Blogging, Honesty and Accountability
August 29, 2012 2 Comments
Blogging, secrecy and accountability is another rousing post by Fr Anthony Chadwick:
A long time ago, I wrote and article on the Anglo-Catholic on Damian Thompson, Blogging and Episcopal Accountability. The article is still there. The essential theme is that in this age of instant information, no public figure can keep dirty secrets secret for long. This is almost certainly how bishops and other Church officials were outed and prosecuted for having aided and abetted child abusers. The article is still there for you to read.
The reason I bring this subject up is my previous article in which Mrs Sandra McColl from Australia calls for discretion and the respect of other people’s secrets:
I’m not talking about suppressing information, just about people regaining the sense of what is, and what is not, their business, and for those who are curious beyond what is not their business to be a little less insistent in demanding to know and to stop trying to make up information that hasn’t been provided.
I would say fair enough. Some things in life are confidential and are not to be fed to the lynching mob. However, we are dealing with human nature and with church organisations of various affiliations that have got away with many things because of institutional secrecy. Over the past few years, many things were secret and under the lid – which turned out to be a euphemism for smoke & mirrors or simply something that didn’t exist. Secrecy is a means of manipulating people, keeping them hooked and hoping for resolution that never comes. Putting it another way, it keeps people waiting for Godot…
The life of churches concerns all those who are interested in churches. In a transparent and honest organisation, there is little need for secrets other than what concerns persons. For example, doctors and lawyers are held to professional secrecy for the good of their clients. It is a misuse of secrecy to make it cover up evil or use it as a tool for manipulation.
One positive thing about the blog is that it is democratised journalism. It may be of lower quality than the work of professional journalists, but I as a blogger try to work ethically – including a minimum of regulation of “trolling” and otherwise calumnious and disturbing comments. I try to use the blog as a ministry of the word, a teaching ministry. A responsible blog can also be used to resist evil and open the windows and doors to let the fresh air in and the musty smells out. It is a part of our freedom of speech as long as we remain within the law, moral principles and the responsible conscience.
We can exhort people to be more Christian and more respectful for other people, but we can’t force them. Where there are grounds for suspicion, people will be suspicious that something stinks. We all have to learn transparency and to behave in such a way as things don’t always have to be secret.
Perhaps there are secrets in Australia? Even now?
If I was to say something to the effect of, ‘bloggers expose inconvenient truths,’ would I be wrong in saying so?
Certainly secular and celebrity bloggers in particular, have had a lot to do with the generally bad name given, as well as the frequent criticism which is levelled at bloggers. Christian bloggers are (or at least in principle, should be) different. What we seek to do is edify, to ‘take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ’ (1 Cor 10:5). Obviously, we don’t always get that right. It’s never easy controlling the content of your blog, especially since it is, for the most part, an open forum. Just ask any blogger, moderating a busy blog is really hard work.
But I’m lead at this point to think of our Lord’s words in St Mark 4:22 which, while quoted out of context here (it is a parable nonetheless), are rather pertinent: ‘There is nothing hidden that will not be revealed. There is nothing kept secret that will not come to light.’ Those who get to make decision that affect not only themselves, but others too, would do well to remember them. Sin grows in the dark (cf. Isa 28:15). And there are always consequences for the things we do and the things we say. In fact, a normally good measure of what is right as opposed to what is wrong, is whether or not we would be willing to stand for that – whatever – if it were brought to the light, or made public. This is especially true, as I’ve just mentioned, for leaders (and even more so, Church leaders). They need to be honest, ‘above reproach’ (1 Tim. 3:2), clear and forthright in their handlings and decisions.
One thing I can say, and I do so publicly now, is that we have been blessed here in South Africa with the godly leadership provided by our Bishop, Michael Gill. It’s not that I’m wanting to drag his name into this discourse, but for the sake of making a point, I cite him here as an example. With the whole Ordinariate / TAC occasion, he has been honest. He has not held back in his personal judgment, nor in what he prayerfully believes to be in the best interest of the entire Church, in other words, all the sheep he leads. He was (is) not willing that any one go astray. That is his heart. He has suffered with great restraint and unbelievable patience those who do not agree with this, his adopted position – squabblers who were either pro-Ordinariate or completely anti-Ordinariate. But because he has been consistent, open and honest, he has our respect and following. It really was (is) not an enviable position to be in, and one that he continues to walk in as the now Secretary to the College of Bishops, where they are at the fore of restoring the TAC and still are having to deal with the fallout of a split, confused and hurting global Communion.
So as we look back, it is questions in the area of honesty and integrity that still linger. With Fr Anthony Chadwick said to be ‘rehashing the history of the Traditional Communion’ yesterday, it all seems to run back to the then Primate, Archbishop John Hepworth, and what he knew or didn’t know. How he conducted himself. Was he honest? Was he ‘above reproach’? Was he clear and forthright? I suspect each will have his/her own thoughts and judgments here, and perhaps the whole truth is yet eluding us?
Coming out of all of that, it is easy to see why people would expect (or demand) information that is presented transparently, honestly and that with accountability. The failing here would be not to learn from past mistakes and erroneously think that suppressing information, not being extremely open and honest, will get us anywhere but deeper into a hole.
Blogging may be what it is, but when used ethically with a little wisdom and circumspect, it can (and will) expose lies and fraudulence. That is not the goal of this blog, but it is the nature of the medium. My blog, I have always maintained, is an extension of my priestly ministry. While the blog may have failed at times, that is only because of the all too human author banging on the keyboard behind the postings. Yet God’s knows and sees my heart, and the deep longing I have to serve Him. Ultimately, it is He, our Creator, that gets to judge each and every one of us. Before Him, we are fully accountable, and there, nothing will be left that is secret.