By PAUL VITELLO
Published: March 3, 2008
As is customary during Lent, the sermon at St. John the Divine Cathedral on Sunday touched on the themes of seen and unseen truths, knowing and not knowing what is before one’s very eyes.It was not intended as a veiled reference to the disclosure this week that Paul Moore Jr., the late, revered Episcopal bishop who became a national figure of liberal Christian activism from the cathedral’s pulpit in the 1970s and ’80s, had lived a secret gay life.
In an elegiac article in the March 3 issue of The New Yorker magazine titled “The Bishop’s Daughter,” the poet Honor Moore describes her father, Bishop Moore, who died in 2003 at 83, as alternately passionate and elusive, capable of deep “religious emotion,” yet just beyond her emotional reach. It was only after he died, she said, that she fully realized that he had had gay relationships during his two marriages, the first of which produced his nine children.
Bishop Moore was a famously outspoken Christian voice. His truth-to-power pastoring spanned almost half a century, including as leader of the Episcopal Diocese of New York from 1972 until his retirement in 1989. He marched with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was among the early opponents of the Vietnam War, railed at presidents and mayors for ignoring the plight of the poor, and, shortly before his death, took the opportunity of his last sermon at St. John the Divine, the seat of the diocese at 112th Street and Amsterdam Avenue, to deliver a scathing attack on President Bush and the war in Iraq.
Everyone interviewed after Masses on Sunday praised Bishop Moore as a towering leader of his era. And nearly equal numbers said that because of the cultural mores of the time in which he lived, Bishop Moore may have deprived his family of the kind of intimacy that his daughter, at least, missed as a child. In her essay, she describes her father’s religious devotion — and perhaps the furtiveness necessitated by his other life, which was unknown to her at the time — as “a landscape, like a dream, a place to which my father belonged and from which my mother and I were excluded.”
Anne Wroten said she was saddened at the thought of “how much energy is wasted in living a closeted life, how much is lost in the forming of bonds with loved ones.”Some were less kind, like Marsha Ra, who said, referring to the memoirist Ms. Moore, “I’m just so glad I never had children.” ...!
One thing is certain, life is complicated and people, even those we love and admire can dissapoint us! May God give us all the grace to live up to the promises and vows we make to him and to each other until the day we meet him face to face.