Thursday, October 27, 2011

New Charges of Cover-up against Presiding Bishop

Disturbing new charges have surfaced about a cover-up concerning just how much Episcopal Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, when she was the diocesan of Nevada, knew about the past sexual abuses committed by Father Bede Parry, a former Catholic priest whom she canonically received into her diocese as a priest in 2004.

The allegations stem from telephone conversations and emails exchanged between Abbot Gregory Polan, the current ordinary of Conception Abbey in Missouri, where Father Parry was only a novice when his sexual abuses of young men originally came to light in the 1970s, and a certain Patrick J. Marker. Until recently, Mr. Marker had remained anonymous as another victim of sexual abuse, who had been molested by a different Catholic priest, while a student at a preparatory school operated by a different Catholic abbey in Minnesota (St. John's).

Bede Parry, before being ordained at Conception Abbey, had taken courses from 1979-1982 at the School of Theology also run by St. John's in Minnesota, and had admitted to his then Abbot in Missouri that he had engaged in sexual misconduct with a teen-aged student there. The Abbot required him to undergo "psychological treatment", but kept him on as a priest. Notwithstanding his treatment, Fr. Parry continued to molest young men in contact with him at the Abbey, and who had been enlisted to sing in its choir. It was during a summer camp for that choir in 1987 that Fr. Parry made the sexual advances which resulted in the current lawsuit on file in Missouri, and which the Circuit Court just ruled could proceed, over objections by the Abbey that the offenses alleged were outside the statute of limitations.

Patrick Marker, as a victim with ties to St. John's, where there were already a number of lawsuits pending on account of apparently widespread sexual abuse of minors there, became aware of the allegations concerning the molestations which Fr. Parry now admits he committed while at St. John's. As a result, Mr. Marker began investigating alleged abuses by the monks of Conception Abbey, and found credible charges concerning at least three of its members -- including Father Parry. He contacted Abbot Polan, as noted, and attempted to persuade him to approach the prior choristers and students at the Abbey who could still be found, in an effort to allow the ones who were willing to come forward to reach closure with regard to sexual abuses which they had suffered there so long ago.

After Abbot Polan, on his attorneys' advice, declined to try to make contact between the Abbey and other potential victims of its predator monks, Mr. Marker opened up a Website for the purpose of creating a point of contact for other victims of abuse at Conception Abbey. Frustrated by his inability to get anywhere with Abbot Polan, Mr. Marker put up a post on his Website last month which reproduced detailed contemporary notes of his conversations with the Abbot, both singly and in the presence of others, in order to document his efforts.

This post remained unnoticed in the world of ECUSA until earlier today, when VirtueOnline linked to it and reproduced it in its entirety. What should disturb Episcopalians in particular are the following extracts from Mr. Marker's contacts with Abbot Polan which concern the case of Father Parry and his subsequent reception into the Episcopal Church. Please note especially the remarks which Mr. Marker recorded the Abbot as having made last April 28 concerning Bishop Jefferts Schori's knowledge of Father Parry's prior sexual abuses before she agreed to receive him -- remarks made in the presence of two other priests taking part in the conversation:

July 19, 2011
Abbot Gregory Polan
Conception Abbey
[Address omitted]
Abbot Gregory,

Attached please find an exchange of emails with a subject line of “Being Proactive” that we exchanged in April and May of this year. The exchange begins with my email to you on Wednesday, April 27, 2011 wherein I reference to our telephone conversation of Monday, April 25, 2011, and ends on May 3, 2011 with an email relating your telephone conversation with Bishop Dan Edwards.

In addition to the emails we exchanged, below please find notes from four of our phone conversations.

*** During our first telephone conversation, on Monday, April 25, 2011, you shared the following information:

1) You heard something about Bede’s 1981 misconduct at St. John’s “at the time of the incident”.

2) You were aware of an incident involving Bede Parry with a member of the abbey’s choir in the summer of 1987.

3) Bede Parry was sent to New Mexico soon after the 1987 incident.

4) When Bede Parry tried to enter another monastery, he took psychological tests that showed a “proclivity toward sexual misconduct with minors.”

5) You called Parry’s boss at an ambulance company and a woman bishop with the Episcopal Church with the information.

6) You identified the woman bishop as Katharine Jefferts Schori.

7) You 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”.

8 ) That Katharine Jefferts Schori, despite your revelations, “allowed him to continue to work.”
. . .

*** During an April 28, 2011, telephone conversation you shared or confirmed (with Fr. Patrick Caveglia and Fr.Daniel Petsche in your office and all on speakerphone) the following information:

1) You agreed that Katherine Jefferts Schori had known about Bede’s “propensity to reoffend” for nine years.

2) Bede Parry is a sick man.

3) No one is monitoring Bede Parry.

. . .

6) Bede’s return to Conception Abbey would never be possible.

7) You will call the new Episcopal bishop in Nevada, Dan Edwards.

. . .

In our last conversation, you said that you had to trust your conscience. I find it hard to believe that your conscience is telling you to stonewall.

