On the same day that The Advocate reported ongoing fallout from hazing arrests at LSU, the newspaper carried a story about the Catholic Church’s continuing struggle to address abuses in its own ranks.

After decades of trying to hide wrongdoing, Vatican officials have pledged to be transparent about who harmed innocent people and what steps they’re taking to prevent similar problems in the future — a promise we hope holds true.

It’s the only real way for any institution to regain public trust. But that lesson seems lost on some of the supporters of Delta Kappa Epsilon, which was shut down at LSU after nine members were arrested for hazing. The investigation that landed the fraternity in hot water was prompted by a DKE alum’s complaint about wounds he spotted on his grandson, injuries he allegedly sustained from hazing.

But when local DKE alums found out that the LSU chapter of the fraternity would close because of the scandal, the area alumni president, Ben Gibson, who said he was resigning his post, criticized the alleged victim by name in an email to alumni. Gibson later said he regretted sending the email.

Blaming — and attempting to shame — the victim is an age-old tactic for trying to avoid accountability, but it’s the kind of behavior befitting a criminal enterprise, not a fraternity that’s supposed to nurture the well-being of its members.

The Advocate generally does not identify crime victims without their permission. According to the grandfather who complained about the alleged hazing, his grandson was uncooperative in bringing the matter to light.

We’re not surprised. That kind of secrecy has too long been part of the culture in many fraternities, which is exactly how abuse is allowed to thrive. DKE’s report on the LSU chapter mentions older members assaulting new members by extinguishing cigarettes on their bodies and by beating them with pipes and paddles. The report alleges that new members were forced to fight one another, and that they were forced or coerced to consume alcohol and marijuana.

LSU placed at least three administrators on leave after allegations that university officials might have turned a blind eye on suspicions of wrongdoing in the fraternity. Just a week after acknowledging the move, the university announced that the officials in question had been cleared by an investigation conducted by a law firm the university hired. When The Advocate asked for a written report from the investigation, a university spokesman said LSU had no such report. It’s curious, to say the least, that a probe of such a serious matter wouldn’t produce a written summary of its work and conclusions. A complete report, released to the public, is how LSU should demonstrate its accountability.

The common response to such scandals is for those involved to clam up and hope it all goes away.

That’s never worked in the long run, and it has nothing to do with honor and integrity, which any fraternity is supposed to promote.

— The (Baton Rouge) Advocate

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