The keeping and telling of secrets

/ 6 March 2008

The recent piece in the New Yorker by Honor Moore about her father, Episcopal Bishop Paul Moore, has occasioned a lot of anguished searching about the “open secret” of religious leaders who are gay, but for whom the knowledge is not widely shared. Elizabeth Kaeton has a powerful blog post musing about the keeping and telling of secrets, and I think that her ten questions are highly pertinent for the Roman Catholic community, as well as the ELCA and other communities who will not countenance ordained leaders being in committed relationships that are gay.

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?