Monday, October 31, 2011

The Bede Parry Case in a Nutshell

Since there is such a raft of material on the Web about the Bede Parry case (for an introduction and links, see my earlier posts here and here), I thought I would boil the concerns down into an easily readable form. At the end of this post is a link to my straight-line chronology of the affair, which puts all of the various sources together into a single timeline. (Make sure you download the latest version, updated and corrected with more information as of 10:28 a.m. on 1 November 2011.) By perusing that chronology, a reader should be able to see that the following account sums up the matter in a nutshell (the account assumes you are familiar with the facts in the chronology):

Father Parry told the Kansas City Star on June 23, 2011: "I told [Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori] at the time [I applied to her for reception into ECUSA] that there was an incident of sexual misconduct at Conception Abbey in '87. The Episcopal Church doesn't have a 'one strike and you're out' policy, so it didn't seem like I was any particular threat [emphasis added]. She said she'd have to check the canons, and she did."

But Father Parry had been suspended, and then barred from returning to his monastery, not just for that single offense (or "one strike"), but because it was repeated conduct (i.e., multiple strikes), after his Abbot had warned him and required he undergo psychological treatment for his propensities.

When he applied to be received as an Episcopal priest, however, Fr. Parry admits he told Bishop Jefferts Schori only about the single incident in 1987 which got him suspended, and not any of the earlier ones. He said, again to the reporter from the Star, "that he did not tell her about the incidents of abuse before 1987 at Conception Abbey." (Emphasis added; he also did not tell her about the earlier molestation incident at St. John's in Minnesota, which led to his warning and subsequent treatment.)

The Abbot of Conception Monastery, however, did speak to Bishop Jefferts Schori on at least one occasion while she was considering the priest for reception into the Episcopal Church. (The canonical procedure required that she check with his prior superior; and Abbot Polan says that he talked to her.) From the simple fact that neither the Diocese of Nevada nor Abbot Polan denies that there was any contact between them at the time, we may conclude that they spoke. And that makes all the difference.

There would be absolutely no reason for Abbot Polan to have withheld from Bishop Jefferts Schori all he knew about Father Parry: that because of his "proclivity to reoffend" (as found in a written evaluation in 2000 which resulted in his being rejected for membership in another monastery), he was not employable wherever there would be access to boys or young men -- such as in monasteries, or with church choirs.

This, then, is the nub of the matter: Fr. Parry now admits that he lied about his background to Bishop Jefferts Schori. She spoke to his former employer, and either must have learned about his lie then, or must have been so careless as to discount what she learned and/or read. But she went ahead and received him into her Diocese as a priest anyway, so that he could preach and continue assisting with the music and choir at All Saints, Las Vegas. So the simple question for the Presiding Bishop to answer is: Why?

And why, as Episcopalians on both sides of the aisle are asking, will she make no public response to these valid -- and genuine -- concerns? If one is maintaining impartiality, one does not presume that she is trying to hide anything. But the longer she maintains her silence on a crucial subject which only she can fully explain, the more it looks as though she is the one who is trying to hide something.

[UPDATE 11/03/2011: The new edition of Anglican Unsctripted (Week 16) is now published, having been delayed by the massive snowstorm that cut power to much of Connecticut, and in it, Kevin Kallsen interviews (toward the end) your Curmudgeon about the Parry affair. At the time of the interview, I was under the misimpression that the Diocese of Nevada had not obtained an updated psychological profile in 2003 on Fr. Parry, and my chronology above also stated as much. An alert reader kindly pointed out that in his July 6 statement, Bishop Edwards affirms that the Diocese did indeed conduct an "independent psychological evaluation" of Parry, but claims, with regard to the 2000 report on Fr. Parry done by the Catholic Church, that "[n]o such report was sent" to them. (How he can know this to be a fact he does not say.) I was able to correct the chronology, but not the Anglican TV interview, so I am publishing this correction here.]


