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Ethics, Question 3

Provide the following information for each of the situations described below.

a. Explain how you would utilize the problem solving process to resolve the situation. Discuss an effective resolution and why you believe the resolution would be effective (100 words minimum)

b. Discuss how your personal Code of Ethics was utilized in the resolution of the issue presented. (100 words minimum)

c. Discuss whether you would consider the situation to be an "ethical dilemma?" Why or why not? (100 words minimum)

Situation 1

It is a long-standing tradition within your Grove to pass the Waters of Life using a single vessel for high day celebrations. Your group has always been small and the group at large prefers alcoholic Waters of Life, which is the plan for this high day event. Prior to the beginning the ritual pre-briefing you become aware that several new individuals are in attendance. One of these individuals discusses with a member of your Grove that they learned of your event from a poster in a local Unitarian Universalist Congregation where they attend weekly Alcoholics Anonymous meetings. What do you do?

Situation 1 Answer

Solving the issue:

Because we have little time (if we found out during pre-ritual briefing and had no option to plan for this) the process would take place with the officers, the ritual leader, and our on-hand clergy for consultation. They would identify the issue (someone who cannot drink is here) and present a variety of solutions, likely including 1) "making them drink," 2) "kissing the horn" or "pouring the waters out" and using shills to show it was acceptable, 3) "replacing the Waters with water," or 4) "aspersing the company from the Well." (The root cause is obvious here, and we don't have time for a theological debate, so that step may be skipped.)

Once we have our solutions, we would examine each in turn: We know that imbibing the Waters is important, so the best solution appears to be a replacement with water; however, there is unlikely to be enough water to go around if we were planning on doing the Waters with alcoholic beverages, so for this rite, it is likely that we would need to come up with an alternative: kissing the horn or pouring some out is a good alternative to drinking, so we will offer that option, with the associated shills. Aspersing the company is third best (because of the importance of imbibing the waters), and making the alcoholic drink is the worst of the options, particularly if involved in AA.

The review would seek a more permanent solution to this (and likely involve a short discussion about how the AA member felt about the Waters, if they were comfortable). The idealized long-term solution would be to always have water available.

Applied ethics:

Primarily, this falls under "modern understanding of ancient ways" in my ethical code, where we accept that not all people are like the ancients, and some have vices that they cannot control (even as they seek to control them); and also under "rta," as *ghos-ti- is part of the artful universe, and bringing the folk into our rituals. It is our job as good hosts to provide the Blessing in a manner that is accessible to all, and to allow the folk to partake in any way that we can. This is why I insist on water at all Grove events, actually, particularly since no theological reason for alcohol has ever been presented with any coherence.

Is this an ethical dilemma?

This is not an ethical dilemma: because the Grove has a preference for alcoholic waters rather than a theological reason for alcohol, there is no moral or ethical choice in play: preferences are not ethical or moral statements. If the Grove believed that it was wrong to use water for the Blessing, it would then be an ethical dilemma, and one which might result in failure to grow. There, you would need to choose between providing the blessings in a manner that was consistent with lore and theology and allowing a member to partake of the blessings bestowed upon them by the Kindreds when they were working in a program like AA. Still, it does not seem right to me that any person should be denied access to the Blessings simply because they are unable to drink alcohol.

Situation 2

While meeting with a couple to plan a hand-fasting ritual you have been asked to facilitate, you notice one of the partners continually makes all of the decisions concerning the ceremony and refuses to let his/her partner participate in the discussion. When you encourage the silent partner to participate the other individual becomes obviously agitated. You notice several bruises on the silent partner’s legs and arms and he/she appears afraid to express any thoughts and ideas. Following the discussion, you receive a phone call from the silent partner apologizing for the conduct of his/her partner. The wedding is a month away and the couple has written an oath for the ceremony that professes a desire for a healthy relationship and equal partnership. What do you do?

Situation 2 Answer

Solving the issue:

The issue appears to be that the silent partner is being abused by the non-silent partner, and that you (as priest) will become involved in an oath that you believe is false.

Possible solutions might include: 1) trying to get the silent partner to open up more in one-on-one discussions, 2) reporting suspicions of abuse to the police, 3) refusing to do the wedding ritual, 4) providing the silent partner with information about domestic violence shelters, 5) doing nothing and going through with the wedding, or 6) gently asking the couple to re-phrase their oaths.

Solutions 3 and 6 generally benefit the priest, as they can get him/her out of the issues surrounding a false oath, but neither does much to resolve the issue for the silent partner. Solution 5 benefits the priest only in that it is an easy way out of an awkward situation. Option 4 makes assumptions about the relationship that may not be true, and option 2 might set off the non-silent partner. Possibly the best option is to inform the couple that you always do a few one-on-one sessions with each partner before a wedding, just to make sure everything is as they want it. At the one-on-one meeting with the silent partner, a bit more digging may allay or justify fears, and then the priest can review the solution and come to a new solution with more information at hand.

