“Peace and Honor, God and Country,
We will fight for thee.
Oh Citadel, we praise thee now
And in Eternity”
— “The Citadel Alma Mater,” Cadet First Lieutenant Arthur Preston Price, Class of 1943
The Citadel, at its best, is all about Honor.
But it’s difficult to imagine a worse betrayal of Citadel Honor than a graduate molesting boys entrusted to his care.
It’s also utterly dishonorable to cover up such vile abuse — a disgrace of which The Citadel stands accused.
The school is facing seven lawsuits related to the horrendous crimes committed by that serial molester who worked for years as a counselor at the school’s summer camp.
That convicted child predator, Louis “Skip” ReVille, is serving a 50-year sentence after pleading guilty in June 2012 to molesting at least 23 boys (ages 10 to 17) at The Citadel and elsewhere. He admitted to abusing 20 more. He apologized. A lawsuit motion filed this week alleges that he molested 17 boys at The Citadel — a number the school hasn’t conceded.
However, two years ago, Citadel President Lt. Gen. John Rosa did some apologizing of his own with: “I’d say we’re profoundly sorry,” adding, “When the family [of an alleged victim] did not pursue the matter, we did not either. We should have.”
And our top headline Friday — “Early worries about ReVille surface, Legal papers: Serial molester’s 2003 interaction with Citadel campers raised red flags” — reopened this painful wound on the eve of today’s homecoming game against Samford.
The truth hurts
Some Citadel fans remain riled at this newspaper for reporting this sickening saga.
Sure, blame the messenger for delivering unpleasant facts.
Some Citadel fans think heads — at least Rosa’s — should have already rolled over this self-inflicted blow.
Yet The Military College of South Carolina isn’t the only institution that should have done more sooner to protect kids.
The Catholic Church, according to various media outlets, has spent at least $2.5 billion since 1950 settling U.S. cases alleging sex abuse of children by its clergy members.
Penn State University announced Monday that it has reached settlements totaling $59.7 million over the past few months with 26 sex-abuse victims of former assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky.
The Citadel likely will pay a heavy financial price of its own for the ReVille outrage.
Still, this unnerving realization transcends monetary measure — and even the tarnishing of The Citadel’s reputation as a bastion of Honor:
Monsters in human form walk among us, targeting children. That puts grown-ups — parents, teachers, coaches, counselors and more — on hyper-stressed alert.
And when low-down perverts permanently scar youth, and folks in high places don’t “pursue the matter” as soon as they “should have,” that doesn’t just undermine faith in The Citadel, Penn State and the Catholic Church.
It undermines faith in our own kind.
In Friday’s front-page story, Dawes Cooke, an attorney for The Citadel, “said he would not be surprised to see additional cases, given the number of victims ReVille has admitted to molesting ...”
So don’t be surprised to see more stories on this cringe-inducing topic.
Don’t be surprised, either, to see The Citadel, if not ex-Bulldog quarterback Rosa, weather this terrible storm.
After all, The Citadel has consistently bounced back from adversity.
Cadets on Morris Island even started the Civil War — sort of. They fired on the Star of the West on Jan. 9, 1861, foiling the civilian ship’s attempt to re-supply the Union garrison at Fort Sumter.
The Confederate bombardment of the fort, generally cited as the war’s opening martial act, came more than three months later.
The Citadel is also rightly proud of a long line of alumni (including my father, Class of 1936) who have fought in every U.S. war since the school opened in 1842 — though on the C.S.A. side from 1861-65.
But if Citadel men — and women — are looking for the best play call to finally get past the ReVille scandal, they should re-assert the school’s core commitment to Honor.
And for a timely pep talk, you can’t beat this closing command from Price’s “Alma Mater”:
“Stand forever, yielding never
To the tyrant’s Hell
We’ll never cease our struggles for
Our mighty Citadel”
Frank Wooten is assistant editor of The Post and Courier. His email is firstname.lastname@example.org.