The Ethical Take

Published: March 15, 2013

By Jim Lichtman
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Beginning today, at least once a month, I will offer an abbreviated take on a variety of current issues.

First up: The New Pope –

Let’s begin with the fact that, historically, the (Roman) Catholic Church is the oldest club on the planet. With 1.2 billion in membership and billions more in cash and assets, they continue to exercise considerable influence. And they are going to needall the divine help they can get if they are ever going to dig themselves out of the very considerable credibility hole they have dug for themselves over the last several decades with the sex abuse scandal. No wonder Benedict XVI retired.

Newly inducted Pope Francis I, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio from Argentina, appears to have the requisite humility and keen focus on compassion – especially for the poor. But he’s a Jesuit. I was taught by the Jesuits and they are tough group, especially when it comes to adhering to church doctrine.

My Ethical Take: While I certainly like his background and his first appearance – “Let us say this prayer, your prayer for me, in silence,” he’s going to need a LOT of prayers (and cash) to settle all the abuse scandals if he’s going to have a prayer of getting Catholics worldwide to trust leadership again. He can start by excommunicating Los Angeles’s Cardinal Mahony – the Dark Prince of cover-ups. After that, he needs to reexamine abortion, gay marriage, women in the church and celibacy. That’s some “to do” list.

And, while we’re talking about abuse…

Sexual Assault in the Military –

Three former service members, testified before a congressional committee yesterday describing “a pervasive culture of harassment and danger in which victims had little or no redress,” The Times wrote (Mar. 13).

In one shocking piece of testimony, “Rebekah Havrilla, a former Army sergeant deployed to Afghanistan from 2006 to 2007, [testified that she] was raped by a superior a week before returning home.

“ ‘I chose not to do a report of any kind because I had no faith in my chain of command,’ Ms. Havrilla said. When she sought help from an Army chaplain, she said, he told her ‘the rape was God’s will’ and urged her to go to church.”

Clearly, the military establishment has its own clergy failing to deal with abuse issues. Any chaplain who makes the ludicrous statement that “rape was God’s will” needs to be sent packing, Period!

Senate chairwoman Kirsten Gillibrand, though respectful in her tone, made her case clear and compelling to a panel of military officials sitting before her.

“…I don’t know how you can say having 19,000 sexual assaults and rapes a year is discipline and order,” Ms. Gillibrand said. “I appreciate the work you are doing, I honestly do, but it’s not enough. And if you think you are achieving discipline and order with your current convening authority framework I am sorry to say you are wrong.”

My Take: If top brass in all branches of the military cannot maintain “discipline and order,” they either need to step aside or be replaced. No excuses!

Next up: Google Spy-Fi –

Apparently, while internet search-engine giant Google has been diligently mapping every square inch of the globe they’ve also been diligently data mining “…passwords, e-mail and other personal information from unsuspecting computer users,” TheNew York Times reports (Mar. 13).

“Last summer, the Federal Trade Commission fined Google $22.5 million for bypassing privacy settings in the Safari browser, the largest civil penalty ever levied by the F.T.C. In 2011, Google agreed to be audited for 20 years by the F.T.C. after it admitted to using deceptive tactics when starting its Buzz social network.”

With a $7 million fine (a parking ticket for the rest of us), critics “characterized the overall agreement as a breakthrough for a company they say has become a serial violator of privacy.”

But wait, that’s not all!

Google has a new toy – Google Glass, a special pair of eyeglasses – that’s soon to be available making it possible torecord conversations from the couple at the table next to you at your local Starbucks.

The Ethical Take: This spells Trouble, my friends, right here in every city! With the great explosion of internet traffic and consumer spending, marketers already enjoy enormous opportunities to know what we like and buy. C’mon, Google, get a grip and do what you have to do, but do it the right way!

Finally, Boy Scouts Ban on Gays Redux –

In a sincere reconsideration of its long-held policy of not allowing gays in their organization, The Boy Scouts of America is reportedly “…reaching out to parents and scouts,” The Times writes (Mar. 13), “as it decides whether to continue or rescind the group’s ban on gay members and leaders. …

“The survey offers possible outcomes should the Boy Scouts decide to keep or change its policy. Some address the widespread fear that the scouting movement could fracture or face an exodus no matter what it does. ‘If the Boy Scouts of America makes a decision on this policy that disagrees with your own view, will you continue to participate in the Boy Scouts, or will you leave the organization?’ one of questions says.”

“Christopher P. Borick, director of the Muhlenberg College Institute of Public Opinion, who has two sons in the Scouts, said… that as a scouting father, he is strongly opposed to the ban on gays and hopes to see it lifted. He said that what the survey appears to be looking for is less what course to take than what impact a change, or a continuation of the status quo, might have.”

My Ethical Take: The Boy Scouts have been “thinking” about this issue for too long. In a 1991 letter, the Girl Scouts of America clarified its position:

“As a private organization, Girl Scouts of the U.S.A. respects the values and beliefs of each of its members and does not intrude into personal matters. Therefore, there are no membership policies on sexual preference.”

Memo to BSA: It’s time to step out of the dark ages and join a more inclusive world.


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