  1. I still think that this case is mildly interesting only as a data point in the disintegration of world Anglicanism. There can be several theories as to what motivated PB Jefferts Schori to gloss over Parry's record (if in fact that's what she did), or to regard a propensity to molest minors as something not very important. Either she's terminally naive or terrified of doing anything that might offend militant same-sex interest groups -- or maybe there's some other equally silly explanation. Let's keep in mind that the Roman Catholics did come to their senses a couple of decades ago.

    Either way, a historian of the period will mention the whole episode in a sentence or two, or maybe in a footnote, spending much more time on the concurrent events in South Carolina, where the motivations of the parties are clearer and of somewhat more consequence -- though it seems to me there must certainly be cataclysms of much more consequence on the fairly near horizon.

    In that context, I'm still puzzled that the more conservative elements in Anglicanism are either in reactive mode (just sorta-kinda waiting for more dioceses to move to the ACNA, which theologically is liberal-Protestant, almost indistiguishable from TEC, and subject to the same problems down the road), or in total wishful-thinking mode, hoping that one or another sexual scandal will suddenly fix the problems with one or another presiding bishop, and everyone can go on like they did before. I would add that the current reactive mode also just tacitly plans for many many multimillions of litigation on both sides, depleting everyone's resources for any positive moves (assuming anyone can think of any at this point).

    It's posts like this that feed the wishful thinking and keep at least some people from realizing the need to think more comprehensively and at longer range about where Anglicanism goes from here and how to get there. Why not use your talents in this direction, Mr. Haley?

  2. Alas, this story will be *spun* by TEC as to make the PB look like an unwilling *victim* of lies told by the Roman Catholics. ALWAYS blame someone else!! Never take blame for yourself.

    Sigh...... why does this continue??

  3. "[Polan] also says he had sent [Schori] the 2000 psychological results about Parry"

    This is incorrect.

    "[Polan] told Katharine Jefferts Schori not only about the allegations [plural] against Bede, but also of Bede’s attempt to join another monastery, the psychological testing and his “proclivity”.

  4. Truth Works, thank you -- I have modified the text slightly to address your point. While it is true that Marker's notes do not record a direct statement by Abbot Polan that he sent +Jefferts Schori a copy of the 2000 report, it is clear from his language that they discussed the wording of its conclusion together over the phone. And the lawsuit makes the flat-out allegation that the report was sent to the Episcopal Bishop of Nevada. (It may have been sent by an earlier Abbot, in response to a routine background check at the time Parry joined All Saints in 2000.) Bishop Edwards' statement that they could not find any such report in the file is not evidence that it was never sent, or that it never was in the file at the time that +Jefferts Schori was the diocesan.

  5. John, you will be happy to know that this is my last post on the Bede Parry matter until some more concrete evidence turns up. I have summarized in my chronology everything we currently can glean from the meager sources available. The rest is in the hands of authorities over whom I have no influence or control.

  6. How is it possible, in the wake of the RC debacle in Boston and around the country, that an admission of "sexual misconduct" didn't set off every red flag flying. In RC canon law, this guy would have had to have gone through some sort of disciplinary process if he did not leave voluntarily. But given that Boston has just happened and the fallout was still resonating - how in the world do you allow such a person to function as a priest???

  7. I think a certain subtext has crept into Episcopalianism that "we do all the right things, but we don't have to do any of this Catholic stuff". The Anglo-Catholic, largely gay, Episcopal parish where I was a communicant for roughly 10 years made a big point of "don't say anything about this, but Catholic priests come here when they're on vacation" (this from the pulpit, I would add).

    I suspect the Archbishop would be interested in knowing more about said priests, if in fact they exist, which is another question -- the rector just got back from his second trip through rehab. But beyond that, there was a time when Protestantism had essentially the view of sexual conduct that the Catholics retain. This is an issue that it seems to me the continuing Anglican movement isn't focusing on carefully enough.