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Modern Mediating Institutions Need Greater Transparency

Mediating institutions are essential to democracy, as Tocqueville saw almost two hundred years ago. They offer an education in working with others toward common goals that makes for better citizens. They create a deeper structure of meaning and ideals than either politics or the market can often provide. They also furnish public goods in many cases more efficiently than the state. And finally they provide a framework of morality that it would be dangerous to allow the state either to formulate or enforce.

But many mediating institutions are in trouble today, beset by scandal from within and harassed by the state from without. There is more reason for optimism that they can overcome the scandals than the harassment.

Mediating institutions are unlikely to be engaged in more wrongdoing than in Tocqueville’s time, but the contemporary world makes scandals more public both because of social media and the decline of deference. Social media allows accusations to spread rapidly. A whispering campaign fast becomes a shout fest. And the decline of deference that Tocqueville himself predicted continues apace. The WASP elite has disappeared. But more importantly, the demand for an equality of standing which Tocqueville also foresaw as a consequence of democratization is stronger than ever. Trust is not presumed, but must be earned.

But the transparency demanded by modernity is not inherently destructive of the good that mediating institutions can do. Indeed, ultimately it can make them better. The sexual misconduct uncovered not only in the Catholic Church but among many evangelical churches made it more difficult for these religious institutions to instill the sexual ethics conducive to human flourishing. And such problems are emphatically not confined to religious institutions. Similar conduct has distorted the life of private boarding schools, like my own Phillips Exeter. These schools are themselves an important kind of mediating institution, particularly in instilling values that may be neglected by government schools.

Institutional reform is needed to make the leaders of these mediating institutions behave better.  Structures that mandate transparency and accountability will reduce the agency costs of hierarchy that are the root of many of these scandals. Professor Robert Delahunty of St. Thomas Law School, for instance, has suggested that giving the laity a greater say in the selection and removal of bishops will bring more accountability. Professor Robert George of Princeton is absolutely correct that investigating the current allegations against the Catholic hierarchy, including the Pope himself, requires the involvement of the laity. Trustees of private schools can do more do to monitor the day to day operations of the faculty. And better institutional structures are needed to improve performance in areas other than sexuality.  For instance, without close monitoring of stakeholders, like trustees, teachers and administers have often eroded the distinctive values with which many once fine educational institutions helped shape the next generation.

Separation of powers polices abuse in government by increasing monitoring. Similar structures, like balancing the laity against the clergy, can do the same for mediating institutions. And many of the same features of the modern world, like social media and the internet, that make transparency indispensable also make it easier to achieve.

In the next post, I will review the even greater threat to mediating institutions—government coercion.

Reader Discussion

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on September 02, 2018 at 02:34:06 am

To summarize: Mediating institutions often do bad things. To fix this, the institutions themselves should do ... well, something. Fix themselves somehow. [Insert vague hand-waiving.]

But the threat to mediating institutions is not that they lose legitimacy by conspiring to commit rape and covering it up. No, the REAL threat is Smith v. Employment Division's heretical suggestion that no one is above the law, and that laws should be implemented uniformly.

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nobody.really
on September 02, 2018 at 09:10:09 am

"[Insert vague hand-waiving.]"

Now THAT is prestidigitation, if ever there was any. Yep, just waive those hands right out of existence.
You may wave your hands unless of course nobody is actually LLB's version of Houdini. Oops, he is!

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gabe
on September 02, 2018 at 09:30:08 am

Oh forgot this which once again demonstrates the wisdom of nobody's sage advice.

"Mediating institutions often do bad things. To fix this, the institutions themselves should do … well, something. "

Apparently, the Pope is taking nobody's advice and he is doing something - he is urging *emergency* action against - you guessed it - OCEAN POLLUTION:

https://www.breitbart.com/big-government/2018/09/01/pope-urges-action-against-emergency-ocean-pollution-amid-church-sex-abuse-scandal/

Frannie Boy, you may want to take a look at another form of pollution that has washed up on the shores of the Church.

Goodness gracious, if only Francis were a bit more rotund, one could easily imagine him dancing up and down a staircase as did Charles Durning as the Governor in the Best Little Whorehouse in Texas. Then again, based upon news reports, the fable could be renamed "The Best Whorehouse in the Vatican."

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NJG75FJkjr8

Good advice, nobody.

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gabe
on September 04, 2018 at 14:46:05 pm

This site's technology remains antediluvian (before the Silicon Valley flood of post-post modern technocrats; e.g., see Michael Anton's commentary today.)

My comment circa 5-6 hours ago on McGinnis' matter of "moderating institutions" has not yet posted.
The Pony Express might be faster.

Yet, it's all vanity; the world will little note nor long rember (if at all) what is said in or about L&L's commentaries.

