Organizational Ethics, Secrecy, and Whistleblowing in Clergy Abuse

Project Description

This research will explore the relationship between organizational characteristics of the Roman Catholic Church—in particular, Jesuit institutions—and the problem of clergy sexual abuse and its concealment. More specifically, we aim to examine the role of ethical climate and organizational identity as underlying mechanisms of wrongdoing and collective silence in the Church. In the course of this project, we will study the relationship between the nature of the wrong and its perceived impact on the organization’s ideals and the likelihood of blowing the whistle in response to such wrongdoing.

Our intuition is that members of an ethical organization such as the Roman Catholic Church observing wrongdoing are more likely to stay silent when the wrong can seriously harm the organization’s core ideals (e.g., clergy abuse) and more likely to blow the whistle when the wrongdoing is less connected to the identity of the organization (e.g., financial misconduct). Along these lines, we will develop a model outlining the role of organizational forces in clergy abuse cases and empirically test our hypotheses. With this proposal, we aim to contribute to the academic literature on clerical abuse and whistleblowing and policymaking and to practical interventions at the Roman Catholic Church and Jesuit institutions.

Principal Investigators

Miguel Alzola is Associate Professor of Ethics at the Gabelli School of Business at Fordham University. He has published on the philosophy and psychology of character, the integration of empirical and normative research in business ethics, and role morality. His work has appeared in journals such as Business Ethics Quarterly, the Journal of Business Ethics, and Business & Society. He wrote the business ethics chapter of the Oxford Handbook of Virtue (OUP, 2018). Miguel is Book Review Editor of Business Ethics Quarterly and serves on the Executive Committee of the International Society for Business, Economics, and Ethics (ISBEE) and on the Editorial Board of Business Ethics Quarterly. He is also Guest Editor of the Journal of Business Ethics Special Issue on “Aristotelian and Confucian Virtue Ethics in Business.”

Öykü Arkan is a Ph. D. candidate in the Management and Global Business department at Rutgers Business School under a Fulbright Fellowship. She teaches Ethics in Business to undergraduate students and works as a Behavioral Lab Coordinator. Her current research focuses on employee voice behaviors. More specifically, in her dissertation, she explores the role of moral character and organizational ethical climate in understanding employees’ whistleblowing behaviors from a virtue ethics perspective. Her research in progress includes examining the role of the inter-subjective reflection process on ethical decision making, promoting effective whistleblowing, and exploring technology firms’ role as facilitators of expression and suppression of voice.