Offending priest handled “by the book” by Episcopal Church leader

July 7, 2011

The Episcopal Church’s diocese of Nevada sought to calm an uproar over a former Benedictine monk who admitted sexual indiscretions with a parishioner before he was ordained an Episcopal priest by Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, who is now leader of the 2.3 million member U.S. church.

“It looks to me like she handled the situation by the book,” Bishop Dan Edwards said of Jefferts Schori’s actions regarding Fr. Bede Parry, a church organist and former Episcopal priest.

Jefferts Schori became the 450-year-old church’s first female leader when she was appointed presiding bishop in 2006.

Parry, 69, is a defendant in a Missouri lawsuit filed last month over his admitted sexual relationship with a male parishioner at a summer camp run by a Roman Catholic monastery. He has since resigned from the priesthood and from All Saints Episcopal Church in Las Vegas, Edwards said.

Jefferts Schori ordained Parry in 2004, aware that he had offended while a Benedictine monk at Conception Abbey, which runs a large monastery in Northwest Missouri.

Jefferts Schori and a committee of clergy and lay people were also aware that Parry went for treatment, but that a subsequent psychological examination in 2000 found he was a sexual abuser who had a proclivity to reoffend with minors.

Jefferts Schori forbade Parry from having contact with minors, under the church’s decade-old policy, “Safeguarding God’s Children,” that requires windows on all doors and does not allow children to go somewhere with a single adult.

The Episcopal Church has declined comment, referring all inquiries to the Nevada diocese.

“It’s deeply upsetting, deeply upsetting,” Edwards said of the situation surrounding Parry. “A situation like this gives rise to a lot of feelings, and sometimes a lot of fantasies of things that have not happened.”

There was no evidence that Parry had offended again since the 1987 incident, though the lawsuit brought by “John Doe” said there had been other prior incidents of which the Abbot at Conception Abbey was aware.

“As I review what was done from 2002 to 2004, I find no fault with the actions of any of our people, lay or ordained. The bishop, priests, and lay people of Nevada kept children safe and they were true to our belief that people can be redeemed,” Edwards said in a statement.

“It is ironic that some have taken this incident as a pretext to attack Bishop Katharine for laxity in enforcing rules for the safety of children. Bishop Katharine introduced Safeguarding God’s Children standards and training here. No bishop has ever done so much to rid our diocese of clergy misconduct or to establish and enforce rules to preserve healthy boundaries.”

Parry suffers from congestive heart failure, and has virtually no pension, Edwards said.

According to the lawsuit filed by Jeff Anderson’s Minneapolis law firm, Parry joined the monastic community in Missouri in 1973. He was secretary to the abbot and taught, while directing the choir. He was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in 1983. He received treatment at Servants of the Paraclete in New Mexico, remaining in the southwest at various churches, before switching to the Episcopal Church.

(this changes subsequent references to Jefferts Schori)

3 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

“By the Book?” Who wrote the book? Cardinal Bernard Law?

Schori needs to get a new book.

One that says “don’t ordain someone who admits to being a sex offender in conjunction with his prior ministry.”

Pretty short book.

This woman is quite accomplished. She managed to, in the first generation of female bishops, indulge in the sort of arrogance and clerialism that it took Roman Catholic male bishops two millenia to master.

Posted by GBullough | Report as abusive

“By the book.” Roughly speaking, the Bible calls for meaningful confession, apology, sorrow, restitution, and repentance by offender to offended. And then forgiveness and reconciliation from offended to offender. With the help of the community if necessary. Biblical repentance and reconciliation are not cheap, but they are possible. In the case of criminal sexual abuse, repentance includes making a full and honest statement of all crimes to the police. Anything else is not righteousness, but defensive selfishness. Biblical atonement is soaked in the Blood of Christ. Failing that:

Ephesians 5:6-11
Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of such things God’s wrath comes on those who are disobedient. Therefore do not be partners with them.

For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.

Posted by CB2031 | Report as abusive

I am a member of the Episcopal Church. This article has missed a lot of details (for example, the lawsuit is a civil, not criminal, lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Abbey where the man was a priest, no Episcopal church or other body is named as a defendent, nor even is the priest himself, and he has had no incidences of abuse reported since 1987. He was received as an Episcopal priest in 2002).

The article also has at least one major thing incorrect. In the article as written:

“Jefferts Schori and a committee of clergy and lay people were also aware that Parry went for treatment, but that a subsequent psychological examination in 2000 found he was a sexual abuser who had a proclivity to reoffend with minors.”

However, from the report (where some of the article’s quotes are taken from): http://www.episcopalnevada.org/index.php  ?option=com_k2&view=item&id=156:stateme nt-regarding-resignation-of-fr-bede-parr y&lang=en

“It has been reported that there was a psychological examination showing that he was likely to repeat his offense. No such report was sent to the Diocese of Nevada and, to this day, we have no knowledge of its existence other than an assertion by the plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer in a John Doe lawsuit against the monastery. [...] The Diocese of Nevada, however, did have our own independent psychological evaluation done by a psychologist and it did not indicate any pathology or risk.”

From the people who have the archives relating to his reception, this report doesn’t exist. A cynic might say that this is “covering up,” but the reporting done here in this blog doesn’t address that question; rather, it either assumes it or has bad information.

Posted by BenVarnum | Report as abusive