Ethics 1

by Victoria S. – Approved on 3 July, 2017

  1. Find and provide an appropriate definition, discuss your understanding, and provide illustrative examples for each of the following seven terms: morals, values, personal bias, professional boundaries, confidentiality, right and wrong (100 words each minimum, not including definitions)

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines Morals as:

a : of or relating to principles of right and wrong in behavior : ethical moral judgments
b : expressing or teaching a conception of right behavior a moral poem
c : conforming to a standard of right behavior took a moral position on the issue though it cost him the nomination
d : sanctioned by or operative on one’s conscience or ethical judgment a moral obligation
e : capable of right and wrong action a moral agent (“Moral”)

Our morals are the set of rules that we have to help us determine our actions. In the definition of morals above, we can see that morals help us to determine what behavior is right or wrong. Morals are defined by our communities as much as by our own values.
In an article on Ethics, Fieser proposes that morals are implemented by groups of individuals to manage the behavior of the group. For instance, in many cultures actions such as stealing, or murder, are morally wrong. These morals help to ensure the safety of the members of the community.
Morals do, however, vary by community. There are actions that are considered morally acceptable by white supremacists, for example, that are considered very immoral by other communities – especially actions around discrimination and hate.

The National Defense University defines values as “those things that are important to or valued by someone”(“Values and Ethics”). While morals are more likely to be defined by the community, values are defined by the individual’s experiences.
One of the challenges with values is that they are individualized. Depending on your particular ethical viewpoint, seeking out pleasure to be a good value, or your values could lead you to avoid pleasure. Each person defines their values within the framework of their community and their experience.
In Socrates’ time, the values that were important tended to increase the individual’s power and wealth (Frede). Today, there are some individuals who believe that those types of values are important, but there are also many individuals who believe that values that emphasize community and fellowship are more important.
In ADF, we are encouraged to reflect the Nine Virtues of ADF in our values. For clergy members of ADF, this reflection of the Nine Virtues is expected. However, each member can still have their personal definition of the virtues.

Personal bias
Personal bias is when we allow our personal beliefs to affect the way we view individuals, relationships, and other situations.

Merriam-Webster defines bias as:
a : bent, tendency
b : an inclination of temperament or outlook; especially : a personal and sometimes unreasoned judgment : prejudice
c : an instance of such prejudice (“Bias”).

In scientific research, the personal bias of the researcher can influence the outcome of a study through both the design of the study, and the interpretation of the results. In pastoral care, our personal bias can affect how we work with individuals who are coming to us for help.
In her article on the American Psychological Association website, Paula Britton discusses studies conducted on the attitudes of Therapists towards patients with AIDS/HIV. One study showed that for therapists who were biased against persons with AIDS, the therapists consider the patients to be “more responsible for their illness, less deserving of sympathy, and more dangerous to the general public than clients with leukemia.”
For priests to give every individual respect and promote their self-worth, we need to be aware of our personal bias and the impacts that they have on our relationships and interactions with individuals. By understanding our personal bias, we can understand our reactions to individuals and treat them with respect, or realize that we need to refer them to someone else who can.

Professional boundaries
In the ADF leadership Manual, Rev. Caryn MacLuan quotes Hereford’s definition of personal boundaries as “the physical, emotional and mental limits we establish to protect ourselves from being manipulated, used, or violated by others” (Harbaugh and MacLuan 146). These limits can range from limiting non-emergency calls in on weekends, determining whether or not to meet individuals in your home, or if to give out your home address or personal email.
Professional boundaries are additional boundaries that we impose upon the professional, in this case priestly, aspects of our lives. It is important for us, as priests, to balance our availability and openness with boundaries that protect our emotional, mental and physical selves; and which also protect the individuals who are coming to us for help. For example, saying no to someone who’s asking for non-crisis, non-emergency assistance because you were up all night with someone who was suicidal is a smart boundary to have.
In many cases, the specifics of the boundaries are defined in professional codes. For example, the “ADF Clergy Council Code of Ethics,” the importance of the Priest to be responsible for leading a balanced life, and the ability to refuse a relationship with a member is specifically called out. In addition, the Priest also has a responsibility to ensure that their individual actions do not interfere with their ability to perform their responsibilities. In addition to the boundaries that protect the priest, there are also boundaries of behavior that protect the individuals who are coming to us for help. One example is a boundary that prevents us from becoming romantically involved with the individuals who come to us for support. These limits imposed upon the priest are professional boundaries by which all ADF Clergy member should abide.

In the Oxford Living Dictionary, Confidentiality is defined as “The state of keeping or being kept secret or private” (“Confidentiality”). In an article on the Assemblies of God website, Middlebrook discusses confidentiality and the responsibilities that it places on clergy:

“Confidentiality places a duty on clergy not to disclose information shared with them in private. Confidentiality is also the ethical and often legal responsibility to safeguard congregation members from unauthorized disclosures of information given in the context of a confidential pastor-parishioner relationship.”

