One of the challenges in assessing the scale and scope of child sexual abuse in the Episcopal Church is that doing so is over-reliant on data about abusive priests. The so-called Perversion Files of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) illustrate this dilemma.
Earlier, we reported on the 547 cases of child sexual abuse connected with Episcopal parishes that we identified while investigating BSA records. Further, we are clear that the cases we identified are likely a small portion of the total. Not only is child sexual abuse vastly under-reported, but shoddy records, incomplete data, and other issues make it highly improbable that we have identified all cases.
But there’s a more significant issue, and that is the church’s role — or lack thereof — in maintaining the so-called Perversion Files.
What are the Perversion Files? They are a secret list of persons ineligible to serve as BSA volunteers due to sexual misconduct involving scouts. And while there were several other disqualifying categories, the Perversion Files are by far the largest.
Of the 547 cases we identified, only one identifies what action the Episcopal Church took to address the situation. In that case, a priest at Holy Trinity Northern Manhattan sent a letter to the BSA, asking that the organization add BSA volunteer Eddie Rodriguez to the Perversion Files.
And while that is a good start, there’s no evidence that the Episcopal Church did anything further. No criminal referral. No warning to parents. Nothing.
Recognizing these limitations, Anglican Watch tried additional methodologies to identify actions taken. These efforts included:
- Looking for indictments or criminal cases in which the Episcopal Church was the referrer.
- Searching thousands of historical records for references to abuse within church-related BSA troops.
- Reviewing church registers for information indicating parishes took action against offenders.
- Running background checks on persons accused of child sexual abuse to see if we could identify possible church action against the offender.
In every case, we came up empty. So, as things stand, we know of exactly one case in which the Episcopal Church did anything to protect children.
Moreover, knowing how the church works, we have a strong hunch many BSA cases were quietly handled behind the scenes, thus avoiding an entry in the Perversion Files. If there’s one thing at which the Episcopal Church excels, it’s ignoring issues.
So, the real value of the Perversion Files is that they make clear just how little the church has done to protect children and how ineffectual those efforts were.
Consider: With the BSA having identified approximately 1700 child sex abuse claims eligible for expedited processing (a small portion of the total), what would have happened if, in the 547 cases connected with the Episcopal Church, it had actively resisted injustice and oppression?
We will never know the answer or the number of children victimized by Episcopal-sponsored BSA troops. But even a cursory review of the Perversion Files makes it painfully clear that the Episcopal Church has been an abject failure regarding child abuse. And issues like Glenda Curry’s inaction over indicted Episcopal priest Richard Losch — a long-time Boy Scout volunteer — offer no assurance that the situation has improved.