Tait, D. (2013). Managing a Royal Sex Abuse Scandal.

Managing sex abuse scandals is a challenge for many contemporary institutions, including churches, synagogues, madrassas, schools and youth groups. Some religious bodies, however, already have considerable experience in managing scandals – their sacred texts are full of dangerous stories that have shocked and challenged them over many centuries. The story of David and Bathsheba, for example, combines three themes central to the current crisis: sexual exploitation, abuse of power and attempted cover-up. This article provides an analysis of how three faith communities – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – have ‘managed’ the story of King David’s adultery with Bathsheba and the assassination of her husband, Uriah, and the subsequent litany of rape and murder (and possibly also incest) within the royal house. David’s legacy is central to the three traditions: he is a founding father of Judaism, a forbear of the Christian Messiah and a prophet for Islam. Studies of individual delinquents document strategies of rationalisation, including denial of responsibility for harm, accusing the accusers and finding a ‘greater good’ from the incident. Organisational theorists who examine institutional scandals document a similar range of strategies, distinguishing ‘rogue’ organisations that seek to excuse their behaviour and ‘redemptive’ organisations that are willing to take responsibility and mend their ways. The three traditions display mixtures of the two approaches as they have retold the story of David and Bathsheba for new audiences. Missing in many of the versions of the story, however, are two features that make the original story so confronting: the offence was a sovereign crime rather than an individual indiscretion; and the king was checked by a countervailing power, the prophet Nathan. By ignoring the institutional context of the crime and forgetting Nathan, the story becomes tame and manageable. There were, however, exceptions to this pattern. The Qur’an turned the whole story into a treatise on abuse of power, while a sermon by Machiavelli resulted in a debate about accountability. Scandals such as this can also be seen as opportunities for developing new norms. By reading the principles of sovereignty and accountability back into the story, its truly scandalous character can be recognised, opening up the possibility of new ways of thinking about the current crisis. [X]