3. Moral Disengagement
“Mark my words…if it takes a village to raise a child,
it takes a village to abuse one.” Spotlight (2015)
it takes a village to abuse one.” Spotlight (2015)
This entry continues the call to the international church-mission community (CMC) to practice the highest standards of transparency and accountability. It also highlights the human propensity for acting deceptively and complicitly (corruption) as well as the human capacity for acting truthfully and heroically (integrity).
Part One presents three recent resources to help us better understand corruption and in particular complicity: The film Spotlight; the podcast Lies, Lies, Lies; and the book Moral Disengagement. Together they underscore how easy it is for anyone to rationalize complicity, deceive themselves/lie, and disengage morally (core ingredients for “cooperating with corruption”). Part Two gives a short update on the NCI KB et al fraud, encouraging people not to succumb to complicity.
Part One: Resources for Understanding Corruption--and Ourselves
The opening quote in this entry is from the 2015 film Spotlight (“it takes a village to raise…to abuse a child”). This film received the Oscar for best picture and portrays the Boston Globe’s investigation of pedophilia in the Catholic church. As the story unfolds, it becomes apparent that the pedophilia was widespread, systemic, and perpetuated by the complicity of people and communities who would not confront it (click HERE for an audio-photo overview and more information about The Boston Globe’s investigation).
Spotlight is also relevant for other forms and cases of corruption including what has happened in the NCI KB fraud: If it takes a community for affinity fraud to spread then it takes a takes a community to confront it…or cover it up. Have a look at the film trailer (link above) and watch the film. We sincerely hope that the film will encourage people and organizations affected by NCI KB to likewise act with courage and determination in confronting complicity. As Bandura says below, “Obvious questions that would reveal incriminating information remain unmasked, so officials do not find out what they do not want to know [or want others to know].” People can rise up and together with the over 100 people in the Shine the Light-Together petition, resolutely call organizations and leaders to act according to good practice standards, which includes verifiable transparency/accountability and authorizing independent reviews.
2. Lies, Lies, Lies, On The Media (podcast, 8 July 2016)
This fascinating podcast presents a brief overview of political lies (types and examples) mostly in the American context; the psychological reasons about how and why everyone lies; fact checking, blind belief, and more. It is 50 minutes and organized into seven separate parts. The part entitled Our Lies, Ourselves is especially interesting and relevant to the complicity focus of this entry as well as the NCI KB fraud.
3. Moral Disengagement
The 13 excerpts below are from Moral Disengagement: How People do Harm and Live with Themselves (2016), by Albert Bandura. Based on extensive research in social psychology, Bandura identifies the many ways that people—including groups, organizations, and communities—can hurt others and still feel good about themselves. “They do so by sanctifying their harmful behavior as serving worthy causes; they absolve themselves of blame for the harm they cause by displacement and diffusion of responsibility; they minimize or deny the harmful effects of their actions; and they dehumanize those they maltreat and blame them for bringing the suffering on themselves.”(excerpt from book cover).
Moral disengagement helps explain why so many “good” people can actually be actively complicit in “cooperating with corruption.” Many of the excerpts below focus on pedophilia/complicity in the Roman Catholic Church, just one of many examples that Bandura uses to illustrate the reality and impact of individual, group, and systemic moral disengagement. The NCI KB fraud is certainly another example.
- “People do not usually engage in harmful conduct until they have justified to themselves the morality of their actions. Social and moral justifications sanctify harmful practices by investing them with honorable purposes. Righteous and worthy ends are used to justify harmful means.” (p.49)
- “Authorities do not go looking for evidence of wrongdoing. Obvious questions that would reveal incriminating information remain unmasked, so officials do not find out what they do not want to know.” (p.61)
- “Implicit agreements, insulating social arrangements, and authorization by indirection ensure that the higher echelons are unaccountable. When harmful practices are publicized, they are officially dismissed as only isolated incidents arising from who or what had been authorized. Or blame is shifted to subordinates, who are portrayed as misguided or overzealous. Investigators that go looking for incriminating records of authorization display naiveté about the insidious ways that pernicious practices are usually sanctioned and carried out.” (p. 61)
- “In a common scenario, top officials evade accountability by stepping forward with a ritualized public apology...The public apology typically closes with a forward-looking statement aimed at curbing further probing. It is time to put the problem behind us, the officials announce, and quickly move on to right the wrongs and restore public trust. Admissions of ultimate responsibility are usually devoid of consequences. The officials are not chastised, demoted, dismissed, docked pay, or penalized in other ways.” (p. 64)
- “The world of work presents another type of moral predicament in which associates and supervisors are witness to institutional wrongdoings. Out of fear of retaliation and being ostracized as informers and troublemakers, they collectively turn a blind eye to what is going on. Compliant accommodation to institutional wrongdoing is self-devaluing unless morally justified.” (p. 70)
- “The personal accounts of whistle-blowers indicate that they tied their moral integrity to taking action against institutional wrongdoing…Most pay a heavy social and emotional price for their actions….It takes a lot off moral courage and perceived self-efficacy to blow the whistle.” (p.70)
- “The widespread sexual transgressions of clergy [in the Roman Catholic Church] testify to the power of moral disengagement to override the sanctions of conscience.” (p. 71)
- “Sexual molestation of children has no justification. Nor can it be sanitized linguistically. However, the cover-up by the bishops required justification. The bishops’ actions indicated that their justification was based on utilitarian grounds: The harm to the moral authority of the church from disclosing the sexual abuse outweighed the harm inflicted on the children. [the cover-up went on for years…]” (p. 71)
- “Concealing and minimizing the crimes, displacement and diffusion of responsibility, discrediting informers, disparaging victims, and indifference to them all contributed to the self-exoneration.” (p. 72)
- “The veil of secrecy and moral compromise operated throughout the church hierarchy….Although the sexual crimes violated civil law, not a single clergyman broke rank and reported the crimes to civil authorities.” (p. 75)
- “One remains uninformed about what one does not want to know by not doing what would reveal it.” (p. 76)
- “The efforts to protect the church at all costs ended up seriously harming the church and undermining its moral authority. What is even more disconcerting is the morally disengaged damage control...” (p.79)
Part Two: NCI Update—Don’t Succumb to Complicity
It has been over nine years since the NCI KB fraud began to be publically confronted (July 2007). It has also been nearly two years since four of the organizations included in the Shine the Light-Together petition and several of their leaders were formally presented with the petition, asking for their assistance. Leaders in Youth With A Mission, Mercy Ships, Youth For Christ, and Crossroads Church (Ferney-Voltaire, France) received separate email-letters in August 2014 regarding the petition with the names and comments of 100+ people who signed it.
We are not aware of any further action undertaken by organizations to investigate and disclose how they may have been affected by NCI KB in line with the specific concerns in the petition. Click here to see the paper trail: (August 2014--current). We thus continue the resolute, public call a) for assistance from all those affected in various ways by the NCI fraud; and b) for verifiable disclosures/independent reviews (transparency and accountability) by four of the organizations listed in the petition.
The organizations and people affected by NCI can call for organizational leaders to authorize independent reviews. People can also disclose what they know and how they have been affected. It is not too late to model good financial practice and integrity, for one’s own sake and for the sake of one’s organization, the church-mission community, and the general public. There is no need for any one to cooperate with corruption, especially through the type of complicity whereby “One remains uninformed about what one does not want to know by not doing what would reveal it” (Bandura, p. 76).