From The “Saint’s Excuse” Files:The Catholic Church, Penn State, and Now Choate…What Have We Learned?

Protect the hive. Always protect the hive…

The renowned private boarding school school Choate Rosemary Hall, alma mater of such luminaries as John Dos Passos, Edward Albee, Glenn Close, multiple Kennedys and dozens more of the rich, famous and powerful, , just revealed that at least twelve former teachers had sexually molested, and in one case, raped, students without the crimes being reported to police. The pattern continued over decades. In some cases, teachers were allowed to resign after being confronted with evidence of abuse, and administrators wrote still letters of recommendations for them after they were fired. The predators then went to other schools, sometimes in positions of power and authority.

After the similar institutional conduct revealed by the Catholic Church and Penn State, does anyone believe that this is a rare occurrence in institution, including the most prestigious—and virtuous!—ones? The lesson is that established, powerful, iconic institutions are programmed to protect themselves above others, and regard their own missions and continued vitality more precious than any single individual, even a child.

Revisiting one of the most important of the Ethics Alarms’ 92 rationalizations:

13. The Saint’s Excuse: “It’s for a good cause”

This rationalization has probably caused more death and human suffering than any other. The words “it’s for a good cause” have been used to justify all sorts of lies, scams and mayhem. It is the downfall of the zealot, the true believer, and the passionate advocate that almost any action that supports “the Cause,’ whether it be liberty, religion, charity, or curing a plague, is seen as being justified by the inherent rightness of the ultimate goal. Thus Catholic Bishops protected child-molesting priests to protect the Church, and the American Red Cross used deceptive promotions to swell its blood supplies after the September 11, 2001 attacks. The Saint’s Excuse  allows charities to strong-arm contributors, and advocacy groups to use lies and innuendo to savage ideological opponents. The Saint’s Excuse is that the ends justify the means, because the “saint” has decided that the ends are worth any price—especially when that price will have to be paid by someone else.

Think about it: the reputation, vitality, and continued ability to do grand and good things creates the ultimate utilitarian trap into corruption. Of course those intimately involved in the organization or institution believe that protecting its long-term survival and influence out-balances any other considerations on a utilitarian scale. Not only are they biased, but they are thoroughly conditioned by the organization’s culture to truly believe that even crimes must be covered up, because the society, humanity, the world depends on the institution’s survival.

This is a natural reaction; I believe it is almost an inevitable reaction. Foundations, charities, corporations, universities, schools, religions, political parties, empires based on personalities, like Bill Cosby, Inc,. all have the Saint’s Excuse telling them to behave that way. If they do not, it is only because one of three conditions exist: there is a courageous, popular, powerful leader who rejects the cover-up,  a cover-up is no longer possible, or the organization has built and maintained a solid ethical culture from the organizations origins.

The last is the rarest by far.

I hate to think how rare.

18 thoughts on “From The “Saint’s Excuse” Files:The Catholic Church, Penn State, and Now Choate…What Have We Learned?

  1. Reminds me of Big Gov proponents. This is how the EPA gets a pass on polluting a river; how the DOJ can arm Mexican cartels; how Vet Affairs STILL gets away with secret lists that allow vets to die, while paying bonuses to the wrong doers.

    Aside: would those in the VA who take bonuses for essentially killing vets be considered evil? Where does the definition start?

  2. Some years ago I figured out that for the most part, the more a person or corporate entity or organization “gives” the longer and stronger the string attached. I remember the learning about the Torches of Freedom PR stunt by Beynays’ in 1929, where women’s liberation was connected to smoking. This *means to an end* ethos using charity to get away with other rotten stuff is pretty old. Yet we still get fooled by it.

  3. I don’t entirely agree with respect to the Catholic Church. My understanding is that they looked at predatory behavior as a moral failing. Same thing with alcoholism.

    They believed, genuinely, even if wrongly, that such behavior could be corrected through moral will.

    Yes, some may have had the saint’s excuse. Others may have genuinely believed in redemption and transferred offenders who were reformed in order to give them a new start.

    You need to find a rationalization for the ignorant (people who unknowingly make mistakes).

    • I have a nice bridge to sell you. I don’t know how you understand that: the evidence is pretty harsh and overwhelming in the other direction. Meanwhile, Alcoholism doesn’t involve molesting little trusting innocent children. Of course it’s a moral problem: so is murder. Now tell me the bishops prayed for the priest to change, and thought that was all that was needed. Just one big misunderstanding.

  4. Jack, what do you make of the current seemingly popular trend of hiring blue stocking law firms to do these sorts of investigations? I think it’s kind of strange. Do these firm have former detectives and police on staff? Sure there are former prosecutors, but do these firms really have the appropriate investigative skills? Aren’t they more used to covering things up for their clients rather than getting to the bottom of things?

  5. blockquote, div.yahoo_quoted { margin-left: 0 !important; border-left:1px #715FFA solid !important; padding-left:1ex !important; background-color:white !important; } Our neighbor in Dunwoody went to RC and sent both his boys there.  Ugh. 

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPad

  6. Just dropping by to bolster Jack’s premise with a mention of the ongoing, not-so-secret problem of United Nations “peacekeepers” having a nasty habit of raping and impregnating women and children, usually without consequence.

  7. Here is something you need to learn, courtesy of Chris Morton.

    * Police have no legal duty to protect individuals.
    * Police have no legal liability when they fail to protect individuals.
    * Police not assigned as bodyguards have no physical ability to protect individuals.

    It is completely nonsensical that a school has a greater duty to prevent rape than the police do.

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