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What's Collusion?


Different people have different meanings for the word “collusion.” It comes from the same Latin root as “ludicrous.” That common root gives a good start for how to think about it.

When people “collude,” they cooperate with something that is absurdly inept, false or foolish.

That’s how I think about collusion. It’s a charade of a pretense that is so phony as to be ludicrous.

When people collude, they are usually making themselves complicit in the cover-up of some sort of unethical conduct or in the protection of others who engage in unethical conduct. Sometimes, people collude to cover-up for prior collusion -- their own or that of others. Collusion feeds on itself.

“Collusion is usually far more devastating to victims than the primary abuse.” 

--  Dee Miller

We see the manifestations of collusion with clergy sex abuse through minimizations, denial, rationalizing, victim-silencing, victim-blaming, and keep-it-quiet tactics.  

Collusion can be accomplished both consciously and unconsciously, intentionally and unintentionally. So even if someone says they didn’t intend to collude, their conduct may have still been collusive.

“The world is too dangerous to live in -- not because of the people who do evil but because of the people who sit and let it happen.”  --  Einstein

Many collude through silence and inaction. So you won’t see the collusion in what they do; you’ll see it in what they don’t do.

Collusion often occurs behind closed doors. It’s a secretive sort of thing. So most of the time, you aren’t going to see any news articles about it.

But consider these few possible examples. Every one of these people and organizations would probably say they think clergy sex abuse is a terrible thing. But take a look, and decide for yourself whether that’s the message their deeds reflect.

Do these constitute examples of Baptist leaders’ collusion with clergy sex abuse?

Examples of individual conduct

Examples of institutional conduct


"It is very tempting to take the side of the perpetrator. All the perpetrator asks is that the bystander do nothing. He appeals to the universal desire to see, hear and speak no evil. The victim, on the contrary, asks the bystander to share the burden of pain. The victim demands action, engagement and remembering.” 

--  Judith Herman, Trauma and Recovery (1992)