Applied ethics:

Rta is the primary principle of my code that must be applied here, in part because of their desire to have an equal, healthy partnership as their marriage, but it does not appear that they will live up to that oath, especially so long as the silent partner remains silent and is unable to participate in discussion: an oath that is ill-made or falsely sworn will benefit neither party. Additionally, a relationship in which one party is abused is not right with the order of things, and can never be artful or beautiful. A priest cannot bless such an oath if there is a thought that it may not be true.

Is this an ethical dilemma?

This appears to be an ethical dilemma. Here, you must weigh your suspicions of domestic abuse against the reality of not knowing what is occurring. If there is abuse occurring, then authorities must be notified and the silent partner needs to be provided with information regarding shelters and resources. If there is not abuse occurring, however, the priest may very well find himself making an accusation that might result in loss of income (they may take their business elsewhere), loss of face (the couple may begin to spread the word around about how the priest accused them of being in an abusive relationship), and loss of prestige for ADF (because what an ADF Priest does, so does ADF). Worse, even if abuse is occurring, all these things may occur anyway: gossip can be as dangerous as truth in the Pagan community.

Situation 3

You are facilitating a children’s activity concerning the 9 virtues and the Kindred for your Grove. A ten-year old child approaches you during the activity and says, “Can I tell you a secret?” You let the child talk and he tells you that his stepmother, who is an active member of your Grove, doesn’t follow the virtues or care about the Kindred. You ask him why he believes this and he tells you, “Because if she did she wouldn’t hurt me!” Once more you ask the child what he means and he shows you a horseshoe-shaped belt mark on his back and says, “Don’t tell anyone.” The father and stepmother are in the next room at an adult workshop. What do you do?

Situation 3 Answer

Solving the issue:

The problem is the bruise on the back, and there are four possible courses of action: 1) do nothing, 2) speak to the father alone, 3) speak to the step-mother alone, 4) contact Children's Services. Due to mandatory reporting laws in the state of Ohio, in this case contacting Children's Services is the first step that must be done, and it must be done immediately. Here, the problem solving process presents a clear resolution.

Once Children's Services has been contacted and the report has been made, you can return to the top of the problem solving process and begin with a new problem: what to do about the woman in the next room.

Applied ethics:

The principle that applies here is "modern understanding of ancient ways." While the ancients would have believed that the method of disciplining a child is something to be kept in the family and something that is only the concern of the family, we live in a time of mandatory reporting laws and a knowledge that some things simply are not "okay." Additionally, the principle of "responsibility" plays in, because a responsible person cannot stand by while a child is abused, especially when the child trusts you with the information about that abuse. This one is clear.

Is this an ethical dilemma?

This is an ethical dilemma, but the course of action is clear. While on the one hand there is a desire to believe the best in the adult, or to get their "side of the story" (especially when the person is an active, contributing Grove member), the law does not provide for that: you must report immediately. As a result, you would only find this to be an ethical dilemma if you felt that the law was in error, which I do not: the law is clearly designed for the protection of children first, and so following it is not a dilemma.

Situation 4

A young woman from your local Neo-Pagan community contacts you and expresses a desire to attend your Grove’s upcoming high day; however, she explains that she is in a wheel chair and has an uncontrolled seizure disorder. Another local Neo-Pagan group had explained to this individual that they were unable to accommodate her needs at this time. The young woman plans to bring her personal care attendant with her, but the attendant is opposed to Neo-Pagan beliefs and does not want to actually participate in the service and plans to wait outside the ritual area. Your regular outside ritual space is not readily handicap accessible and the ritual is planned for this outdoor space. What do you do?

Situation 4 Answer

Solving the issue:

The problem is clearly that the ritual space, which is something the Grove has presumably planned to use and has advertised the location of the ritual, and is unable to accommodate the person.

Possible solutions include: A) not accommodating the woman's needs, B) changing the location, C) re-working the space to accommodate her needs, D) asking her to come to the next ritual rather than this one.

If there is time, the best solution might be to re-work the space to accommodate her needs; if there is not, then the best thing to do is to ask her to come to the next ritual, explaining exactly what the issue is and inviting her at that time to the following one. When reviewing the solution, it would be wise to determine if this ritual space will work in the future for public rituals or not, or if there is anything that can be done to make it work for persons with disabilities.

Applied ethics:

The principles of "modern understanding of ancient ways, " "rta," and "responsibility" all play in here. Sometimes, we must alter our ways and give up cool ritual spaces in order to bring the Folk cool ritual experiences. The order of the world depends on the folk being able to enter into agreements in sacred space with the Kindreds, and this is something that we must facilitate whenever possible. It is our responsibility to ensure that our rituals are accessible to all in any way that we can, so that all may receive the blessings of the Kindreds who want them.

Is this an ethical dilemma?

This is not an ethical dilemma for me, because all people have the right to come to public ritual and worship the Kindreds, and we (as a Grove) should make any adjustments necessary: any reasonable request for accommodation should be honoured, and if there is a way to make a regular space more accessible, it should be examined; should there be no way to make that space accessible, a new space should be sought at earliest convenience. If there is any dilemma here, it is one between doing the right thing for the Folk and avoiding work, not an ethical stance.


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