Honor Moore on Bishop Paul Moore: A father, a faith, and a secret

My father was born in 1919, the beneficiary of vast wealth. He was a grandson of William H. Moore, who, as one of the Moore brothers of Chicago, had made a fortune in corporate mergers at the beginning of the twentieth century. Until he went away to St. Paul’s School, at twelve, my father spent every fall until Christmas at Hollow Hill, a gentleman’s farm in New Jersey. He went to a private school in nearby Morristown, and played with friends he kept for a lifetime, taking long walks and riding his horse on the farm’s hundred acres, tending his dog and his pet roosters, playing tennis and golf. In January, the family migrated to Palm Beach, where they lived in an Addison Mizner villa, Lake Worth on one side of the house and a wide ocean beach on the other. There, between fishing and boating trips with the captain of his father’s yacht and occasional golf with his father, my father was tutored until the family returned home at Easter””to Hollow Hill and to their enormous Manhattan apartment, on the eighteenth floor at 825 Fifth Avenue, which had a view of the sea-lion pond in the Central Park Zoo.

By his fifth form, or junior year, my father was beginning to pray on his own and to ask theological questions. In a diary otherwise marked by adolescent confusion, he is clear and certain when he writes about religion, as when Dr. Drury, the headmaster, gave a “spirited & awfully good sermon.” The idea of confession scared him, he told me later, but there was no question that he would be among the boys who made appointments with Father Wigram, a member of a contemplative order founded during the Oxford Movement, when he visited St. Paul’s in the fall of my father’s final year.

Since I always thought I knew the story of my father’s conversion, I never asked him to tell it. But six weeks before he died, at our last dinner out together, I realized I might not have another chance.

“He was a very, very old man,” my father said, describing Father Wigram. He emphasized the second “very” just as he would have in telling me a story when I was a child, but now I was a grown-up woman and he himself was a very, very old man, his huge, familiar hands frail but forcefully gripping the table where we sat, in the dark-panelled dining room of the Century Club. It was late October, he told me, and the leaves had fallen from the trees. Father Wigram had arrived and was receiving students.

“So you went into the room?”

“Yes,” my father said quietly. “And we talked.”

“About what, Pop?”

“Oh,” he said, his eyes slowly blinking, “about everything.”

Read it all.


Posted in * Anglican - Episcopal, * Christian Life / Church Life, Church History, Episcopal Church (TEC), TEC Bishops

11 comments on “Honor Moore on Bishop Paul Moore: A father, a faith, and a secret

  1. New Reformation Advocate says:

    This excerpt from her autobiography is certainly intriguing, not least because of the tenderness and respect that Honor shows for her father, along with her confession of being virtually estranged for years. It’s definitely not a vengeful expose sort of “tell all” memoir. And it’s appropriate that it appears in The New Yorker, when +Paul Moore was bishop of NY for something like two decades.

    But Honor clearly is only giving us the tip of the iceberg about her father’s sexual confusion and brokenness. I’m glad to know now that the “young man” who claims to have been the bishop’s sex life for years was at least college age when they met. Although it’s still appalling that he came for counseling and ended up as the bishop’s lover. And this excerpt confirms that there were other men, though we have no idea how many from this brief account.

    In many ways, this public airing of the bishop’s secret double life raises many unanswered questions, some of which will doubtless be answered in the weeks and months ahead as more information will surely now come to light. But already irreparable damage has been done to +Moore’s reputation as a liberal hero. Certainly the fact that +Moore was bi-sexual and carrying on adulterous affairs with men will now forever taint his championing of the pro-gay cause by ordaining the first openly lesbian priest in 1977.

    Honor keeps mentioning the fact that her father was a very tall man, towering over most people at about 6’5″. And this, I suppose, is what evoked a biblical allusion in my mind, that similarly tall and severly flawed man who ended up such a tragic failure, King Saul. Saul was at times tormented by mental illness, or an evil spirit as 1 Samuel says, and +Moore must have been tormented by his secret double life and confused sexual drives. And so the response it evoked in me is the lament of David after Saul’s death: “How are the mighty fallen!”

    David Handy+

  2. PadreWayne says:

    +Mark Sisk (NY) has written a pastoral reflection on the article [url=http://www.dioceseny.org/index.cfm?Action=News.ViewAnnouncementDetails&NewsID=6A597CF098583E75B45095A87A80595A&returnURL=index.cfm?]Bishop Sisk’s February 29th Pastoral Letter Concerning Recent Revelations About Bishop Paul Moore, Jr.[/url], in which he says, “Though A Bishop’s Daughter reveals Paul Moore to have been a vastly more complex man than many of us who admired and respected him ever knew, and though there can be no excuse for the enormity of the betrayal of personal trust that he perpetrated in his private life, yet similarly there can be no diminution of the greatness, the nobility even, of the purposes and goals of his public life. We are left seeing a deeply flawed man in desperate need of God’s merciful grace. As are we all.”

    What a gracious message — and reminder — to us all.

