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.
To relieve the tension, people can attempt to replace fact by conjecture – or they can say To hell with it all, having seen through the shenanigans and deceit. I’m not pointing fingers, just trying to point out some constants of human nature in the light of some things we have seen play out. It is legitimate for an inventor not to reveal his plans until the invention is found to work and has been patented. There are legitimate uses of secrecy, but people become weary of its abuse. We become cynical and suspicious, and the “conspiracy theory” imagination can so easily run riot. Those who have secrets to keep secret need to practice a little psychology. For example, it is very bad psychology to tell a person “I have a big secret but I’m not telling you“…
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?