DEAR ABBY: "Mystified in the Midwest" wrote that her pastor's wife has a big mouth and confides things about people who see her husband for counseling.
You advised that the wife be told that her gossip could end her husband's career -- and that if it continues the pastor should be told.
Abby, you failed to address the person who bears the primary responsibility for the breach of confidentiality in pastoral counseling, the pastor. He should not discuss the contents of his counseling sessions with anyone in the congregation, including his wife.
He might, under some circumstances, appropriately discuss this content with a colleague for purposes of supervision or consultation. In such cases, however, he can take steps to protect the privacy of the counselee.
Instead of confronting the pastor's wife, "Mystified" should confront the person ultimately responsible for the leaks -- the pastor! If his behavior does not change, the writer should discuss the matter with whomever bears responsibility for overseeing the pastor's ministry. -- THE REV. KATHERINE F. LONG, FIRST UNITED METHODIST CHURCH, GRAPEVINE, TEXAS
DEAR REVEREND LONG: You're right. Doctors, psychotherapists, physicians, social workers, lawyers and members of the clergy all have a professional responsibility to protect their patients', clients' and parishioners' confidentiality. (The exception to this is if the person is suicidal or a danger to himself or others.)