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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Damn her!

She keeps asking difficult questions.

Yes, ten of them, in fact, guaranteed to make some people squirm.

(Someone I once saw for Spiritual Direction said to me, "I know you. You're the Sondheim witch - from 'Into The Woods' - who sings, 'I'm the witch, I'm not bad, I'm not good, I'm just right. I'm the witch.'")

Here's my recent posting on HOB/D - a fleshing out of the questions I asked before posting Mark Sisk's letter.

The entire discussion about Honor Moore's book "The Bishop's Daughter", and both Bishop Sisk's and Bishop Charles' letters about them, raise some important questions.

Let me state this first, clearly, and emphatically: I do not believe in infidelity to marriage vows. I do not believe in divorce. Even so, I have seen both and know that they exist. I believe that old saying, "you are only as sick as your most deeply held secret." This is even more the case when one's profession/vocation is one of public/congregational trust.

I know this may come as a surprise to some, but I want to restate a point that needs some expansion: that Paul Moore's sexual orientation was an 'open secret'. I am sure that both bishops who responded to Honor's book were, at the very least, aware of the 'open secret'. I suspect many on this list knew of the secret as well.

I know this will not come as a surprise to some but there are presently leaders in our church - male and female, lay and ordained - who live similar 'open secrets' about their lives.

You know who you are.

Think for one moment about the term 'open secret'. It implies that someone - several, perhaps many - know 'the secret' but they're not telling. They collude in the secrecy and therefore, the pathology. Edwin Freidman has a great deal to say about the family dynamic of keeping secrets in the family system known as 'the congregation' or 'the Temple' or 'the church'.

Freidman says the effects of family secrets are four:

1. Secrets function to divide a family as an avalanche would a community
2. They create unnecessary estrangements as well as false companionship.
3. They distort perceptions
4. Most importantly, they exacerbate other pathological processes.

Paul Moore could not, and others before and since can not, live an 'open secret' without the collusion of others. Indeed, I would venture to say that there are both those who benefit and those who are harmed by those who collude in the secret. Apparently, his wives knew, as well as his children. Apparently, so did many of his colleagues.

So, to those of you who are wailing and gnashing your teeth, consider these 10 questions:

1. If you never ask “the question” does it mean you don’t know the answer?

2. If you know ‘the secret’ but never tell it, are you spared from the responsibility of the truth?

3. If you are complicit in keeping a secret, do you bear equally in the consequences when the secret is told?

4. If it’s a ‘social secret’ about a Very Important Person, does that excuse you from having any responsibility for harm done when the secret is told?

5. If more harm than good will result in telling the secret, are you compelled to keep silence? Should one work first for the reduction of harm before telling the secret?

6. When is it right to ‘keep a secret’ and when is it wrong to tell it? Is it better to tell the secret before or after the person has died? How do you tell the secret? To whom do you tell it first?

7. Why is telling the secret of the tortured life of one who was hurt by his own secrecy and hurt so many not a good thing, especially if it will serve to help others tell the truth and see for themselves the damage done by living a life of duplicity?

8. Why should the nature of anyone's sexuality be an issue?

9. Why should anyone’s sexuality be a secret?

10. What does it say about our family system in the family of God known as The Anglican Communion that there are still those among us who live 'open secrets' - as well as those who know the secrets and collude in keeping them?


Wormwood's Doxy said...

I am so torn by all of this.

As a woman who is divorced from a gay man, it is hard for me to be objective about Bishop Moore's behavior. Sexual infidelity is no less hurtful because it occurs in the context of the closet.

As someone with her own marital failures, I feel great sympathy for him. It must have been agonizing to be so divided.

As an activist for full equality for GLBTs in the life and ministry of the church, I think it is time for us to put an end to "open secrets."

And it is past time for us to accept, with loving arms, and equal expectations for fidelity and commitment, GLBTs who wish to cement their relationships within the church.

As a progressive, I wish Honor Moore had chosen a different time to publish this book--it seems calculated to take maximum advantage of the turmoil in the church and I find that distasteful in the extreme.

As a writer, I both defend the "right to write" and struggle with what it is appropriate to put in print about other people. Bishop Moore's legacy will undoubtedly be sullied by his daughter's revelations. I have to ask myself---when I blog about my life and my family, am I doing harm to them? And to what end?

Anything that causes one to ask this many questions has to be a good thing, I think. I'm glad you did it--and would be interested to see what, if any, response you get.

Anonymous said...

What assumptions are being made with regard to Bp. Moore's sexuality? That he was gay? ... the fact that he was sufficiently attracted to women marry two of them and to father nine children would suggest that he was bisexual rather than gay.

If the assumption is that he was bisexual, does that relieve him of his commitment to remain chaste and faithful to the one or, in his case, two person(s) to whom he had made the commitment of marriage? If he was gay, would that?

I think not. As I see this issue (and as someone else in our communion regularly notes, I could be wrong), it's not about homosexuality, heterosexuality, or bisexuality ... it's simply about sexuality and the faithful living out of a chosen sexuality (i.e., the commitment of marriage).

Suppose Bp. Moore had had one or more affairs with another woman or women, the sexual orientation component of this story would be missing, but the basic issue of faithfulness would remain. And your points about secrets and dysfunctional systems would be equally valid.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Just so y'all know I ask these questions because I, too, am torn about all of this. For the record, I don't believe in 'outing' anyone. I am very clear that collusion of "open secrets" is one of our worst diseases to infect the church.

David said...

As usual Elizabeth+ you get to the heart of the matter- most particularly in questions 8 &9.

However I think the larger issue has to do with the alienation from our physical self-hood we are so often taught within too many quarters of the Church. A patent double standard when the same Church also tells us we are indeed created 'in the image and likeness of God.'

Implicitly violent, this lie has for too long extracted its price in the suffering, fear & solitude of men and women- LGBT and straight alike.

Labeling Bp. Moore I'm afraid would only objectify the living witness his anguish can be to all of us through the good work of his daughter Honor. Both of them 'one of us,' and though saddened by what I know of their story, I am grateful for the gift.

Thank-you too Elizabeth+


Jim said...

Yes, like most activists, I know some of the 'open secrets' people. Some of them are friends or have quietly thanked us after we did something like picketing ABp. Akinola. I am certainly not about to 'out' them. It is not my secret.

What I think I know about the problem is so much of our society is complicit in creating the circumstances. It is attitudes towards the 'other' that make the secrets happen. If the church and the society were not ready to screw (you should pardon the word) gays, they would not be keeping secrets.

I dunno, how do I blame someone for hiding when they will face harm if they don't? That is not a moral judgement I care to make!


susankay said...

I think I understand the points made by both sides (that is both rational sides -- not the weird homophobes). On the other hand, one may fairly assume that this has already been dealt with by the One who deals with all things. So we are arguing (no -- debating) about something that has already happened and that is, if C.S. Lewis is correct, part of someone else's story and, in that sense, none of our business.

Mary Clara said...

Lizbeth, thanks for posting these questions. It is sometimes so much more helpful to stay with the questions than to state conclusions, certainties and judgments.