As a result of lawsuits that have been brought against Priests, Middlebrook suggests that confidentiality is also a legal obligation for Christian priests.
Individuals who come to clergy for assistance, generally expect that the things they say privately to their clergy person be held in confidence. This allows people to open up to their clergy person without fear of reprisal. The lawsuits that Middlebrook mentions prove that individuals have the expectation of confidentiality when talking to their clergy members – at least in private situations.
While pagan clergy do not have institutions such as confession, or a formal tradition of pastoral counseling, we still have the same responsibility of confidentiality. The only reason that we should break the confidence of information that is told to us privately is if the law requires it or if we have been given permission by the person who told it to us in the first place.

Right and wrong
The specifics of what an individual considers right and wrong are based on their ethics and morals. For example, following “The Golden Rule” is one way of defining what is right and wrong. If you would want someone to do a thing to you, then it’s okay to do that thing to another person. The action is considered “right.”
In 1900, Richard Ryder said that pain was the only evil and to act morally, we must reduce the pain of others. This can cause some concern for groups who believe that it is morally right to follow the law as most cultures have laws that prevent ending the suffering of a human being who is in a “conscious nightmare of pain” (Orr, loc. 1108 – 1115). However, in this case – that of a terminally ill person – some individuals consider it acceptable to break the law and assist the patient’s death. For these people, it’s more right to assist someone to end the pain than it is to follow the law.
In ADF, we have our bylaws, policies, and the Nine Virtues that are our guidelines for what is considered right and wrong, however, each of these virtues may be regarded as slightly different by different individuals and so there is still differences between individuals in what we consider right and wrong.

2. Self-awareness is key to the implementation of professional ethics. Discuss how your personal morals, values, bias and ability to maintain adequate boundaries, confidentiality and determine right from wrong might both positively and negatively impact your professional relationships. (200 words minimum)

Self-awareness is critical to my professional relationships. If I do not have solid morals and values, if I do not understand how those morals, values and my experiences impact my bias, then I cannot determine what might be right and wrong for me. It is also critical that I understand that these things – morals, values, bias, right and wrong – may be different for every individual and it is critical that I understand where my boundaries are so that I may competently perform my responsibilities as an ADF priest.
Through understanding the type of culture and environment that I was raised in I can begin to understand my morals and values, . Knowing my morals and values can help me to gain a better perspective on how I react to individuals and situations, and where it would be better for me to find someone else to help an individual. I have met people who consider it right to do something that I consider to be incredibly wrong – it would be hard for me to help these people.
In addition to these things, I believe that it is critical to understand my motivations for taking specific actions. It is not enough to know that something is right or wrong, but why you are doing it is also key.
Confidentiality is another key factor. Without individuals believing that they can safely tell me something, there is no trust. Without trust, there is no opportunity for the counseling or spiritual relationship that is needed for an ADF priest to perform their responsibilities.
This level of self-knowledge is important for any counselor to perform their responsibilities effectively. In ADF, priests are also teachers and ritual leaders – these roles also require a level of self-awareness, of ethics, of boundaries and confidentiality to be able to perform effectively.

3.Discuss how an individual learns to determine right from wrong and explain the factors that influence this determination? (100 words minimum)

What we, as individuals, think is right or wrong is defined by our values and morals. These are, in turn, defined by our family, society, and culture.
In Caring for God’s People, Culbertson describes different approaches to how families interact and how individuals learn their values – family systems theory, narrative counseling theory, object relations theory and intersubjective narratives. These theories talk about how we define our values – and thus, what is right and wrong – by the stories that we tell ourselves. Stories that are based upon the stories that our family and culture tell us.
Daeg De Mott talks about the stages of moral development from infant through late teen. In these stages, the individual’s thoughts about what is right and wrong change from what feels good and bad, to internalizing family values, to then incorporating the cultural and social values.
Our values can change over time based on the different cultures that we are in. For example, as I have moved between different cultures, different things become important to me, and different activities have become right and wrong. When I was younger, it was okay to insult someone with sarcasm, but now I find that I don’t think that insulting someone is okay – however it’s done.

