Episcopal Church Confronts Past Role in Sexual Exploitation
By David Crary
October 15, 2018
With striking displays of candor, the Episcopal Church is acknowledging the potency of the #MeToo movement by officially lamenting its past role in sexual exploitation and pledging steps to combat it.
The Protestant denomination’s national convention this summer included an emotional session at which first-person accounts of abuse by clergy and other church personnel were read aloud by bishops of the same gender as the victims — six men, six women. Dioceses nationwide are now seeking to gather and share similar stories from victims in their local church communities.
That process of story sharing has been particularly dramatic in the Diocese of New York, where Bishop Andrew Dietsche released a blunt pastoral letter on Sept. 11. It described the most famous of his predecessors, the late Paul Moore Jr., as a “serial predator” who engaged in “long-time patterns” of sexual exploitation and abuse.
Moore, as charismatic bishop of the diocese from 1972 to 1989, became one of the nation’s foremost liberal Christian activists. He supported the ordination of women and gays while assailing racism, corporate avarice and various U.S. military policies.
It has been known for a decade that Moore, who died in 2003, was bisexual and had a long extramarital affair that began when a young man came to him for counseling. Moore’s daughter, Honor Moore, revealed that in a 2008 memoir.
Shortly after the memoir’s publication, then-Bishop Mark Sisk issued a pastoral letter describing Moore as “an exploiter of the vulnerable” who had been the subject of multiple complaints. But the scope of Moore’s abusive sexual misconduct has become known only this year, notably at a Catskill Mountains retreat in the spring attended by clergy from the New York diocese.
At one session, participants were invited to share stories about difficulties they faced in their ministries. Among those at the event was the Rev. Alison Quin, rector of Christ the King Episcopal Church in Stone Ridge, New York.
As recounted by Quin in a May 6 sermon, one female priest arose to denounce Moore as a serial exploiter who had affairs with many young priests and lay people. Quin said a male priest in his 60s came next, saying, “I was one of Paul Moore’s boys — he seduced me when I was a new priest. It nearly ruined my life.”
Recalled Quin, “Many of us were in tears at the end of the morning — at the suffering we heard, at the terrible mix of good and evil in human beings, at the brokenness in the church.”
Honor Moore, in an interview, said she was dismayed that her father was the only person named in Dietsche’s letter and objected to the label “sexual predator.”