Norms for ethical conduct in the ministry of the Spiritual Exercises are essential today because of the requirement of public accountability. As this code provides guidelines for all aspects of the practice of giving the Exercises, it may also offer the giver of the Exercises valuable material for prayer and reflection.
Why do givers of the Exercises need a Code of Ethics?
In common with all persons who, in their professional capacity, engage in deep personal contact with others, givers of the Exercises have responsibilities and are exposed to risks. Any personal interaction between a trained and experienced person and someone without those qualities involves an exercise of power. Givers of the Exercises have knowledge, expertise and authority not necessarily possessed by those who come to see them. These qualities are precisely why persons seek them out. Without the power that comes from formation and experience, the practice of giving the Exercises would be impossible. However, the possession of this power exposes the person being directed to the possibility of its abuse.
Privacy is essential in giving the Exercises. However, it is imperative to recognize that in some circumstances, such privacy may facilitate a factor of risk for both the giver of the Exercises, and the one who makes the Exercises. The giver of the Exercises has responsibilities similar to those of other helping professionals such as medical practitioners, psychologists, social workers and counsellors.
Givers of the Exercises need to be prepared in advance for what they may meet in the course of their ministry. They may meet ethical issues in unfamiliar guises. They may need to react quickly. This code provides behavioural standards for the giver of the Exercises so that legal consequences, such as litigation against a director, can be avoided. For all these reasons a code of ethics is an essential part of the practice of any group, such as Companions, that sets out to be involved in the lives of others.
About the code
This code is based on the responsibilities pertaining to the directors’ exercise of power within the
ministry of the Spiritual Exercises.
This code is based on the Code of Ethics for Spiritual Directors of the Australian Ecumenical Council for Spiritual Direction.
The code is divided into sections that reflect the different areas of responsibility. Although it begins with responsibility towards the director’s own self, there is no order of priority in the code. Each area will assume its own importance on different occasions.
Terms defined In this code the following terms are used have the meanings set out.
(i) The one who makes the Exercises means a person being guided through the Spiritual Exercises; the term exercitant is also used in this code.
(ii) Retreat direction means the process by which one person guides another through the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius of Loyola.
(iii) The giver of the Exercises refers to the person who helps the exercitant become more aware of God’s self-communication, respond to that self-communication, and live out the consequences of that relationship; the term director is used interchangeably in the code.
(iv) Evaluation means an identified process by which the giver of the Exercises and the one who makes the Exercises assess the progress of the retreat direction and agree on its future.
(v) Termination means an identified process by which a retreat direction relationship is brought to an end.
(vi) Formation means a process involving the provision of the necessary knowledge, the learning of the skills and the acquisition of the personal qualities necessary for the proper practice of giving the Exercises.
(vii) Professional qualifications for the giver of the Exercises means those formal requirements that enable directors to exercise their ministry, a ministry that involves inquiry into the personal circumstances, feelings and experiences of individuals. This inquiry is undertaken so that those seeking direction may grow in freedom within their relationship with God, with self, with others and with all creation.
(viii) Supervision means sharing with a competent Director of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola the processing of the inner experiences of the giver of the Exercises during direction sessions so that, growing in awareness of his or her reactions and responses, the director might maintain a contemplative focus and be free in attending to the needs of the one who makes the Exercises. Other secondary tasks and benefits may occur through teaching, consultation and in gaining personal insights.
(ix) Supervisee means the person receiving supervision.
1. How do givers of the Exercises act responsibly towards themselves?
(a) Givers of the Exercises maintain responsible association with their own faith community.
(b) Givers of the Exercises remain abreast of developments in the field of giving the Spiritual Exercises through continuous practice and on-going formation.
(c) Givers of the Exercises maintain their own life of faith and prayer by means of making an annual retreat and on-going spiritual direction.
(d) Givers of the Exercises receive appropriate supervision.
(e) Givers of the Exercises maintain contact with an appropriate community or peer group.
(f) Givers of the Exercises consult other appropriately qualified persons when necessary.
(g) Givers of the Exercises maintain an appropriate understanding of the cultural, sociohistorical and environmental contexts in which the Exercises are given.
(h) Givers of the Exercises show self-care by living a wisely balanced life-style.
2. How do givers of the Exercises act responsibly towards exercitants?
(a) Givers of the Exercises discuss with prospective exercitants:
(i) The nature of the Spiritual Exercises;
(ii) The respective roles of the director and the exercitant;
(iii) The length and frequency of direction sessions;
(iv) Confidentiality and its limitations;
(vi) The regular evaluation of the relationship;
(vii) Freedom of both parties to terminate the relationship.
(b) Givers of the Exercises limit the number of exercitants they accept to that which is reasonably possible.
(c) Givers of the Exercises seek to maintain a reasonable workload by ensuring an appropriate spacing of appointments.
(d) Givers of the Exercises refer exercitants to other appropriately qualified persons as
(e) Givers of the Exercises ensure that exercitants who have ongoing relationships with other helping professionals (such as psychologists) inform them that they are making the Exercises where appropriate.
