What do we owe the dead?

I am eventually going to read more about Mother Teresa's extended dark night of the soul. I will probably even buy the book. But I'm still a little troubled about the existence of these journals, and even more about their widespread publication.

It feels like a gross violation of Blessed Teresa's privacy.

Apparently, she had requested that her confessors destroy the letters that are the basis of this book. They refused. And now they're being offered for sale.

I'll grant that their publication will likely be a great spiritual benefit for many readers. And that Teresa herself is now beyond harm. So why should the wishes of a dead woman prevail over the potential blessing of thousands?

But then, isn't the sanctity of the confessional supposed to be inviolable?

Does it make a difference that she had taken a vow of obedience, and so in theory that prior commitment gives the church carte blanche to overrule her wishes?

Maybe I don't have the circumstantial details down right. Maybe the editor of the book wrote an apology for the decision to go public. So I may well read something more that will inform my impression on this matter.

But my instinct, as an ethicist, as a hermeneut, and as a journal-writer, is that we have certain duties to dead writers. These include representing them truthfully and respecting their express wishes concerning their works. But what to do when these duties conflict?


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