself as “…one of the nation’s largest and most prominent values-based youth development organizations. The BSA provides a program for young people that builds character, trains them in the responsibilities of participating citizenship…” has set a horrific example for its young charges by covering for the men who victimized them. So much for the “responsibilities of participating citizenship” and “values-based youth development”. If there’s a value to be learned here, it is that the safety of children is of secondary concern to the protection of a hypocritical facade.