My conscience has led me toward numerous phone conversations and email exchanges with parents, choir members, former monks, and seminary students. I have learned a great deal about the history of misconduct at Conception Abbey.

I respectfully request that you make a public statement regarding misconduct by the members of your community. Those who offended must be held accountable — and publicly named. Those who protected the offenders must also be held accountable.

I know of at least twelve victims who would have benefitted from such accountability years ago. . . .

I also request that you end all speculation regarding your conversations with Katharine Jefferts Schori and Dan Edwards. They ignored your warnings and are rewriting history to serve their own agendas. Please do not fall victim to that trap.

The entire Conception Abbey community deserves the truth. The victims deserve no less.
Bishop Jefferts Schori, it is time for you to come out of your cocoon of silence on this topic, as well. The entire Episcopal Church (USA) deserves the truth as to why you regarded a Catholic priest with such a prior record -- known to you after being "warned" by his Abbot -- as morally fit for reception as a priest into your own Diocese.

Particularly, your Church deserves to know how you reconciled the version of the facts which Father Parry admits he gave you, which was incomplete and admitted only one prior offense in 1987, with the version you heard from his Abbot -- and then decided to receive him despite his lies to you.

More particularly, we need to have your own word on the record as to whether or not you received and read the psychological report on Father Parry which Abbot Polan had in his possession and which ended, as Abbot Polan apparently admitted he told you, with a conclusion to the effect that Bede Parry had a propensity to offend again. (This is the same report which the lawsuit filed by one of Fr. Parry's adolescent victims alleges was sent to you for your information, even though Bishop Edwards of Nevada now denies that it is in the files he has on Fr. Parry.)

More particularly still, given that Bishop Edwards claims that you gave instructions, following his reception, that Fr. Parry be kept from all contact with minors, we need to hear from you as to why his employers at All Saints Las Vegas stated in 2011 that they had never been aware of any such instructions.

Finally -- and not least of all, but far more serious -- one would like to know just what evidence you had before you in 2004 of Fr. Parry's moral and godly character (to quote Canon III.11 as then in effect [and continued unchanged today as Canon III.10.3 (a) (3)]), which was substantial enough and sufficient, in your view, to override all the testimony you then had to the contrary, so that he qualified for reception into your Diocese as one of your priests.

Failing your open, full and honest response on all these weighty matters, one waits to see whether you will self-report your offenses against the Canons in this case to your own Intake Officer, Bishop Matthews, for investigation by the same Disciplinary Board for Bishops whose report you are awaiting in the case against Bishop Lawrence of South Carolina. And the longer the period during which you refuse to speak openly to this matter, then perhaps the more might you subject yourself, mutatis mutandis, to charges that you have likewise "abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church."


  1. Given the resumes of many of our ordained leaders, the disciplinary canons of TEc could create a very busy retirement for Bishop Henderson.

  2. As part of the reception process, KJS should have requested and received a letter dimissory from Fr. Parry's Abbot or bishop and a background check.

  3. I commented to this effect at Virtue Online, and I think it's worth asking a similar question here. You've posted extensively about Bishop of Pennsylvania Charles Bennison and the ultimately unsuccessful attempts to have him deposed for the coverup of his brother's sexual abuse of a minor. These charges, though, came only after extensive controversy over Bennison's managerial, doctrinal, and financial shenanigans and unsuccessful attempts to hold him to account for those.

    The main issue here for Mr. Marker is an attempt to achieve closure on his own sexual abuse (and it should be pointed out that the Roman Catholic Church, perhaps too slowly, nevertheless has recognized the problem and since 2003 has had a zero tolrance policy -- and Parry appears to have been tested and eased out as a priest before that time in any case).

    So the issue, it seems to me, is parallel in many ways to l'affaire Bennison: a charge of covering up for someone else's abuse, which stems from an earlier inability within TEC to get resolution for doctrinal, managerial, and financial shenanigans. And I would think the prospects for success here will be just as dubious. We're back to the problem of doing the same thing over and over while expecting a different result.

    It seems to me that the real issue is related to the collapse of TEC, which is probably also going to presage the collapse of the traditional Anglican compromise. Trying to wrestle with the captain who's already steered the Titanic into an iceberg seems like a waste of time and energy to me.

    Why not spend equivalent time and energy trying to set up a better plan for continuing Anglicanism once TEC and the Rowan Williams-led communion disintegrate -- assuming the overall Anglican compromise can be saved? In fact, I'm wondering if serious theological thought might be well spent on precisely that question.

  4. John, those are good thoughts, and I believe you point in the right direction. One person with a blog, however, cannot establish a "better plan for continuing Anglicanism": that step is best taken by informed and concerned Anglicans as a body.

    The goal of this blog is to make such Anglicans even better informed, especially on points of canon law which are difficult for lay persons to bring to bear, advisedly and correctly, on debates about appropriate structures and means for going forward in mission. If they can use any part of what can be garnered here to lay out a plan for a continuing and better functioning Anglican Communion, then I will be content.