(f) Givers of the Exercises who have other professional qualifications that involve personal relationships with clients (such as counsellors) ensure that they clarify with exercitant the nature of their relationship as a giver of the Exercises.
(g) Givers of the Exercises who depend on income earned from directing retreats do not give the Exercises solely for financial gain.
(h) Givers of the Exercises do not enter a relationship with an exercitant where there is a conflict of interest because of a dual relationship.
(i) A giver of the Exercises respects the dignity of an exercitant by:
- (i) Insuring that the “Introductory Observations” of the Spiritual Exercises
- (Annotations 1 to 20) are observed at all times.
- (ii) Respecting the exercitant’s values, conscience, spirituality and theology;
- (iii) Limiting inquiry into the personal life of the exercitant to those matters directly
- relevant to the making of the Exercises;
- (iv) Recognising the unequal power relationship between a giver of the Exercises and an exercitant and acting to avoid exploitation;
- (v) Refraining from behaviour that is sexualised, manipulative, abusive or coercive;
- (vi) Maintaining appropriate physical and psychological boundaries;
- (vii) Conducting direction meetings in an appropriate location.
(i)Protecting the identity of the exercitant, including the fact that a particular person is making the Exercises with them;
(ii) Keeping confidential all oral communications;
(iii) Making written notes of only necessary matters and keeping those notes secure;
(iv) Conducting direction meetings in an appropriate location;
(v) Ensuring that both the giver of the Exercises and the one who makes the Exercises are aware of any legal requirements that may override confidentiality, including, but not limited to, provisions about child abuse, sexual assault of children or adults, elder abuse and physical harm to self and others, nd other criminal behaviours.
3. How do givers of the Exercises act responsibly towards faith communities?
(a) Givers of the Exercises are sensitive to the faith traditions to which their exercitants belong.
(b) Givers of the Exercises do not engage in any proselytising that is directed towards changing the commitment of an exeritant to the director’s faith community.
(c) Givers of the Exercises respect the processes of corporate discernment, accountability and support offered by faith communities.
4. How do givers of the Exercises act responsibly towards colleagues?
(a) Givers of the Exercises respect other directors, ministers and professionals and do not disparage their work.
(b) Givers of the Exercises request their exercitants to inform other helping professionals that they are making the Exercises where appropriate.
(c) Givers of the Exercises do not give to or receive from directors, ministers or professionals information about their exercitant without the written permission of the exercitant.
5. How do givers of the Exercises act responsibly towards society?
(a) Givers of the Exercises represent their qualifications clearly and accurately in any public communication.
(b) Givers of the Exercises provide information about their services within the context of the Church’s pastoral ministry and not on an individual basis. Such information may be sent to professional persons, religious institutions and other agencies where appropriate, but only to prospective exercitant in response to inquiries.
(c) Givers of the Exercises do not make statements that contain any of the following:
- (i) A false, fraudulent, misleading, deceptive or unfair statement;
- (ii) A misrepresentation of fact or a statement likely to mislead or deceive because in context it makes only a partial disclosure of relevant facts;
- (iii) A testimonial from an exercitant regarding the quality of retreat direction received from the giver of the Exercises;
- (iv) A statement intended or likely to create false or unjustified expectations of favourable results of making the Exercises;
- (v) A statement implying unusual, unique, or one-of-a-kind abilities, including misrepresentation through sensationalism, exaggeration or superficiality;
- (vi) A statement intended or likely to exploit a the exercitant’s fears, anxieties or emotions;
- (vii) A statement concerning the comparative desirability of the direction offered;
- (viii) A statement of direct solicitation of individual exercitants.
(e) Givers of the Exercises conform to legislation requiring the disclosure of information to public authorities in cases of abuse, danger or crime.
6. How do givers of the Exercises act responsibly in the role of supervisor?
(a) Givers of the Exercises do not provide supervision or consultation without the necessary knowledge and skill to supervise or consult appropriately and only within their areas of knowledge and competence.
(b) Givers of the Exercises who provide supervision or consultation work towards setting clear, appropriate, and culturally sensitive boundaries.
(c) Givers of the Exercises do not engage in any dual or multiple relationships with a supervisee in which there is a risk of exploitation of or potential harm to their supervisee.
(d) Givers of the Exercises evaluate their supervisee’s performance in a manner that is fair and respectful.
7. How do givers of the Exercises act responsibly towards students?
(a) Those engaged in the education and formation of givers of the Exercises provide instruction only within their areas of knowledge and competence. Such instruction is based on the most current information and knowledge available in this ministry.
(b) Givers of the Exercises who function as educators and/or formators for students evaluate their students’ performance in a manner that is fair and respectful.
(c) Givers of the Exercises who conduct educational and formation programs ensure that the one exercitants are allocated to students only after appropriate assessment of both the student and the potential exercitant.
(d) Givers of the Exercises who function as educators or formators for students take reasonable steps to ensure that exercitants are informed that their director is in formation.
(e) Givers of the Exercises engaged in education and formation ensure that their relationships with students are constructive, non-exploitative, and respectful.
(f) Givers of the Exercises who conduct educational or formation programs ensure that ethical responsibilities of the giver of the Exercises, as set out in this code, are an integral part of the students’ course work.