Confidentiality Questions

by Judy Harrow

As priest/esses and as counselors, we hear other people's secrets. We keep other people's secrets, except in very specific and limited circumstances. Here are some thought experiments to help you recognize your personal limits. Which secrets would you reveal or keep? How would you handle each of the following situations? Why? It might help to discuss these with trusted friends and colleagues.
  1. You've been counseling a married couple. You are convinced that one of them is behaving in ways detrimental to the marriage, behaviors rooted in the way his parents treated him. Finally, he leaves her. She takes it very hard and acts out spectacularly in public. After this, the community gossip mill brands her the guilty party.

  2. Later, a member of your own coven seems to be starting a relationship with him.

  3. A former member of your coven phones and, without even asking if this is a good time to talk, starts telling you about her new husband's criminal behavior. Among other things, he has broken into a Wiccan neighbor's house and stolen some valuable ritual tools. Then she says "and you can't talk about what I just told you because you are a priest/ess."

  5. Someone has published an article about Wiccan history, giving several people's legal names without their permission. You react strongly and publicly to this breach of confidentiality. He responds "but I had Sarah's permission." True enough, but there are six other people named whose permission he decidedly did not have. You are being pilloried in some Pagan magazines for being mean to the guy, or for practicing censorship.

  7. A community member whom you know has an active and diverse sex life comes to you for counseling. He is HIV positive.

  9. You've often seen Lady Moonglow's two year old daughter wandering around the campsite at various festivals, looking dirty or hungry. Once, you heard the camp nurse saying that the child was running a fever and appeared malnourished. Certainly, the little girl was wandering near the lake last Saturday, while her mother partied. Now, the people from child protective services have asked to speak to you.

  10. You hold the mailing list for the local community networking group. An active member has been murdered. There's no sign of a break-in at his house, so the police suspect that he opened the door to a familiar face. They ask to see your mailing list. When you decline, they threaten to subpoena it.

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    Contents of this page are copyright © 1996, 1999, 2001, 2012  by Judy Harrow.