Posts tagged ‘Ethics’

Responsibility in the Blogosphere | Ethics

www.snopes.com

http://www.snopes.com (Photo credit: biggraham)

Recently, I came across a blog that quoted and commented on an article that has been widely circulated, mostly in email, but is full of misinformation.  I know bloggers aren’t professional journalists and do not belong to any ethical society.  However, discovering that a blogger may not realize the power of their words available online disappointed me.  That at least one reader questioned the report’s validity pleased me, though.  In my comment, I provided a link to the Snopes article referring to the report.

Snopes is one of a few online resources known to research without bias whether a reported fact is indeed the truth.   Most often, such services focus on the distribution of emails and the online publication of materials that are distributed en mass and have the ability to significantly sway person’s opinions and therefore behavior.  Sadly, when it comes to some very important matters such as the interpretation of research statistics, language, and literary work, the complexity of the necessary investigation and of the detail needed to accurately present results is far too involved for a service like Snopes to undertake.   In fact, often times, such is the topic of countless volumes and only the most dedicated and discerning reader can come close to an accurate assessment of the truth in what s/he is examining.

I respected the blog reader’s willingness to read what others write with a spirit of discernment.  Hopefully she does the same with what she hears.  If we are to be seekers, ministers and bearers of Truth, one important ingredient is doubt.  We are not to doubt the Truth, but rather what is presented to us as Truth until we can discern validity to the best of our ability through careful consideration of the motives of majority opinion, well-rounded study, dialogue with experts in their field, reasoned argument, and earnest prayer. God gave us brains and the Spirit to guide us for a reason.  Even well-intentioned persons are capable of great folly, whether by accident, lack of discipline in spiritual stewardship, or the misguided ignorance of spiritual immaturity.  We all have room to grow and we can best do so by exercising the “muscle” of our brain and practicing virtues for the development of our souls.

Aside from personal responsibility in such situations, I’ve been wondering as blogging becomes more popular, what if any measures should be in place to encourage accuracy in the report of “facts”?  How can we do so without infringing upon free speech?  Who would be responsible for regulating such?  I think we can all recognize the difference between slant versus lie.  Even if one source says, “General Smith strode to the mic,” another says, “walked to”, and a third says, “ambled up to,” they all agree on the fact that the General moved towards (apparently on his feet) and arrived at a specific microphone.  Mass dissemination of misinformation has the potential to create or prevent change in ways that have significant negative impact.  What responsibility do I have to help prevent such?

If you enjoyed this article, consider reading the following related post on this blog,  On Blind Faith.  Your comments on one or both are greatly appreciated.

Pride And The St. Joseph’s Hospital Abortion Debate – perspective

This article was originally published Dec 23, 2010, so it reflects older comments.  I am re-publishing this post to include considerable new material. 9/15/11 Admin Note: Comments on this post have been closed due to the quantity I still receive and their general nature.

I believe I’m reporting correctly that a Catholic bishop is under fire by the ACLU for speaking out against an abortion recently performed at a Catholic hospital in Phoenix. As of right now, the hospital’s administrator, a nun with a medical and administration degree, has been excommunicated and association with (aka direct and indirect donations from) the Roman Catholic Church has been withdrawn from the hospital. No one knows whether this will stand and the exact reason why or if it’s temporary til all investigations are completed. This of course has elsewhere on Facebook dissolved into a “brawl” about abortion, women’s rights, the patriarchal control of the Catholic Church, an excuse to bring up the children abused by priests (as if pastors of other religions are entirely blameless – NOT) issue again, freedom of speech, separation of church and state, yada, yada. Guess what, I don’t have an opinion because I don’t have to and because it would be premature. I don’t have all the facts about what happened (although I’ve gleaned many), I don’t know the process of how the Church processes canonical law violations, I don’t know the mother’s beliefs, the context within which the Bishop expressed his opinion, etc.
I really appreciate when people provide facts instead of letting their mouths spilleth over uninhibited and uninformed, no matter the side. Facebook member, Richard Johnson posted the following about the issue.

“The report of the moral theologian that reviewed the case can be found here:

http://www.commonwealmagazine.org/blog/wp-content/uploads/2010/12/St.-Josephs-Hospital-Analysis.pdf

As stated in this report the… unborn child had already begun to die, and the life of the woman was nearly 100% certain to cease unless the placenta (the cause of the problem with her circulation) was removed. Time was of the essence and the doctors on the case along with the ethicists came to the conclusion that the only way to save the life of the mother was to remove the placenta, which would result in the death of the child. As the child could not have survived in the uterus until viability and was, at that time, dying from lack of oxygen, the ethicists and doctors agreed that the procedure was necessary and did not violate the moral teachings of the church. The moral theologian who reviewed the case came to the same conclusion.”

I couldn’t find a blog that presented the flip side with equal clarity so I did a little of my own digging. The link below is from the reporting of Benjamin Mann, staff writer for EWTN (Global Catholic Network) News.

Catholic Health Association Defies Phoenix Bishop Over Abortion Case @ www.ewtnnews.com

This article includes the Phoenix Diocese’s medical ethics committee’s opinion. According to Dr. Chavira, a member of the committee, whether the woman’s life was at risk was debatable, but saving hers would not justify directly and intentionally taking the life of the unborn.  The health threat is identified as being due to a preexisting condition which hormone production via the placenta due to pregnancy was seeming to adversely affecting.  The doctor argues the placenta was not “diseased”, medication was the appropriate procedure and that the placentectomy performed was not a necessary medical procedure that “indirectly resulted in the loss of life to an unborn child” (which is ethically allowed).

Obviously the two sides came to different decisions because the prefaces to their conclusions differ.  I certainly don’t have the medical background to draw a conclusion from the facts, let alone to make a moral judgment.  Both sides make reasoned arguments.  Both, to me, seem to be trying their best to apply moral principles.  I think too little weight is given to the fact that the hospital’s ethics committee was trying to do so under the stress of reality and time constraints.  I wonder at times if the hospital committee, having reviewed everything later and admitted fault, would still be rejected.

I CAN say these two things…1) It MIGHT be prudent for all of us, as imperfect human beings, to remain silent on the issue until we have all the facts and 2) we would not have the services of many institutions without the backing of religious organizations and the ACLU’s capitalizing on the general public’s ignorance by suggesting that Catholic hospitals don’t try to save the lives of women is another example of the same such pride. Why can’t people realize that 9 times out of 10, we say 200% more than we need to? In ways that differ from the posts above, this is a character defect with which I struggle, so that is what interests me in all of this. Most of the posts about this issue have been so opinionated and lacking in fact. I feel sorry for such people because some I believe may be unconstitutionally incapable of change. So, while some of you may read this and join in on the typical debate, what I’d really like to hear from readers is their answer to, “What’s your experience of saying more than you needed?  How do you recognize this as the sin of Pride?”