It’s August, when the news is supposed to slow and people work in their last trips to the beach before school and the obligations of autumn arrive. Maybe it’s the good weather and lack of anything else to chew over that’s led some pundits to ponder why Americans are in such an incongruously crummy mood right now.
Why we are, in fact, glum.
Hey, the thinking goes, the economy is good and we aren’t in a hot war. Happy days are here again!
Well, mass shootings have a way of making you reluctant to click your heels, as does an unstable stock market, an economy that fails to evenly distribute its bounty, a warming climate that could wreak havoc in the lives of our children and grandchildren, a president whose Twitter feed is little more than a noxious stream of score-settling and self-aggrandizement, and on and on.
The lousy mood is justified.
And certainly another factor you can add to the pile of woe is the decreasing trust many Americans are feeling toward institutions that, in theory, are supposed to provide succor and inspiration. We’re on the eve of the first anniversary of the blockbuster report by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro that detailed the widespread sexual abuse of children by priests across the commonwealth over the last several decades, which has led other states to launch their own investigations into the Catholic Church. At the same time, the Boy Scouts of America is confronting serious allegations that its leaders turned a blind eye to predators within its ranks.
A lawsuit filed in Philadelphia last week by an unnamed 57-year-old man alleges that he was assaulted numerous times by an assistant scoutmaster in the 1970s. The suit also alleges that the Boys Scouts worked to keep abuse quiet, and was guilty of “reckless misconduct” in not confronting abuse more aggressively.
The Boy Scouts has apologized for any abuse that happened within the organization, and emphasized that it has encouraged victims to come forward and will pay for counseling. It has conceded in a statement “that there were instances in our organization’s history when cases were not addressed or handled in a manner consistent with our commitment to protect Scouts, the values of our organization, and the procedures we have in place today.”
At the same time, though, the organization has considered filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which would reduce the size of settlements victims could receive and guard some of the Boy Scouts’ assets. It should be noted that this is not the only consequential issue the organization is confronting: membership has been steadily declining in recent years as students and parents find themselves with less and less time outside of school and work.
The Scouts, like the Catholic Church, needs to be held to account and regain the trust of the people it has served. When we can again put our faith and trust in institutions like these, maybe our spirits will start to lift.