Article About Novus Ordo Bishop With AIDS From NYTs
Edit: Cardinal O’Connor really lauded this man who ended his life as a drug addict with AIDS. Interesting in light of accusations coming from certain quarters these days.
The ability to empathize and console appeared to come naturally to Emerson J. Moore, the first black bishop in the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of New York. Priests said he possessed a magic in relating to people. His superiors noticed how he connected with suffering, considering it almost mystical. Bishop Moore, said John Cardinal O'Connor, "was the most popular preacher in town."
"Emerson Moore had an infectious humanity, and absolutely every child who ever met him remembered him," Msgr. Thomas Leonard, pastor of Holy Trinity Church in Manhattan, said. "Other bishops lose that touch of humanity."
It was a different side of Bishop Moore's humanity that people experienced when they met him at the Hazelden Foundation in Center City, Minn., a drug and alcohol treatment center. There, Bishop Moore, whose prominence was largely unknown, was another addict -- wounded, struggling, uneasy about opening up. He confided to his fellow patients that he had abused alcohol, cocaine and crack.
"He was a beautiful, tortured man, a man who didn't seem to have any real idea how great he was," said a former patient who met Bishop Moore at Hazelden in 1993. "He struck me as a stranger in a strange land. I often thought he was the loneliest man I had ever met."
Bishop Moore's struggle ended on Sept. 14. At 57, his rich, sad odyssey of accomplishment and anguish was over. People close to Bishop Moore said he died in a hospice in Minnesota. The Archdiocese of New York, in an announcement last month, said the Bishop had died of "natural causes of unknown origin."
To many members of the Catholic clergy in the city, as well as to others aware of Bishop Moore's problems, the odd, even cryptic announcement seemed to confirm what they had long suspected: the Bishop had AIDS. This week, top church officials did not dispute that conclusion. It remains unclear how the Bishop contracted the AIDS virus.
Cardinal O'Connor, citing his relationship with Bishop Moore's family, said he could not discuss the circumstances of the Bishop's death. He said only that the archdiocese had released the cause of death exactly as it appeared on the death certificate. But he said he would not be ashamed if one of his priests or bishops had AIDS, and would not shrink from ministering to him. "I have washed the sores and changed the bedpans of more than a thousand people who were dying of AIDS," Cardinal O'Connor said.
A Great Silence AIDS Among Clergymen
For more than a decade, the Catholic Church has grappled with the uncomfortable problem of clergymen with AIDS. Until recently, the issue was shrouded in silence and denial, largely because it forces the church to deal not only with the active sexuality, but often the homosexuality, of its supposedly celibate priests. Now, the fact that there are priests with AIDS -- perhaps several hundred nationwide -- is more openly discussed. But there has never been any public acknowledgment that a bishop was sick with AIDS.
"One of the most serious problems with the clergy and their hierarchy is this sense people have of them being above the human condition," said John McNeill, a former Jesuit priest who is a psychotherapist and author. Mr. McNeill, who knew Bishop Moore, said he had no specific knowledge of his troubles and death but said that if he had fought both addiction and AIDS, there was great power in an honest accounting of his life.
"Bishop Moore was a man of extraordinary love and compassion," Mr. McNeill said. "I'm sure right up to the end he took the chance that his human weaknesses would not cut him off from his God. And that is the model for how we all work our way to God."
Because of the church's difficulty in facing the existence of AIDS among its priests, it has been accused of making it hard for them to seek help. But friends and colleagues of Bishop Moore said the church had treated him with great care and generosity. "There is always the assumption that the church has to protect itself," Cardinal O'Connor said. "But the church acted very honorably in assisting Bishop Moore throughout his life."
The priests and bishops interviewed for this article declined to talk openly about Bishop Moore's addictions and the details of his illness, or whether he could have contracted the disease through sex. They said they did not want to break his confidence even now, and they worried about the impact of such a disclosure on the bishop's family and on his former parishioners at St. Charles Borromeo in Harlem. Perhaps, they said, such talk would only feed an ugly racial stereotype. Bishop Moore's family -- he is survived by his father and two sisters -- declined to be interviewed.
But almost everyone interviewed acknowledged, however circumspectly, that concern had existed for years that Bishop Moore was dealing with a substance-abuse problem. He missed meetings and confirmations, had money problems, or simply disappeared. Indeed, the Bishop withdrew periodically from his life as a bishop to seek treatment. And in the year before his death, the Bishop had effectively vanished from the lives of those who cared for him and looked for his leadership.
A World Apart Black Bishop, White Institution
Some friends and colleagues, including the many black priests who were his admirers, chose to speak of what they termed his "struggles" or his "liabilities" or his "psychological strains." To them, Bishop Moore was a brave trailblazer, a man who was proud of his African-American heritage, who adored his family and stayed true to his beliefs and his people and his Harlem neighborhood. But they conceded that Bishop Moore often found it deeply discomforting to be a black bishop in an overwhelmingly nonblack church.
Cardinal O'Connor said that "any serious troubles Bishop Moore had were in large part attributable to the fact that he was a black bishop."
"I am convinced he believed he never would have been a bishop if he weren't black," Cardinal O'Connor said. "Always he was asking himself: What am I doing here, a black kid from Harlem? Why am I a bishop? Why am I giving this talk to all these white people? He didn't have a problem being an ordinary black priest. But when he was singled out, he began to take on a huge burden. When he became bishop -- boom."
In the homily Cardinal O'Connor delivered last month at Bishop Moore's funeral at St. Patrick's Cathedral, he spoke of those hardships.
