Big institutions, and their leaders, elude punishment



When complex, powerful organizations become seedbeds of wrong-doing, how do you hold them accountable? Whom do you punish?

This is one we haven’t figured out yet in America.

Think of two of the most damaging, most appalling scandals of recent times. First, the deceitful risk-taking on Wall Street that brought down the global economy. Second, the culture of silence and evasion in the Catholic Church that permitted repeated sexual abuse by clergy.

Philadelphia had been the site of the first American court case where a Catholic Church administrator was held to account for shifting abusive priests from one congregation or school to another.

But last week a Pennsylvania Superior Court panel ruled that the legal theory used to convict Monsignor William Lynn of child endangerment was invalid. The ruling didn’t question the evidence that Lynn’s decisions as a church official gave abusive priests new chances to ruin young lives, just that the statute didn’t apply to those facts.

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