Bishop Sisk’s letter to the Diocese of New York, in the wake of Honor Moore’s book about her father, has generated a lot of comment in the diocese and the blogosphere. Some seem to think the primary concern was Bishop Moore’s sexuality, and I guess for the wider public interested in such things that will be the titillating revelation.
But Bishop Sisk’s primary concern was certainly not Paul’s sexuality, nor his infidelity, but much more importantly, his misconduct, described in the fifth paragraph of Bishop Sisk’s letter. The misconduct complaints were reported to the PB, and dealt with “quietly” but dealt with, over a decade before the present bishop took up his office. I know this because, although I did not know the nature of the charges, it was easy to see at the time that “something” had happened, for Bishop Moore was a member of my parish, and the scuttlebutt was that he was under some kind of discipline.
In retrospect (which is always 20/20) it would have been better for all if the matter had become public, and Bishop Moore openly sentenced, either to suspension or deposition. This would have been very painful, but it would have lanced the wound. We’ve learned a lot in the last twenty years. But people should realize how very much Paul Moore himself was responsible for imbuing a culture of evasion and concealment in the church. While he led the Diocese admirably, it could not help but reflect his own conflicted life over his long service. The mark such leaders leave upon the institutions they serve will not always be discernible but by succeeding generations.
As it is, though, Paul is dead and whatever sentence a higher tribunal will make, in the earthly arena only his memory suffers. Those who hated him in life will feel vindicated; those who admired him will feel to some extent embarrassed or pained, and some of them have directed their anger at Honor Moore or Bishop Sisk.
But Paul himself is not subject to pain inflicted post mortem. Honor Moore might be held up for criticism for telling tales she knows full well her father did not wish to have exposed. But the anger against Bishop Sisk — and the extent to which that anger distorts perceptions of what he actually wrote — seems to me to be entirely misplaced.
This is difficult for all of us. It is perhaps most difficult for those who have canonized Paul Moore in their memories. I knew and admired Paul Moore in several different contexts: as my Bishop, as Visitor to my community, and as a fellow parishioner. I also know how, in spite of his moving the issue forward, he nuanced his support of gay and lesbian people, and distanced himself with distinctions about “orientation” and “practice” when the House of Bishops came down on him. If you want to see a poignant exercise in Paul’s inability to face his own and others’ realities, and what he knew or didn’t know, read his address to the House of Bishops. He did not want to know of others that which he didn’t want known of himself. He helped us to move forward incrementally; but I wonder how much more he might have done so, had he chosen either the hard task of self-discipline, or the even harder task of self-knowledge and revelation.
For I am very weary of those who blame society for Paul’s double life in the closet, and even more those who blame the closet for his misconduct. He wasn’t “forced” — he made choices, choices which affected others than himself.
Hard as it may be for some to believe, there are celibate gay and lesbian people — some in the closet and some out. There are gay and lesbian people who marry persons of the opposite sex and who remain faithful to them — though this is a painful course I would not urge anyone to follow. There are gay and lesbian persons who remain faithful to their partners, again, some in the closet and some not.
Paul Moore was unable to follow through on his choice; he benefitted from the superficial protection it offered him. Had he been fully honest about himself, he would likely never have been a priest, certainly not a bishop — unless he chose the path of celibacy, or the virtual celibacy of the closet-with-benefits favored in his day in Anglo-Catholic circles, and still urged by some as a way to have avoided the present tensions in the Anglican Communion.
Paul Moore was a man admired by many, including myself. He is a reminder to us that not all great men are good and not all good men are great. Paul Moore did not just have feet of clay. He was, in fact, almost entirely clay -- as are we all. He was inbreathed by God, yet lived a fallible life. He is now dead. He will rise again. Christ died for Paul’s sins as he did for yours and mine, and at the judgment he will stand as we will, acquitted solely because the judge is also our only mediator and advocate.
Tobias Haller BSG
When 5'3" meets 6'5" — Tobias and Paul after a 1983 liturgy