Tuesday, March 04, 2008
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?