  3. New Reformation Advocate says:

    PadreWayne (#2),

    Yes, +Mark Sisk’s letter is commendably honest, and it’s certainly gracious or even generous in its overall assessment of his life and ministry. And yes, of course, especially during this season of Lent, it’s always good to be reminded that we are all likewise sinners who are desperately broken, lost, and sinful, and in equal need of a redeemer.

    What I object to is the implicit (and sometimes explicit) value system so typical of liberals like +Sisk, that privileges matters of social justice and values them more than private morality. I do the opposite. Having a positive impact on society is no substitute for having a devastating and negative impact on those closest to you. Only God himself can weigh us in the balances and He alone knows the depths of our perverse human hearts and their tangled motivations.

    But I can’t agree with the current bishop of NY that this revelation of +Moore’s sordid and shameful secret life leaves his record of public service untainted. It can’t help but diminish it. I do not say that it obviates it completely and nullifies it; it doesn’t. But it does reveal that he was not only a “complex” man, but one who lacked basic integrity in a way that undermines all his accomplishments.

    David Handy+

  4. Words Matter says:

    Not to be contrary, but it seems trashy to expose a part of this man’s life that he chose to keep private. No matter how tender, the telling of this dead man’s private story is rude.

    And a far as the young (not so young now) man in question, he doesn’t seem to consider himself the victim, but a very satisfied lover, even if in mourning. It’s the hypocrisy of this sex-drenched age that we deconstructed the old boundaries, yet find it necessary to construct new ones – far more complex and controlling – to protect people, who, as in this case, don’t want or need protecting.

    Which is to say: Bishop Sisk, stick a sock in it. As far the information in this article goes, Bishop Moore was relatively content to keep a lover on the side and also engage in more casual sexuality. This is common in gay society and I’m not sure what purpose pompous moralizing about it serves when your church has spent a fair amount of time taking traditional sexual mores apart.

    I’m not a fan of Bp. Moore or his religion, but the man made his choices, lived his life, and, as the Trappists say: he knows more theology than all of us now. He should have dignity and privacy in death.

  5. Br. Michael says:

    4, I must disagree. I shows us a man, it can be argued, who used his liberalism to justify his personal lifestyle.

  6. Chris says:

    agreed #3 – the word “complex” is really a euphemism that liberals like to trot out whenever they need to excuse a person’s immoral conduct (see: Bill Clinton, JFK, MLK). Conservatives, on the other hand, generally let theirs twist in the wind (did anyone come to Bob Packwood’s defense? Bob Livingston? Nope, they resigned in disgrace).

  7. TACit says:

    #2, the letter you link to was posted on this blog nearly 24 hours before your comment above.
    The New Yorker article is a very revealing read to anyone who grew up Anglo-Catholic even remotely within the ‘orbit’ of the NY diocese. It leaves me thankful now to have avoided that social action scene though I knew not why at the time. The article offers answers to questions that have hung in some people’s minds for decades. It also provides a connection which I’m surprised no one else has called attention to; the Presiding Bishop has remarked obscurely of late that the current bishop of New Hampshire is not the first/only ‘gay bishop’ in the church, but without supplying any evidence.
    So, #s 4,5 – you give me something to think about.

  8. Larry Morse says:

    What reason can Honor Moore have for writing such a document? It sounds – this is is merely a hunch – as if she wants revenge. The bishop’s behavior and his principles are shameful, but the description thereof seems to me equally unprincipled. LM

  9. azusa says:

    #2: Sisk’s words remind me of the old saying: ‘You can say what you like about Mussolini, at least he kept the trains running on time.’

  10. Adam 12 says:

    I don’t see revenge here, just a daughter trying to come to terms with the enigma of a man who was her father…a man evidently who was an enigma to many. I read a biography recently of Henry Francis DuPont (of Winterthur fame) by his daughter. Although Mr. DuPont evidently led a proper private life there seemed to be an aloofness to the man that seems to have led his daughter to attempt to span the chasm through the therapy of biography.

  11. Larry Morse says:

    Well,10, you may be right. It was just a gut feeling.

    In any case, this man is despicable. His attachment to the liberal causes and good works has as its motive his own sense of his personal corruption. This is rather obvious. The Last Judgment will see his true motives; Christ was right, surely when he spoke of motive as t he finial testimony in defining right behavior. And I suppose this reminds us that Goods Works will not save us, qua Good Works. Only GW’s arising from the right motive counts, and the true knowledge, the true ability to judge the value of such GWs is Christ’s alone. And yet, for all that truth, sometimes motives are clear, even to the living, and this is one such case. This is just what TEC needs.

    Would it have been better if he had come out of the closet years and years ago? It certainly would for his wife and children. Did he have it in his power, knowing what he knew about the conscience and about Christ’s power to see the soul stripped bare? Of course he did. Who better? But he said in essence, “Smoking cigarettes is an addiction; it is not my fault if I cannot stop.” He now knows whether the Lord believes that or not. I don’t, you may be sure. Does the Lord’s mercy extend even to those who betray others in the deepest consequence, year in and year out? I wish I knew the answer to that question. LM