Attorneys for the alleged victims say the Boy Scouts’ decision to initiate bankruptcy proceedings sends a message to the Catholic Church.
The Boy Scouts of America has filed for bankruptcy.
According to National Public Radio, the century-old organization is currently facing upwards of 300 lawsuits, all filed by men who say they were sexually abused as young Scouts.
The decision to initiate Chapter 11 proceedings, says the Boy Scouts, won’t preclude victims from justice. The organization says it intends to create a trust to provide compensation to anyone who was assaulted as a Scout. In the meantime, the group hopes beginning bankruptcy hearings will allow its nationwide activities to continue.
Boy Scouts President and Chief Executive Roger Mosby said he believes bankruptcy is the best way to provide recompense to victims without dissolving the group outright.
“The BSA cares deeply about all victims of abuse and sincerely apologizes to anyone who was harmed during their time in Scouting,” Mosby said. “While we know nothing can undo the tragic abuse that victims suffered, we believe the Chapter 11 process—with the proposed Trust structure—will provide equitable compensation to all victims while maintain the BSA’s important mission.”
As NPR notes—and as LegalReader has reported several times before—the Boy Scouts have been considering bankruptcy since late last winter.
In an open letter to victims of abuse, Boy Scouts National Chair Jim Turley expressed outrage against predators and empathy for those they wronged.
“I am outraged that individuals took advantage of our programs to commit these heinous acts,” Turley wrote. “I am also outraged that there were times when volunteers and employees ignored our procedures or forgave transgression that are unforgivable. In some cases, this led to tragic acts of abuse. While those instances were limited, they mean we didn’t do enough to protect the children in our care—to protect you.
“On behalf of myself and the entire Scouting community: I am sorry,” he said. “I am devastated that there were times in the past when we failed the very children we were supposed to protect.”
The letter encourages anyone who was victimized as a Scout to lodge a formal complaint so they can be compensated after the trust’s creation.
The Washington Post adds that the Boy Scouts were extensively criticized for their so-called “perversion files”—decades’ worth of documents which detailed predators, many of whom weren’t properly reported to law enforcement. Attorneys have since combined through the “perversion files,” identifying thousands of victims who might wish to be included in the lawsuit.
Michael Pfau, an attorney representing 300 alleged victims, told the Post that the Boy Scout’s decision to file bankruptcy may signal progress.
“In a way, this is an acknowledgment finally on the part of the Boy Scouts that they had this enormous problem and the problem is so large that they can’t deal with it themselves,” Pfau said. “It is a bit of a day of reckoning for the Boy Scouts.”
But Pfau says Chapter 11 proceedings may impact victims’ ability to “have their story heard in court and their claim ultimately decided by a jury of their peers.”
Nevertheless, others say the Boy Scouts’ decision should, at the very least, serve as a warning to the Catholic Church and other organizations with histories of under-reporting child sex abuse. Los Angeles-based attorney Paul Mones, who’s representing multiple claims against the Scouts, said the warning is clear.
“If the largest youth organization by far in the United States can be crippled under the weight of doing nothing about their sexual abuse allegations and covering the problem up, I think it is a warning show across the bow to all churches and youth organizations and schools that have this problem and don’t act proactively to resolve it,” Mones said.