"It is not enough that a black bishop be ordinarily intelligent," he said. "He is expected to be extraordinarily intelligent. It is not enough for him to preach adequately; he must preach brilliantly. It is not enough for him to be polite; he must be the essence of courtesy. If he speaks with pride of being black, he's racist; if he supports civil rights, he's a threat. If he praises white people, he's an Uncle Tom. He is expected to be a paragon of priestliness, yet be more human than the weakest among us. In short, if he cannot walk on water, he's an utter failure; if he walks on water too easily, he has forgotten his 'place.' "
People who were close to Bishop Moore said they believe that the Cardinal essentially diagnosed his core anguish. But they said that his troubled life underscored the need for the church to do more than empathize.
"What the Cardinal said is truth, even poetry, but if we don't do anything about it, that's all it is," said Grayson Brown, a black composer who was a friend of the Bishop. "There is a responsibility to fix the problem of how blacks exist in the Catholic Church and its hierarchy. Because when all is said and done, a black, beautiful 57-year-old man that the world needs is dead."
A Quiet Rebel Outsider Called For Changes
Emerson J. Moore was born in 1938 and raised first in Harlem, then in the Bronx. Although a member of a Baptist family, he attended Catholic schools and converted at age 15. He graduated from St. Joseph's Seminary in Yonkers and was ordained in 1964, becoming one of only about 100 black Catholic priests in the country.
"For black priests, the path had been blazed by people who had endured excruciating trials," said Stephen J. Ochs, an expert on the history of black priests in the Catholic Church. "They had to be super students, super priests. I'm sure things hadn't changed much by the 1960's."
Bishop Moore came to occupy his own place in the church, balancing a personal modesty and deft ability to relate to people with an often underappreciated political toughness and courage. He was opposite in style from the Rev. Lawrence Lucas, a more outspoken Harlem pastor, but often in agreement with him.
In 1967, Bishop Moore joined with the National Black Catholic Clergy Caucus in calling the Catholic Church in America a white racist institution. Made pastor of St. Charles Borromeo in 1975, he developed a remarkable bond with his parishioners and he started the archdiocese's Office of Black Ministry. His parishioners, who felt free to call him E. J., revered him, and they smiled in the rain when he greeted Pope John Paul II during the Pontiff's trip through Harlem in 1979. Three years later, the Pope made him the first black monsignor in the United States.
"He could relate to people who were suffering, that was his uniqueness, his genius, and so young priests would go to him," said the Rev. Sammy Taylor, a black priest at the Church of the Resurrection in Harlem. "He'd tell you the history of the black priests who came before, tell you to hang in there. He kept his suffering to himself, and he had the gift of being able to love."
Msgr. Wallace A. Harris, who is the current pastor at St. Charles, echoed that assessment.
"It is a storm black priests endure -- prejudice, subtle and overt," said Monsignor Harris. "Emerson was more of a moderate, but, when confronted, he was no shrinking violet. "
Made bishop in 1982, Emerson Moore headed committees, traveled to Africa on relief missions, got arrested for protesting against apartheid in South Africa. In 1990, he was the only bishop in the country to sign a full-page newspaper advertisement calling for major changes in the Catholic Church. Those changes included ordaining women, pursuing the idea of married priests and rethinking the church teaching on sexuality. Clearly, then, however much Bishop Moore felt the strain of expectations, he also often felt at odds philosophically with the more conservative Cardinal O'Connor.
Asked if he feared repercussions for signing the 1990 ad, Bishop Moore told a religious news service, "Christ didn't promise us an easy life."
A Secular Slide Frequent Trips For Treatment
Life for Bishop Moore was clearly difficult by 1990. He made at least one trip for substance abuse treatment to a center for members of the clergy in the Midwest. According to people who say they were with him at Hazelden, a secular treatment center, the Bishop had checked in as a long-term-care client in early 1994.
Records at hospitals in the Minneapolis area show that Bishop Moore was treated several times during 1994. Those with him at Hazelden said Bishop Moore moved from the treatment center to a halfway house in Minneapolis late in 1994.
In New York, people wondered for years what had happened to Bishop Moore. At least one priest said he had directly confronted the Bishop about whether he had AIDS, and that he had denied it. There were never any formal answers.
"People understood it was the story of a holy man struggling," Mr. Brown said. "But people had such a reverential feeling for Emerson that the words saying what really was the problem would have been hard for people to even form on their lips."
Bishop Joseph Francis of Newark, who as one of the first black bishops in the nation had been a mentor to Bishop Moore, said he had difficulty talking directly about his colleague's problems. "I had heard rumors about Emmy," he said. "I prayed that this wasn't so. Maybe I never had the courage to say that he had a problem and ask him if I could help. Maybe it was something I didn't want to know."
When Bishop Moore died three weeks ago, Monsignor Harris and Cardinal O'Connor, who by all accounts had enjoyed a powerful pastoral relationship with the ailing Bishop in his final months, met the bishop's family at La Guardia Airport upon their return from Minnesota. They were told the Bishop had died in dignity and still believing.
"What the church asks is that you be true to God to the end," said Ted Parker, a friend of the Bishop and the pastor at All Saints Church in Harlem. "I think Emerson enjoyed a great victory in the end in that regard."
Cardinal O'Connor said: "I am sympathetic to what he endured. If he did anything he shouldn't have, a lot of people might not be sympathetic. We all have to be accountable. But I know he tried his best to lead a responsible life, and I know the church made every effort to help him lead that life. I'm sure his conscience is clear. I feel mine is."