Honor Moore on Paul Moore; Sisk writes a pastoral letter

The blogosphere has been abuzz about the recent interview that Honor Moore gave the New Yorker, as they publish an excerpt from Ms. Moore’s forthcoming book on her father, Bishop Paul Moore. One blogger ends a flowery write-up thusly:

Of this I am quite certain: there is great rejoicing in heaven. All the choirs of angels and archangels are singing. For, as Jesus himself told us, what is bound on earth is bound in heaven and what is loosed on earth is loosed in heaven.

I’m willing to bet that even Paul himself is smiling. The man who was always ‘larger than life’ finally is.

Well, perhaps heaven is smiling. But it turns out to be more complicated than that. This is not only the story of a bishop living in the closet, but it’s the story of broken vows. Bishop Moore broke his marriage vows and his ordination vows. The current bishop of New York has written a pastoral letter, in which he ends this way:

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.

That seems about right. People always have the capacity for good and for evil, and neither diminishes the reality of the other. Pray for the Moore family, pray for his victims, and give thanks for the vibrant ministry of this legendary bishop.

Read Bishop Mark Sisk’s letter, after the jump:

February 29, 2008

To the clergy and people of the Diocese of New York

My Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

It is with sadness that I write to you.

The March 3, 2008 issue of The New Yorker contains an article by Honor Moore which is drawn from her forthcoming book A Bishop’s Daughter (prepublication copies of which are in circulation). While the book is, in the main, autobiographical, Ms Moore goes into considerable detail about the private life of her father, Paul Moore, Jr., the 13th Bishop of New York.
Her description of him comes as a shock to many of us. The man that so many of us knew and admired was a man of enormous personal courage, a passionate, articulate, and tireless champion of the poor, the disenfranchised and the most desperately helpless in society. He was all that, but as Ms Moore tells us there was another side to him, a man who led a secret double life. While on the one hand he inspired people to work for, and hope for, a community that could stand against the powers of oppression and exploitation, on the other he was himself an exploiter of the vulnerable.
Ms Moore’s article brings to light what appears to be her father’s decades long violation of his wedding vows. This was an offense of the most serious nature. Any person who has extra-marital relations commits an offense. This is true whichever party is married: whether clergy or lay, same-sex or heterosexual. Whatever the circumstances, it is family relationships which are broken. And, indeed a point of Ms Moore’s article would seem to be just that: the relationships between Bishop Moore and Ms Moore and her mother indeed were evidently severely damaged. The preservation of those relationships is an important aspect of the Christian life and of course of the life of its ordained ministry. Actions such as those which Ms Moore reports are wrong and could quite conceivably result in the most severe penalties that the church can apply to an ordained person.
But there is more. It appears as well that Bishop Moore violated his ordination vows in another respect. The long term extra-marital relationship that his daughter describes was begun, according to her account, with a young man who had come to the Bishop for counseling. That inappropriate relationship is a fundamental violation of an ordained person’s vow to minister to the needs of those entrusted to his or her care; never is this more so than when working with the vulnerable who have come seeking pastoral care. Sadly the violation of trust that Ms Moore reports is consistent with behavior recorded in complaints about Bishop Moore’s exploitative behavior received by the office of the Bishop of New York. As Canon Law required, the concerns of those complainants (who wished their identities held in confidence) were duly conveyed to the then Presiding Bishop Edmond Browning for disposition.
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.
Faithfully yours,
+ Mark

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8 Responses

  1. Jeffri Harre says:

    If I remember correctly, no action–at least no public action–was taken against Bishop Grein, Sisk’s immediate predecessor, when he took up with another woman while still married. Oh, wait, but that was heterosexual adultery…

  2. Scott Gunn says:

    I don’t know anything about that. I can tell you that in my view, action should be taken on any cleric who violates vows, especially when this violation involves people within the cleric’s cure.

    Sexual orientation or sexuality doesn’t matter in my view; it is the violation of trust that matters greatly.

  3. Shirley Ann Mitchell says:

    It seems very strange to me that a “loving” daughter could feel she had to bring these facts out about her father, true or untrue. There appears no move on anyone’s part to demand proof of the facts she writes or says. Neither is the accused able to defend himself nor are his widows able come to his defense. This all seems grossly unfair.

  4. Michael Ross says:

    What a surprise! Paul Moore was human, possessed of strengths and weaknesses, like all human beings. Let us celebrate his life for the many good things that he did and forgive him (isn’t forgiveness somewhere there in Judeo-Christian religion?) for his weaknesses.

  5. dr gail chandler says:

    It is perhaps inevitable that the putting together of sex and Religion will attract all sorts of people. And when the sex is gay sex we have a truly explosive combination.

    Therein lies the true value of the book. It relies for its effect on a view that sex and religion are spheres which never can, never should, interlock. Thus Jesus’ mother needs to be a virgin.
    Thus you and I need to also. Surely both the bishop and his daughter had more to them than is told by their respective sexual encounters. The book does not address how sex and religion relate; it assumes a Puritan point of view. Thus it is of little value.

  6. The truth does not wound, the truth heals. For there to healing in the world, we must not only reveal our own inadequacies and flaws, we must also reveal the flaws and deceit of our ancestors–without blame or condemnation.

    For the Bishop to expect younger generations to be complicit and carry on the lie(s) that he chose to live is to saddle them with a burden that may become impossible to bear. We must understand the power of lies and secrets to destroy. At any point he had the choice to step down from his pedestal and accept God’s love as the person he truly was. May he be experiencing and accepting this love right now.

  7. JIM FOX says:

    Father Sisk ends his letter with an assertion of such overwhelming presumtion, that all that he states prior must be dismissed out of hand.

    “We are left seeing a deeply flawed man in desperate need of God’s merciful grace. As are we all.”

    As are we all? What controlling personality, what vicious mind dares to make so bold as to condem every human being? Is there any more potent example of the need to exterminate religious belief?

  1. March 2, 2008

    […] une double vie (il fut deux fois marié). La réaction de l’évêque épiscopalien en titre se trouve notamment ici : Though A Bishop’s Daughter reveals Paul Moore to have been a vastly more complex man than many […]

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