  5. Mr Haley, Does the "anyone" part of the new canons literally apply to anyone?If so, it seems that an easy way to instigate charges against the Presiding Bishop would be to bring this to the attention of Mr. Marker and ask him to send the allegations against the Presiding Bishop to the intake officer, Bishop Mattehws. If not, surely he could find some sympathetic episcopalians who could submit the charges. Just an idea.

  6. The only thing I would respond to that is that to spend so many pixels on what is basically a side issue with little prospect of success, which is what's happening here and on VOL, is to give a misleading impression that it's going to make a difference. And it's going to keep thoughtful people from asking questions like what happens to the Bishop of South Carolina and his diocese when it's fairly plain that they and TEC are coming to a parting of the ways. Is ACNA an adequate lifeboat?

    Why distract people from this sort of necessary question? Why not put this question on influential blogs like yours to the continuing Anglican thinkers?

  7. Galletta, the new Canons define "Complainant" as "the person or persons from whom the Intake Officer receives information concerning an Offense . . .".

    And then Canon IV.6 spells out the duties of the Intake Officer in this way:

    "Sec. 2. Information concerning Offenses may be submitted to the Intake Officer in any manner and in any form.

    "Sec. 3. Any person other than the Intake Officer who receives information regarding an Offense shall promptly forward the information to the Intake Officer."

    So, yes -- literally anyone may bring information about an Offense under Title IV to the attention of the Intake Officer.

  8. John, if and when the DSC decides to leave ECUSA, you can be sure that I will offer my comments, suggestions, ideas and criticisms (if any). And I will do the same once ACNA and the Anglican Communion, or Global South, formulate common plans. Any work I do to further such aims before they happen will be done face to face.

    What you view as wasting pixels on a "side issue" is an age-old function which has not been without its importance over the years: it is to hold lawbreakers, demagogues and petty tyrants to account in the public eye, and not to act as the House of Bishops has been acting for the last fifty years. The point is not to view success in terms of how things are brought down, but rather to hold the miscreants accountable and bring their misdeeds to the light, where all may see and understand.

    If people find me to be wasting their time, then the blog will stop being read -- it is that simple. That it is already anathema to so many on the left tells me that I must be doing something right.

  9. Has anyone considered the fact she may not have considered the activity immoral?

  10. CES, you deserve an answer to that very pertinent question.

    If our PB does not consider that Fr. Bede Parry's prior molestations of young men were immoral -- then I wish she would flatly say so. But she doesn't -- she just mouths unrelated platitudes of "inclusiveness".

    So: either she considered his behavior forgivable, and gave herself a pat on the back for having "forgiven" his sins by receiving him as a priest in her Diocese, -- OR:

    She did not find credible, or else she negligently ignored, the overwhelming evidence that Fr. Parry had lied to her.

    Which would you rather turn out to be the case? That our PB accepts practicing perverts, or that she studiously (or carelessly -- it does not matter which) ignored all the evidence that she was doing so?

    Either way, I cannot conceive how her "belief" that she did not consider his activity as "immoral" would qualify her to sit where she sits, and to make the decisions she is making. If she indeed had no ultimate moral disagreement with Fr. Perry's actions, then ECUSA deserves fully what it will get from making her its Presiding Bishop.

  11. What was the protocol for receiving a priest when she was the bishop and to what extent did she follow the protocol based on the TEC Canons? No one should go just by a self report of Fr. Parry.

  12. Fr. Matson, I quoted the 2003 canons and went through the protocol for reception (which Bishop Jefferts Schori did not follow) in this earlier post. Essentially it required her to obtain evidences of his "godly and moral character", and to obtain an updated psychological evaluation -- neither of which she did, apparently, before deciding to receive him.

  13. A.S. Haley,
    Thanks for the link. I read it and this comment by bishop Dan Edwards seems hypocritical and designed to protect KJS.
    "The bishop, priests, and lay people of Nevada kept children safe and they were true to our belief that people can be redeemed." If they truly saw him as "redeemed" why was there a provision to keep him away from minors in his assignment of cure? When bishop Edwards says that "The bishop, priests and lay people kept children safe.", doesn't it sound like he is providing cover for one bishop in particular by spreading around the culpability? How did their failure to observe the canons keep children safe?

  14. Mr. Haley,

    Thanks for again sharing with us so many pixels on yet one more one more side issue as part of your ongoing mission to "hold the miscreants accountable and bring their misdeeds to the light".

    Your sleuthing, your analyses, your wry and piercing narratives, your indefatigability, your je ne sais quoi, etc. helps many of us keep a sliver of hope alive for some kind of recovery/reformation/restoration of what once was the ECUSA (or at least for a more timely interment of its corrupted remainder).

    OCCUPY 815 (or something like that...) !


    P.S. I'm passing your column on to some Catholic priests that have been trying, in vain, to do something about the rot at St John's Abbey (which, in addition to sheltering its own home-grown pedophile RCC priests, continues to provide a teaching venue for a registered sex offender "former" TEC priest) and who will be cheered by (and, who knows, may even work on securing some temporal indulgences for) your good works.