Wednesday, 24 March 2010

Abuse: Mormons, Boy Scouts.

In all the storm around clerical abuse in the Catholic church, there is one are where I agree with the Vatican.  To avoid any misunderstanding, I wan to make this absolutely clear:  the Catholic Church is not alone in its culpability.  (Now, I do not buy the claim by some Catholic apologists that the church is no worse than any others - but I'm not going to explore that today.) It is undeniable that there are other individuals and institutions also at fault.It is undeniable for instance, that the bulk of abuse takes place within the family, by close relatives or family friends.  There are also well-known stereotypes of figures popularly believed to get a little too close to the young people in their care:  choirmasters, for instance, or scoutmasters.
My own experience of childhood sexual abuse was by a scoutmaster. (Earlier  the abuse I received at the hands of the church had been physical, not sexual).  Even at that age (about twelve or thirteen), it was obvious to me that this man's activities were well known to the other adult scouters, who ignored them. There is no reason to assume that he was unique, or that the popular stereotype had no grounding in reality. Yet, in all the public outcry and endless US lawsuits for compensation, the allegations have primarily been against people inside the Catholic Church. When  I first started thinking about the problem of abuse for QTC, I resisted writing anything at all, because the issues as publicly encountered in the press were so grievously oversimplified and distorted in so many respects.  This was one of them. Why, I wondered, should the scale of the  attacks against the church be so enormous, when it was obvious that other institutions also had guilt of their own?  The cynic in me considered the possibility that the perceived wealth of the church, and its concentration in clear centralized accounts, left it a much more tempting target for claims for financial  compensation.
However, I did proceed to start writing about the problems of Catholic abuse, in several dozen posts over the past year. I have explored many of the issues that I felt, a year ago, were being unduly ignored:  the complexity of the issue, the deeper causes linked to celibacy and centralized power, and the global nature of the problem . I have discussed the many different forms of abuse, and the range of victims affected, which is more extensive than just the young boys and girls who in figure in most press reports.  But I too have forgotten to draw attention to the problems elsewhere, which also deserve serious attention.
I was grateful then for the reminder of this omission that I encountered at Box Turtle Bulletin, who draw attention in this post to the problem in the US of child abuse in the boy scouts,  and their close association with the Mormons. (Is it a co-incidence, I wonder, that the two religious groupings most closely identified with abuse are also the two most actively involved in the Proposition H8 campaign?).
As this report is specific to the US, and to the Mormons about whom I have limited knowledge (I did not know, for instance, that there was any connection at all with the scouts), I offer no comment at all, except to offer the link to Box Turtle Bulletin.  Do not stop, though, at the main post;  this comment by Ben in Oakland was fascinating, and includes much useful information that goes well beyond the immediate issue of Mormons and scouts.)
Here at QTC, William has twice noted in comments that this problem goes beyond just the Catholic church.  German chancellor Angela Merkel, responding to the allegations against the Catholic Church there, has agreed that they need full and careful investigation - but she too notes that the investigations need to go beyond just the Catholic Church.
She, and William, are right.

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