Controversy has arisen over the conduct in Nepal of an Irish writer whose poetry appears on Irish schools’ reading lists. There is no controversy surrounding his work. Does his conduct invalidate the acceptability of what he has written?
If writers were judged by their conduct, there would be many question marks in the past, even sweetly domestic William Wordsworth seems to have had a very odd sort of relationship with his sister. How many writers have had irregular relationships, or were distinctly unconventional in their behaviour?
There has always been a tradition of separating the worker from his product, even in the church. The Thirty Nine Articles of Religion, the Sixteenth Century outline of Anglican doctrine, has the following about clergy with question marks over them,
Of the Unworthiness of the Ministers, which hinders not the effect of the Sacraments.
Although in the visible Church the evil be ever mingled with the good, and sometimes the evil have chief authority in the Ministration of the Word and Sacraments, yet forasmuch as they do not the same in their own name, but in Christ’s, and do minister by his commission and authority, we may use their Ministry, both in
hearing the Word of God, and in receiving the Sacraments. Neither is the effect of Christ’s ordinance taken away by their wickedness, nor the grace of God’s gifts diminished from such as by faith, and rightly, do receive the Sacraments ministered unto them; which be effectual, because of Christ’s institution and promise, although they be ministered by evil men. Nevertheless, it appertaineth to the discipline of the Church, that inquiry be made of evil Ministers, and that they be accused by those that have knowledge of their offences; and finally, being found guilty, by just
judgment be deposed.
It makes me wonder about the media hounding of Bertie Ahern. His first duty is to govern: I didn’t vote for him, but a large proportion of the Irish people did, in the knowledge that there were question marks, so, presumably, the proper response to allegations is that he should focus on what he was elected to do?
If he is to leave office, it should be after inquiry and just judgment. Even politicians are entitled to the same treatment as writers and clergy.