Sunday, March 2, 2008

Veritas est lux

Ephesians 5:8:14
For once you were darkness, but now in the Lord you are light. Live as children of light -- for the fruit of the light is found in all that is good and right and true. Try to find out what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. For it is shameful even to mention what such people do secretly; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, because everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, "Sleeper awake! Rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.
This was today's second lesson and it seems especially appropriate in light of recent revelations about the life of the late Paul Moore, which will soon be published in the book written by his daughter, Honor Moore, The Bishop's Daughter.

I am afraid that I was much confused by the letter issued by the current bishop of New York, Mark Sisk, in anticipation of release of the book, in juxtaposition with the intitial reports of the book and the audio interview given by Honor at the New Yorker. Apparently, Paul Moore's sexual misconduct went way beyond the tragedy of being a closeted homosexual in heterosexual marriages. I did not get that at first, and due to that misunderstanding, I am afraid that I judged Bishop's Sisk's remarks harshly and too hastily when discussing them at Mad Priest's. I am deeply sorry about that. I am especially am thankful to Tobias Haller for setting the record straight, who shed more light so that the blind could see.

Update - March 5, 2008

Fr. Haller has written an extraordinary essay about Paul Moore and Bishop Sisk's letter, aptly titled Feet of Clay. I highly recommend it.

Finally, a note to Lindy: I am also deeply sorry for the pain and anger you have experienced as a result of Bishop Sisk's letter and for whatever part my comments (first criticizing the letter and then accepting it), may have added to those feelings. I would be the first to admit that I have little understanding of and no direct experience of what GLBT persons have had to struggle with in life, relationships, and, when they have dared to seek it, ministry in the church. All I can do is try to support equality and justice the best I can, while recognizing that there will always be much I do not understand.


Lindy said...

As long as the church honors the closet more than the fullness of creation we can expect nothing different than what we got from Bishop Moore. I see nothing surprising in his actions. What I don't understand is how anyone expects anything different. If you people don't like this sort of thing, get rid of the closet that makes it necessary. Let gay people live in the full light of day, give the same benefits and support. THEN you can hold us to the same standards. Only then.

klady said...

Lindy, I, too, find nothing surprising about his actions, precisely for the reasons you give. The light that must be shed very much includes the context in which the conduct occurred, for all of it.

You misunderstand me if you think I am suddenly deciding to condemn Moore (as MP has done today) because I have discovered that some of his conduct was more serious than I originally imagined. I do not see any point in judging the man, at all, or talking about whether he can be "excused" in some way. But the light that needs to be shed needs to be the full, not a partial truth.

That truth includes the context in which Bishop Sisk's letter was issued, not a matter of straight people condemning a gay man but rather the anguish his conduct caused his many friends and supporters, gay and straight, during his lifetime. The fact of the matter is that some of the conduct had nothing to do with fidelity to his spouse or propriety with regard to how he met his long-time lover. That conduct did and continues to cause grief for many people, including its victims. To deny that or to ignore distinctions between different kinds of conduct in terms of the harm that it can produce is to let darkness prevail.

I would have liked a fuller discussion of some of the issues raised at MP's regarding sexual ethics and a topic we never even got to -- how one views the complexity and fullness of any life, with its virtues and vices, our own as well as others; how and why we imagine saints and heroes among us, and build them and tear them down accordingly. But I am afraid that there is no real interest in that at the moment, especially given the reality that there still is a disparity of knowledge between those who knew and worked with Paul Moore and the rest of us who did not.

For now all I can do is trust his friends, who are not aggrieved by what Bishop Sisk said and share his mixed emotions - trust them and lift up the light of truth, which illumines all, including the darkness that lurks in each one of us.

klady said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
klady said...

It seems to me that the controversy, if there is one, is NOT about judgment of Paul Moore, the need for it, or the standards that might be applied if one were made. Honor Moore wrote a book which reportedly is about shedding light on the whole of her father's life, not to judge him but rather to suspend judgment, to grapple with the complexities of his personality, the circumstances in which he lived, and their impact on both the work he did and on his friends, family, and colleagues.

I take it that Bishop's Sisk's primary concern is not to render a post-mortem moral judgment on Moore's entire life and character -- as much as his words may give that impression -- but rather to address the judgments that others may make about living GLBT priests and laity. What he, Dennis, MP and others seem to be saying is that not only can one not assume that all GLBTs will act in some of the ways Paul Moore did but that they are as committed to leading lives and ministry guided by the same ethical standards as anyone else. Does that mean that GLBTs are even now in the same position as others in terms of institutional constraints within both the church and civil society? No. Does that mean that commitment to ideal standards of conduct means that there should be no compassion or understanding for those who cannot live up to them, regardless of sexual orientation? No. But what it does seem to mean is that someone – in this case Bishop Sisk – has to stand up and speak against the stereotypes of promiscuous, unprincipled sexual conduct by GLBTs which, sad to say, inevitably follow revelations like those made by Honor Moore.

For better or for worse Sisk felt he had to act to deflect judgment from the living. Would it have been better to do so in a more complex, nuanced way that showed full appreciation for both the good that Bishop Moore accomplished and the circumstances in which he lived? Perhaps. Was it patronizing or wrong to think that some response was needed to protect the ministries of the living? I suppose the jury is out on that, so to speak, but there have been compelling opinions expressed in favor of the statement, including those within the diocese who would seem to have the best knowledge of both the persons and issues involved.

There still may be good reasons for outsiders to question what seems so obvious to some of the insiders. It just seems to me that the discussion should move on from what one bishop said on one day to the larger issues involved.

Finally, while I would not characterize myself as a “moralist,” I would agree with MP that what ultimately counts is whether we act in ways that injures others. My words and actions can and do fall short of standards that might prevent such harm, but I cannot help but think it is everyone’s responsibility to hold those standards up as ideals for all.