Thursday, November 17, 2011

BREAKING NEWS: Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori releases statement regarding Father Bede Parry

UPDATE: Good commentary in this post at SF.  The Washington Post also has an article here.

The Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has issued the following statement regarding Father Bede Parry who had been removed from ministry as a priest in the Roman Catholic Church for child sexual abuse and was then received by Bishop Schori as a priest in the Episcopal Church.  

You can read more about the issue here and here and here and here and here.

From here:
Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori
Bede James Parry was serving as organist and music director at All Saints Church, Las Vegas, when I became aware of him. His arrival preceded my own in the Diocese of Nevada.

He approached me to inquire about being received as a priest, having served as a priest in the Roman Catholic Church. At the time, he told me of being dismissed from the monastery in 1987 for a sexual encounter with an older teenager, and indicated that it was a single incident of very poor judgment. The incident was reported to civil authorities, who did not charge him. He told of being sent to a facility in New Mexico, serving as a priest thereafter both in New Mexico and in Nevada, and recently (2002) being asked to formalize his separation from the monastery.

In consultation with other diocesan leadership and the chancellor, we explored the possibilities and liabilities of receiving him. I wrote to the Roman Catholic Diocese of Las Vegas and the Diocese of Santa Fe, receiving brief responses from each bishop, who indicated no problematic behavior. I wrote to Conception Abbey, from whom I received only an acknowledgement that he had served there, been sent for treatment to a facility in New Mexico, and had been dismissed for this incident of misconduct. Neither then nor later did I receive a copy of any report of a psychological examination in connection with his service in the Roman Catholic Church. His departure from the Roman Catholic priesthood had to do with his desire to take up secular employment.

Parry was required to fulfill all the expectations of the canons regarding reception of a priest from another communion in historic succession. He did undergo a psychological exam in the Diocese of Nevada, was forthcoming about the incident he had reported to me, and did not receive a negative evaluation. His background check showed no more than what he had already told us. He was forthcoming about the previous incident in his interviews with the Commission on Ministry and with the Standing Committee.

I made the decision to receive him, believing that he demonstrated repentance and amendment of life and that his current state did not represent a bar to his reception. I was clear that his ministry would be limited to an assisting role, under the supervision of another priest, and like any other diocesan leader, he would not be permitted to work alone with children. Since that time, as far as I am aware, he has served faithfully and effectively as a minister of the gospel and priest of this Church.

The records of his reception are retained by the Diocese of Nevada, and further questions should be directed to Bishop Dan Edwards.

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

I am not sure why she thinks anyone is going to direct further questions to her diocesan successor when she was the one who is responsible for authorizing and presiding over Father Parry's reception as a priest in the Episcopal Church. 

Here is the statement of Father Bede Parry from May 2011:
Statement of Bede Parry
May 7, 2011
All Saints Episcopal Church, Las Vegas, Nevada

Father Bede Parry
My name is Bede Parry and I currently reside in Las Vegas, Nevada. In November of 2010, I was contacted by and subsequently met on two occasions with Patrick Marker regarding my knowledge of misconduct by personnel at Saint John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota.

In my meetings with Mr. Marker in November of 2010, and in several telephone and email conversations since, we have discussed issues related to my background, inappropriate contact by members of the clergy (at Saint John’s and elsewhere, including my own), and a mutual desire to create a safe environment for children and vulnerable adults.

I have agreed to provide details of my background, as follows:

In 1973, I joined Conception Abbey, a Benedictine monastic community located in Missouri. Between 1974 and 1979, I was involved in three relationships that included sexual contact, and were thus inappropriate for a monastic. In 1979, I admitted my misconduct to Abbot Jerome Hanus of Conception Abbey. Later in 1979, I enrolled in the three-year School of Theology program at Saint John’s University in Collegeville, Minnesota.

In 1981, a student at Saint John’s University made allegations of sexual misconduct against me. I was asked to attend a meeting with [St. John's Victim #1], the student with whom I had indeed engaged in inappropriate sexual contact, Fr. Roman Paur and perhaps one other member of the Saint John’s community. During the meeting, I apologized for my inappropriate conduct and agreed to have no further contact with [St. John's Victim #1].

Immediately after the meeting with Roman Paur, I phoned Abbot Jerome Hanus at Conception Abbey and made him aware of my misconduct. After a discussion about the misconduct, Abbot Jerome simply said, “Don’t do it again.”

A few days after the meeting with Roman Paur, I met for tea with Saint John’s Abbot Jerome Theisen. Abbot Theisen said that he had spoken to Abbot Hanus about my conduct. There was an understanding, by all parties, that I would not do it again. I also agreed to get some counseling. I counseled with Fr. Finian McDonald for several weeks then met with a counselor in St. Cloud, Minnesota for additional therapy.