4.Describe several reasons why an individual would strive to “do the right thing”? (100 words minimum)

People strive to “do the right thing” for many reasons. For some, doing the right thing feels good. Others will do the right thing out of fear of reprisal or social shunning. And some people will do the right thing out of duty, or obligation.
In his article on “Ethics,” James Fieser discusses three different theories about values, and why people tend to try to do the right thing based upon their values. In value theory, individuals follow their self defined set of values as right and wrong. In the same article, Fieser talks about how Aristotle believe that there were extremes for every value were bad and an individual needed to have a moderate level of the value to be in balance, to be good. For example, the value of courage, can be taken to a reckless extreme if there is too much of it, or to the level of cowardice if there is too little of it.
Other individuals follow the duty-based approach. In this approach, individuals do what is right because that what society has defined is appropriate. There are a number of different duty-based theories, but they all fall under the general idea that society defines what is right, and it is our duty to do that (Fieser).
The final approach that Fieser outlines is the consequentialist theories. In these theories, it is a judgment call by the individual to define what is right. If the total outcome of a choice is more good than bad, then the choice is considered right. Depending on the particular theory, the level of good and bad can be calculated from the amount of pain or pleasure that results from a decision; if the decision is beneficial to more people than not; or if there are more rules on what is right and wrong.

5.Discuss how an individual’s values relate to the decisionmaking process. (100 words minimum)

Our values are how we consider what is right and wrong. When we are faced with any decision, we evaluate it internally based upon our current set of values and morals. If the action fits into our values – and it promotes what we consider to be good, then we are more likely to do it. There are situations, however, where there is no good answer, and we must decide upon the least bad options. In these cases, our values are critically important to decision making as they provide shortcuts to what is right and wrong.
To give an extreme example: I am driving down the road and a mother with her child steps in front of my car. I can break and hope that I stop before I hit the woman and her child, or I could steer off of the road and potentially hit a dozen pedestrians, or crash my car into the cliff face and probably kill myself. To most people, none of those options are good, but our values will dictate how we would choose. None of the deaths are a given – no one may die at all – but which risk would we take? It is a decision that we have to make for ourselves.

6.Discuss the importance of ethics to the clergy-lay relationship. Do you believe a clergy person has ethical responsibilities? If so, what are these responsibilities? (300 words minimum)

Culbertson discusses the fact that people come to clergy, or pastoral counselors because they want to find a way to integrate their spiritual life with their emotional and intellectual lives (Kindle Loc. 4794). It is important for us, as priests, to remember that these individuals are looking to us for guidance. It is our ethical responsibility to do our best to understand the needs of the individuals and to attempt to address their concerns. We are bound to as much confidentiality as legally possible, to honor the individual as a being worthy of our respect, to honor the differences in perception and to try not to let our personal bias interfere with the relationship.
The “ADF Clergy Council Code of Ethics” requires us to do our best to promote self-respect, self-worth, and individual dignity. This requirement is important to establish and maintain a healthy relationship between the Folk and the Priest.
There can, however, be situations where the Priest’s ethics are challenged. For example, in situations where individuals come to a member of the clergy to discuss private affairs, such as their unhappiness with a spouse, can put the priest in a difficult situation. There can be ethical challenges from the need for the priest to maintain the confidentiality of the individual who came to them and the encouragement of the individual to try to move things to an equitable solution – whether that is divorce or reconciliation. The priest must be careful to strike a balance of guiding that avoids taking over the situation. This situation provides additional ethical challenges if both parties of the relationship are members of the congregation, or if the parties refuse to talk to each other – with or without a counselor – about the issues. What we would do in the same situation as those who are seeking our help is not relevant – we are unlikely ever to have the complete picture of all of the emotions and histories that are involved in the issue.
In cases such as these, it is appropriate that the Priest turns to the Nine Virtues, the bylaws, and policies of ADF, and to the Kindreds for guidance of the best action.

7. Discuss the meaning of confidential privilege, the laws in your state that provide for this privilege and the extent to which it applies to clergy-lay communications in your community. (200 words minimum)

Within pagan religions, there is a gray area in the legal right to be able to hold information in confidence. Clergy members are considered to be ‘mandatory reporters’ and are legally obligated to report situations of child abuse and neglect (CAL Pen. Code § 11165.7). As mandatory reporters, Pagan Priests are expected to report all “nonprivileged” documented evidence (CAL Pen. Code § 11166). In additional sections of the law, Priests are required to report abuse towards elders and dependent adults (CAL Welf. & Inst. Code § 15601). There are exceptions when the information is obtained in privileged situations such as confession or during pastoral counseling.
One of the challenges that Pagan Priests have is our lack of codified privileged situations. We do not have Confession or an established practice of pastoral counseling, and it is possible that we may be required to provide information that was believed to have been shared in confidence.
It is important to me to keep private information confidential as much as possible. Our Folk need to believe that their priest will keep their information confidential and not expose their deep, dark secrets to the police. However, there is a balancing act in cases where individuals are being abused or harmed. I expect that each situation will need to be handled individually with as much compassion for all parties as possible and an awareness of the law.

