I first came across Dr. Bernard Prusak’s work when a friend sent me his article in Commonweal titled, Who Knew? The sexual-abuse crisis and ‘epistemic injustice.’ This article struck me as contributing something important to the discussion about the abuse crisis in the Church, so I reached out to Bernard. After we connected, he sent me a draft of an article (that will be published later this year by Liturgical Press) about the concept of Institutional Vice and how it can help explain how abuse coverup happens in the Church.

The simple explanation of institutional vice is that if the virtues of an institution naturally encourage the individual members of that institution to be more virtuous than they were on their own, the vices of an institution can corrupt a person. Institutional vice helps explain how a seemingly otherwise good person can turn a blind eye to abuse in their institution, even when that abuse happens in front of their face.

I think the philosophical work that Bernard is doing can be helpful for Catholics to better understand the abuse crisis and have more clarity about what needs to be done in working for reform.

The episode is available on Youtube and in your podcast feed!

This week, Paul and Dominic talk with Dr. Bernard Prusak. They discuss an up-and-coming article (being published later this year by Liturgical Press) that Bernard wrote about Institutional Vice and the coverup of clerical sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Using the story of the disgraced former cardinal Theodore McCarrick as an example, Bernard’s article attempts to explain how otherwise good people can act differently, sometimes dramatically different, as a part of the organization vs. when they are acting in their personal lives.

Dr. Bernard Prusak holds the Raymond and Eleanor Smiley Chair in Business Ethics at John Carroll University. He was formerly Professor of Philosophy and Director of the McGowan Center for Ethics and Social Responsibility at King’s College in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. His books include Catholic Moral Philosophy in Practice and Theory: An Introduction and Catholic Higher Education and Catholic Social Thought.

Who Knew? The sexual-abuse crisis and ‘epistemic injustice’

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ABOUT DOMINIC DE SOUZA SmartCatholics founder, Dominic de Souza, is a convert from radical traditionalism – inspired by WherePeterIs, Bishop Robert Barron, and Pope Francis. He is passionate about helping ordinary Catholics break the ‘bystander effect’, and be first responders. “We don’t have to be geniuses. We just have to show up with witness and kindness. Christ does the rest.” Today he hosts the SmartCatholics community.


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Paul Faheylives in Michigan with his wife and four kids. For the past eight years, he has worked as a professional catechist. He has an undergraduate degree in Theology and is currently working toward a Masters Degree in Pastoral Counseling. He is a retreat leader, catechist formator, writer, and a co-founder of Where Peter Is. He is also the founder and co-host of the Pope Francis Generation podcast. His long-term goal is to provide pastoral counseling for Catholics who have been spiritually abused, counseling for Catholic ministers, and counseling education so that ministers are more equipped to help others in their ministry.

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