The Rapidian

Ethics and Religion Talk - Exposé on Adultery

From Harry, in Sydney, Australia: “A good friend who is also a talented and award winning journalist has, in an article, exposed the extra marital affairs of a politician. ... What are the moral ramifications of such an exposé?”

What is Ethics and Religion Talk?

“Ethics and Religion Talk,” answers questions of ethics or religion from a multi-faith perspective. Each post contains three or four responses to a reader question from a panel of nine diverse clergy from different religious perspectives, all based in the Grand Rapids area. It is the only column of its kind. No other news site, religious or otherwise, publishes a similar column.

The first five years of columns, published in the Grand Rapids Press and MLive, are archived at http://topics.mlive.com/tag/ethics-and-religion-talk/. More recent columns can be found on TheRapidian.org by searching for the tag “ethics and religion talk.”

We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up on the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

From Harry, in Sydney, Australia (we have readers around the world!): “A good friend who is also a talented and award winning journalist has, in an article, exposed the extra marital affairs of a politician. This person cheated on his wife (four children) by having a relationship with an associate, both during his public work as well as private life. The associate became pregnant. My friend having obtained this information early, wrote an exposition which shocked the nation and the political world. The politician resigned, left his wife and children, married the associate and became a father to the new born. What are the moral ramifications of such an exposé?”

The Rev. Sandra Nikkel, head pastor of Conklin Reformed Church, responds:

“Unfortunately, the world is no longer shocked by scenarios like the one you describe. It begs the question the prophet Jeremiah once asked: ‘Are they ashamed of their detestable conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush.’ (Jeremiah 8:12a)  The fact is that we have lost our moral compass because there is no fear of God. This is deteriorating the very fiber of our lives and our society. Instead of elevating God we have elevated Self and seeking pleasure has become our sole concern. Thinking this will bring us happiness, we continue advancing on this road to destruction. Let me conclude with the words Jeremiah writes after asking that question: ‘So they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when they are punished, says the Lord.’ (Jeremiah 8:12b) Yes, one day we will give account to God of all our deeds. But that time has yet to come. We have time, let us return to the Lord!”

Father Kevin Niehoff, O.P., a Dominican priest who serves as Judicial Vicar, Diocese of Grand Rapids, responds:

“Considering the relationship was likely consensual, sin is still present as the couple were having sexual intercourse outside of marriage. I am concerned that the exposition of the information could be sin in the form of character assassination (a violation of the Ninth Commandment). What was the intent of bringing this information to light?

“I presume the good is transparency, and this is especially important when harm is perpetrated, for example, the sexual abuse of a minor. I wonder if the bad is the intent to assassinate the character of the politician.

“What is not known despite the savories of the scenario is if the relationship between the politician and the associate was consensual? One could presume so because the politician left his wife and four children to marry the associate… but that information is not certain.”

Rev. Ray Lanning, a retired minister of the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, responds:

“As an old-school Presbyterian, I am surprised to hear that ‘the nation and the political world’ were shocked by such an exposé. What is new or newsworthy about sins against the seventh commandment (Exodus 20:14)? Nor am I convinced that your ‘talented, award-winning journalist’ found the best way to address the situation. The damage done by public exposure was widespread, costly in human terms, and long-lasting. In the way of the world, the man’s sins were visited upon him and his family. One need not look far for other cases in which the same sins are winked at, excused, or dismissed.

“It would have been better, and more productive of good, if this journalist had used his talents to intervene personally, confront the offender, and seek to reconcile him to his wife and children. Restoration of a broken marriage is a far greater prize, and a far more difficult undertaking. I am not shocked when a fellow human being succumbs to temptations to which I too am liable; and I rejoice when someone who has fallen into sin repents, and seeks forgiveness and restoration (Galatians 6:1).”

Fred Stella, the Pracharak (Outreach Minister) for the West Michigan Hindu Temple, responds:

“I recall how so many reporters knew very well that JFK was the Lothario he was, yet never thought about exposing this very disappointing side of him. The ethos of the time was ‘boys will be boys.’ In certain circles he was admired for his collection of paramours. But in hindsight we see what a national security risk he was, especially sharing a mistress with a Mafia don! I understand that old mentality, but today constituents have a passion for transparency. And with certain exceptions, we are suspicious of those who claim that morality can be compartmentalized. My default position is that if he cheats on his wife he is more likely to compromise his political values, and cheat on us.  Any actions that can put a politician in a position to be blackmailed need to be revealed to the voting public. 

“And I will admit that I do fight the urge to experience schadenfreude ​whenever an office holder who runs on ‘family values’ gets caught with his knickers down.”

 

This column answers questions of Ethics and Religion by submitting them to a multi-faith panel of spiritual leaders in the Grand Rapids area. We’d love to hear about the ordinary ethical questions that come up in the course of your day as well as any questions of religion that you’ve wondered about. Tell us how you resolved an ethical dilemma and see how members of the Ethics and Religion Talk panel would have handled the same situation. Please send your questions to [email protected].

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