Paper, Journal, and Review | Criminal Faith: When Religious Institutions Become a Shield for Crime

For childhood victims of sexual assault by Catholic priests, contributions to the Catholic Church painfully guarantee the ongoing and constant protection of a growing number of offenders. For parishioners, it is an unfortunate and unintentional declaration (for most) of support for pedophiles who intentionally seek cover in the shelter of a forgiving faith.

Understanding how trust can be abused and faith can be exploited is an integral part of solving systemic failures within power structures that are deemed noble. In the Catholic Church, there is an extensive history of accepting and protecting pedophiles who are ordained to be noble; behavior identified as 'Noble Cause Corruption' - the justification of criminal acts based on a perception of a greater good to society. Typically defined as criminally offending to nobly protect the innocent, Noble Cause Corruption within the Catholic Church is expressed as criminally defending to nobly protect the guilty  [pedophile priest]; thereby providing tacit and even direct approval of deviant behavior. Moreover, signaling a haven for sexual predators in exchange for the general performance of noble deeds.

Noble Cause Corruption and the violation of public trust in religious organizations is this weeks discussion.

Module 9 | Prompt

  1. What impact does Noble Cause Corruption have on society?
  2. Could withholding tithes/ contributions force Catholic leaders to purge the Church of pedophiles?
  3. How do contributions to the Church contributing to the protection of pedophiles within the church?
  4. Does Noble Cause Corruption exist outside of the Catholic Church?
  5. Is Noble Cause Corruption systemic or a disconnected crime of individual opportunity?


Primarily researched in the context of policing and even thought to be limited to such (van Halderen & Kolthoff, 2017), Noble Cause Corruption designates that "[...] the very nature of the behaviour [sic] means a likelihood of secrecy of those involved, even if they have already been exposed as ‘corrupt.’"

Moreover, "[...] bending the rules for the greater good, under certain circumstances, can be part of [the]  job description, rather than misconduct or corruption. [...] Unlike monetary corruption, noble cause is often perceived as a positive act by the perpetrators" (Merrington et al., 2014).

"[...] leaders [can and do] explicitly or implicitly demand rule-breaking of their subordinates; [as well], committing certain types of offenses could be considered “normal” [...] making it recognize [...] wrongdoing" (van Halderen & Kolthoff, 2017).

Inasmuch, legal defense tactics are intended to be preserving of 'noble men' who are otherwise considered criminals. Because the Church is placed at the highest designation of human morality, it is within this degree the Church asserts pedophilia and all sex crimes as defensible and attributable to a (commonly) consequential nature of the institution. Further, because of the noble status of the Church, pedophilia can appear institutionally normal and constantly redeemable. Thus, a safe haven for sex crimes.


Clearing large religious institutions of bad practices and criminal behavior is no small task. Even so, based on my experience, limiting access to resources that protect bad practices (e.g., legal fees and settlements in defense of crimes) is the beginning of revising institutional priorities (e.g., risks analysis, benefit to cost ratios). The reality is that where excessive resources exist, institutional risks are low and criminality will always be estimated as financially defensible. As of 2015, approximately $4 billion has been spent by the Catholic Church in defense of sex crimes. Indeed, there is room for parishioners to withhold financial support and to assert financial leverage toward demands for institutional reforms.

The Church can be reformed, but only with the diligent persistence of the full breadth of its membership for as long a period of time as is needed.

See Interdisciplinary Resources for works cited.

Interdisciplinary Resources


  1. Merrington, S. et al., (2014), An Exploratory Study of Noble Cause Corruption: The Wood Royal Commission New Sout Wales, Australia 1994-1997. International Journal of Management and Administrative Sciences . Vol. 2, No. 4, (18-29). Keywords: leadership, moral distance, moral hazard, noble cause corruption, Wood Royal Commission
  2. Porter, L. E., & Warrender, C. (2009). A multivariate model of police deviance: examining the nature of corruption, crime and misconduct. Policing & Society, 19(1), 79–99. Keywords: police corruption, police misconduct, moral distance
  3. van Halderen, R. C., & Kolthoff, E. (2017). Noble Cause Corruption Revisited: Toward a Structured Research Approach. Public Integrity, 19(3), 274–293. Keywords: corruption, noble cause corruption, policing, state crime, task-related rule-breaking behavior

Next Week's Sneak Peek...

Thank you for your patience while I recover from the flu.


Mea Maxima Culpa - Silence In The House of God (2013)

(Full Film, English Version)

(Película Completa, Version en Espanol)

Emmy Award Winning Documentary and winner of Best Documentary at the London Film Festival.

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