Saturday, June 23, 2012

Institutional people who cover up corruption

Penn State and the Second Mile. Horace Mann School. Catholic Church. Prestigious institutions where sexual abuse of children was known, covered up, and allowed to continue, rather than prevented or immediately cured. They are not the only prestigious institutions that have failed to self-correct, but they are the most famous.

For-profit corporations have a core fiduciary duty to maximize earnings, so it's at least understandable when their members respond to the institutional pressure by crossing the line from honest or legal to ill-gotten gains. Laws are meant to limit and regulate expected behavior in the dutiful pursuit of profit. But the core duty of schools and churches is to socialize their charges, which means their reason for being is to provide a secure environment and ethical social framework, especially for children. Not only is sexual abuse of children generally considered one of the worst sins in our society, when school or church agents corrupt the social framework, they are acting against the core fiduciary duty of their institutions. So why do members of prestigious institutions regarded as founts of the moral community seemingly act against the purpose of their institutions by covering up harmful corruption rather than cure it immediately? It's like an immune system that's unable to protect a body from cancer.

Are members of prestigious institutions more prone to covering up immoral and harmful activity in their midst or is covering up simply human nature? (I believe the latter.) What can be done to create institutional cultures that will overcome individual moral weakness in order to immediately cure or prevent harm as opposed to covering up or kicking the can?




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