8.One of the main principles of ethics is to “do no harm”. Discuss the meaning of this principle as it applies to the clergy-lay relationship. (100 words minimum)

While the goal to “do no harm” is an honorable one, I believe there are too many layers of definition of “harm” to make this an overarching, absolute principle. I cannot help but kill the bugs that I accidentally step on, or breathe, or accidentally kill because I ate the wrong thing. I can try to reduce my impact, but I cannot avoid harm globally.
When it comes to individual members of our congregation and the surrounding communities, I believe that it is important to respect the individual and their actions, as relevant and valid; and to believe that the individual is worthy of assisting. With this attitude, it becomes important to help to boost them up, as opposed to causing harm.
As individuals come to us for assistance, or interact with us in ritual, it is a principle of my ethics that they are treated with respect, treated as a valued individual, and that I work with them to lift them up as much as possible, and avoid doing harm and making things worse. To follow the goal of “do no harm,” we can choose to do no intentional harm.

9.Compare and contrast the Nine Virtues described in the ADF Dedicant Path and prominent values in the dominant culture of the country in which you live. (200 words minimum)

This question is very interesting to answer during this current Presidential administration. From what I can see, our 45th President does not show positive evidence of any of the Nine Virtues. He is demonstrating that it is okay to be short sighted, ignorant, a liar, lacking in courage, to not take responsibility, to be impatient, intolerant, discriminatory, and to display other negative behaviors. While there are some members of this country who show evidence of Wisdom, we can see from the recent election that there are also a large number of people who do not seem to have the virtue of wisdom, including our current President.
In contrast with this, we are seeing more people who are willing to show courage and stand up for their beliefs, or promote creativity and fertility to create things that will make the world a better place. More individuals are showing their perseverance, integrity, and vision as they choose actions to take to help each other and the country as a whole. Hospitality also seems to be more prevalent as individuals help each other find homes, or get a job and get themselves established, but it is not a dominant value everywhere in the country.
In my local community, I see values of hospitality and integrity to be fairly prevalent. People in my town are welcoming to other people, happy to help them out and to work together for festivals and events. They also tend to be somewhat more moderate in their behaviors – crazy drunkenness or overeating is not encouraged, nor is excessive focus on fitness or other behaviors. These behaviors – eating, drinking and fitness – are all encouraged in the new downtown areas, but not to excess.
There is, however, a lack of Piety in this area. There are groups of people who worship at the local churches, but in general, most individuals are not particularly pious.

10.The Nine Virtues described in the ADF Dedicant Path are proposed as a starting point for individuals embracing a value system inspired by traditions of the past. Utilizing the ADF nine virtues, develop a Code of Ethics for your use as ADF Clergy. Describe how you derived this code from the Nine Virtues and how you would apply this Code. (No minimum word count for the Code; however the Code must contain a minimum of five principles; 300 words minimum for the description)

I have been a member of ADF since 2011, and a Dedicant since 2013. One of the first essays that I completed in my Dedicants Program was the essay on the Nine Virtues as I felt that it was very important to understand what the values of an organization were if I was going to be a part of that organization. The Nine Virtues made sense to me, even in 201,1 and they have become more of my life since then.
My personal code of ethics is focused on being fair and honest as much as possible and incorporates many of the Nine Virtues.
Here’s my Code: I will show
Honesty in dealings with myself and others
Understanding of my limits and willingness to ask for help
Understanding and compassion for individuals that may be affected by my actions
Improving the world around me through art, teaching and mentoring
Focus on staying in Right Relationship with the Kindreds Honesty with others has always been an important part of my life, and as I grow as a person, honesty with myself has become more and more important. This honesty reflects integrity, courage, and wisdom. It requires courage to be honest with people. Wisdom to find the best way to speak words that may not be taken well so that the individual will not be defensive and will listen. Integrity is honesty, so the importance of that virtue is key.
Integrity is also important for understanding my limits and being willing to ask for help. With the wisdom that I have gained through self-reflection, moderation to stop myself from taking on too much, and courage to ask for help when I’d rather be able to just do it myself, I am able to bring balance to my life.
Trying to understand other individuals stories and how they may be affected by my words and actions combines vision and wisdom. We need to be able to change our perspective and see the larger picture if we are to understand how another individual fits into our combined story. Only when we understand them, if only a little, can we have compassion for them and ensure that we treat them with respect and dignity.
Creating has always been important to me. When I was reviewing the virtue of fertility for my Dedicants Program, I found that my creations were how I expressed this virtue. As I have grown older, I realize that creating is a way for me to help improve the world. By creating something that makes someone smile, I can help to make this world better. Over time, this has extended to teaching and mentoring individuals in an expression of perseverance. Helping people to make themselves better is another way that I can express fertility and perseverance.
The final line of my code is perhaps the most important – staying in right relationship with the Kindreds. This right relationship keeps me grounded and connected in the world. Through the Kindreds, I can feel part of something much larger and feel as if I’m more connected to the world. Through piety, through regular practice and right relationship, I have a foundation for everything else.  

Works Cited

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