THE BISHOP’S DAUGHTER: A Memoir. By Honor Moore. Illustrated. W.W. Norton & Co. Inc. 354 pages. $25.95 hardcover.
In the 1970s, the late Episcopal Bishop Paul Moore Jr. was a Chilmark seasonal visitor. He came to the Island after the death of his first wife, Jenny McKean, and his marriage to Brenda Hughes Eagle who had a Chilmark home. Now his eldest daughter by his first marriage has written a memoir about her own life and the life of her illustrious father.
From 1964 to 1972, Paul Moore was the suffragan bishop at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., and from 1972 to 1989 diocesan bishop of New York. He was renowned for his brilliance, his religiosity, his oratory from the pulpit and his liberalism — most notably for his stand on civil rights in the turbulent 1960s and his endorsement of the ordination of women and gay men to the Episcopal priesthood in the 1970s. Bishop Moore died in 2003; his second wife had predeceased him in 1999.
Paul Moore came from a prominent family. His grandfather had been responsible for the creation of Nabisco, U.S. Steel and the American Can Company, and Paul Moore Jr., by following in family footsteps, could have been a wealthy man, indeed. Instead he chose to enter the Episcopal priesthood and to use what money he had in the service of the needy. He was a graduate of St. Paul’s School, Yale University and the General Theological Seminary in New York, and was a much-decorated Marine captain in World War II, nearly losing his life at Guadalcanal when a bullet narrowly missed his heart.
Although he had first felt a dramatic call to the Episcopal church when he was a 16-year-old at St. Paul’s, it was after his combat years in the war that he decided to dedicate his life to the church and enrolled in theological school.
In this 354-page memoir, Honor Moore, the author of three volumes of poetry and a biography of her maternal grandmother, has written the story of her father and herself. Herself a bisexual, she is, above all, concerned and appalled by the private life she discovered her devout father had led as a bisexual during his two marriages.
She writes with warmth and understanding of his early ministries when she was a child (one of nine children he had with Jenny McKean). His first parish was in a poor section of Jersey City, N.J., where the minister’s home — as well as the church — was open to all for food, shelter and solace. Later he took a “call” to be the dean of the cathedral in Indianapolis. There he determinedly fought bigotry in the church community. But the author’s sympathy for her father seems to fade as he moves on to his bishoprics and she grows up and goes off to Radcliffe College.
Honor Moore’s book should surely be of interest to Episcopalians who remember Paul Moore Jr. as the powerful, mesmerizing man of God he was. It should also have a special appeal to Chilmarkers who remember him as the striking, six-foot-four man with a Cairn terrier, who played tennis regularly on the late Gil Harrison’s court with Stan Hart and the late Michael Straight. He could also be seen rowing daily across Chilmark Pond on his Island visits. Outspoken liberal that he was, he was incensed with the idea of private Island beaches, especially so after he was put off one by a guard. He wrote vociferously to the Gazette afterwards to say that beaches belonged to God, not man.
It may be hard, however, for the reader of this memoir to decide if it was written as a means of personal catharsis by a troubled daughter or simply was a way of Honor Moore’s using her notable father to write about herself.