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Jason Berry on Ethical Action in an Institutional Context

In an interview with The Atlantic, investigative journalist Jason Berry discusses the parallels and differences in the way the Catholic Church and Penn State responded to allegations of sexual abuse. See the interview here - What the Catholic Church Can Teach Us About the Penn State Scandal

In this interview Jason Berry raises a number of key themes for ethical deliberation in an institutional context:

1)  1. The relationship between knowledge of ethics and ethical practice.

  1. How can highly educated people who have received training or instruction in ethical thinking fail to act in accordance with this knowledge?
  2. What factors can wedge between knowledge and practice to create a situation where knowing the right thing doesn't lead to doing the right thing?
  3. Is there something intrinsic to institutions such as a Church, University or Company, that create the conditions in which ethical practice is determined by the institution rather than what is considered right beyond the institutional boundaries?

2)   2. The value of leadership

  1. Leadership is valued in the sporting arena, boardroom and ER. In these situations the leader leads towards victory, profit and success. These are valuable goals in society, but what of ethical leadership?
  2. Does ethical leadership lead toward a goal? If so what is it?
  3. If the goals of doing the right thing conflict with the goals of success or profit how are these reconciled - which yields?

3) 3.  The role of cultural sensibilities

  1. How do cultural sensibilities, as sources of identity and meaning, shape ethics?
  2. If these cultural sensibilities are criticized or dislodged what impact can this have on ethical deliberation?
  3. What is place of the individual within the culture? Is it possible to stand up for what is right and remain loyal to that culture?

Jason Berry addresses a range of ethical issues for the individual and institution. What aspect of Berry's perspective did you find helpful in thinking through the ethics of what occurred at Penn State? Where there parts that you thought were unhelpful or misguided? - we would like to discuss your thoughts and ideas.