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Pukka Luftmensch
on September 04, 2018 at 18:04:58 pm

My 2nd comment with the two links took 2 days to be posted.
I mean Charles Durning was not that bad of a dancer, was he?

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gabe
on September 04, 2018 at 18:21:34 pm

Haha!
Did not see the Charles Durning film, so I must take your word that he was an OK dancer. (He was a helluva patriot, RIP.)

L&L's delayed posting is a chronic problem and really inexcusable. Makes me doubly angry because they have also blocked me. I feel like Dennis Praeger on YouTube, my special designation by L&L a Crane-like badge of honor rather than a Hawthorne-like sign of shame.

I just posted a one paragraph reply to your comment re the death of the Catholic Church, and I linked a recent Federalist article by Professor Paul Rahe of Hillsdale College. Wrote it at 5:55 Pm. Not posted yet.

Big ConLaw day on Capitol Hill, a genuine constitutional teaching moment, yet it passes over the head of the abstracted luftmensch's of L&L, while American Greatness printed a timely story by Stephen Presser. I'd link it, but that would add two days to its posting time.

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Pukka Luftmensch
on September 04, 2018 at 18:34:05 pm

2d reply: As did City Journal post today a good commentary by Mark Pulliam on Bork and Originalism.

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Pukka Luftmensch
on September 05, 2018 at 05:47:08 am

[…] institutions need to reform themselves to be effective in the presence of social media and in the absence of traditional …. But make no mistake. The greatest obstacle that even reformed mediating institutions face in carry […]

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The Rise of Special Interests and the Decline of Mediating Institutions
on September 05, 2018 at 10:05:23 am

“Mediating institutions are essential to democracy, as Tocqueville saw almost two hundred years ago. “

Before Tocqueville was, Christ Revealed IAM The Light (Life), The Truth, and The Way, Come Follow Me.

“What is man that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man that thou visitist him?”
(http://www.drbo.org/x/d?b=drb&bk=21&ch=8&l=5-5#x)

The Catholic Church is not just some institution; ““Since the Sacraments are the ordinary means through which Christ offers the Grace necessary for Salvation and the Catholic Church that Christ established is the ordinary minister of those Sacraments, it is appropriate to state that Salvation comes through the Church”, through The Unity of The Holy Ghost (Filioque).

“It is not possible to have Sacramental Communion without Ecclesial Communion”, due to The Unity of The Holy Ghost, for it is “Through Christ, With Christ, and In Christ, In The Unity of The Holy Ghost, that Holy Mother Church exists.

The erroneous notion that private morality could serve in opposition to public morality, and thus private morality and public morality are not complementary, has led to grievous errors in both Faith and reason, making it appear as if Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic, Church, no longer Clothed with The Word of God, is “Naked In The Public Square”.

Thus we can know through both Faith and reason, that “giving the laity a greater say in the selection and removal of Bishops”, during a Time in our Salvational History when there is a “Crisis In Faith”, is not the answer. It is not The Faithful who are responsible for the heinous abuse crisis, the sexual assaults and intimidation in various Catholic Seminaries, and the subsequent cover up that enabled more abuse; The Faithful assent to the teaching of Christ’s Church in regards to sexual morality, and the complementary nature of authentic Love, that serves for the Good of every beloved son and daughter.
Caritas In Veritate; Veritate In Caritas.

It is not possible for a counterfeit church to subsist within Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. The Faithful must continue to Pray for Divine Intervention.

Our Lady of Fatima, Destroyer Of All Heresy, who, through your Fiat, affirmed The Filioque, Hear Our Prayers!

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Nancy
on September 05, 2018 at 10:17:06 am

That should read, The erroneous notion that private morality could serve in opposition to public morality, and thus private morality and public morality are not complementary, has led to grievous errors in both Faith and reason, making it appear as if Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, no longer Clothed with The Word of God, is “Naked In The Public Square”.

As long as members of religious, clergy, the laity, as well as the Vatican, who deny Genesis, and thus Christ’s teaching on The Sanctity of Human Life, from the moment of conception, and The Sanctity of the marital act within The Sacrament of Matrimony, are permitted to remain within Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, making it appear as if it is possible for a counterfeit church, to subsist within Christ’s One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. the crisis will continue.

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Nancy
on September 05, 2018 at 10:47:49 am

[T]he world will little note nor long remember (if at all) what is said in or about L&L’s commentaries.

Oh, you wish. Remember, you're now in my file ... forever! Or until my various back-ups fail. With the aid of Russian hacking, I'd estimate that to be late October.

But, hey, how much immortality can anyone endure?

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nobody.really

Law & Liberty welcomes civil and lively discussion of its articles. Abusive comments will not be tolerated. We reserve the right to delete comments - or ban users - without notification or explanation.