While attending the School of Theology, I lived with the other monks at Saint John’s. There was an awareness of my misconduct among the other monks. In addition to Fr. Roman Paur and Fr. Finian McDonald, Fr. Rene McGraw also knew details of my misconduct. I recall that other monks commented or joked about my misconduct in a light-hearted, but nonetheless inappropriate, manner.

I completed the School of Theology program in 1982 and returned to Conception Abbey that summer. I was ordained on April 16, 1983. Abbot Jerome Hanus reminded me at the time of my ordination that I would need to be “especially observant” of my vow of celibacy.

In the summer of 1987, Conception Abbey hosted a choir camp. I had been involved with the Abbey Boy Choir as organist, director, or both, for several years. During the camp, I had inappropriate sexual contact in my living quarters with [John Doe 181], a member of the Abbey Boy Choir.

My misconduct with [John Doe 181] was reported to the leadership at Conception Abbey the same day. At a meeting with [John Doe 181’s parents] and the Abbot, I admitted to the misconduct and apologized for my behavior.

Soon after the incident with [John Doe 181], I left Conception Abbey for Jemez Springs, New Mexico. Abbot Jerome Hanus drove me to the airport. I took part in a three-month program at the Servants of the Paraclete facilities.

I have since recognized that I may have acted inappropriately with at least one other member of the Abbey Boy Choir.

Late in 1987, I finished the Paraclete program and accepted a job, as choirmaster and organist, at St. Timothy Lutheran Church in Albuquerque. I continued to receive therapy from a female counselor, Margaret, in Santa Fe.

I am aware that in 1990, someone from Conception Abbey asked [John Doe 181’s parents] about my potential return to the area. I am unaware of the details of the conversation but was told by Abbot James Jones that it would “not be wise” for me to return to Conception Abbey.

In 1995, Fr. Anthony Gorman from Saint John’s Abbey sent [St. John's Victim #1's] obituary to me. I do not know how Fr. Gorman knew to contact me, or the nature of Fr. Gorman’s relationship with [St. John's Victim #1].

In 2000, I was recruited by Mary Bredlau to work at All-Saints Episcopal Church in Las Vegas.

Also in 2000, I considered joining the Prince of Peace monastery in Riverside, California. Prince of Peace had me undergo a series of psychological tests. After the testing, Prince of Peace’s Abbot Charles Wright informed me I was no longer a candidate. The psychological evaluation had determined that I had a proclivity to reoffend with minors. Abbot Wright called Conception Abbey’s Abbot Gregory Polan with this information.

Abbot Polan would later share the information with Robert Stoeckig from the Catholic Diocese of Las Vegas, Episcopal Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori and the human resources department at Mercy Ambulance in Las Vegas. Bishop Daniel Walsh, Monsignor Ben Franzinelli, Bishop Joseph Pepe, Archbishop Robert Sanchez and Rev. Bob Nelson were also made aware of my previous misconduct.

In 2002, I pursued a cooperative dismissal from the Catholic Church. Fr. Dan Ward, a canon lawyer from Saint John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota, prepared the documents.

I have only recently begun to understand how my misconduct has affected my victims.

Everything that I have done in my life has been with me, and haunting me, every day. I dream about it. I think about it. Not a day passes when I do not regret my conduct. I am truly sorry.

Bede Parry
May 7, 2011

A video interview where Father Bede Parry answers questions is here. And more on the Parry case here and here and here and here and here.


Anonymous said...

Why would she limit him to an assisting role if she found him fit to serve as a priest? Either he is fit or he isn't--certainly the latter is the case. How she can come to any other conclusion is mind-boggling!
-MM, Fairfax

Anonymous said...

As with other addicts, Mr. Bede is powerless over his addiction. Only God can remove his "proclivity," and such removal requires Mr. Bede's active participation in amendment of life. Even after recovery from his addiction, continual maintenance of his spiritual condition will be a lifetime requirement. It does not seem that the profession of the presbyterate is advisable for a man who carries a burden such as his. Nor is it appropriate that the church laity should be required to bear the burden of suspecting and wondering which of its clergy might be subject to a "proclivity" such as Mr. Bede's.
Br_er Rabbit

Anonymous said...

What is missing from this statement?

An apology. Knowing what is now known accepting a priest with this past was wrong and placed children in unacceptable danger. Not supervising him adequately was a huge oversight. Why is it so hard to say she made a mistake? She is trying to defend the indefensible which is just giving the impression that it is ok to hire priests with this sort of past. A very dangerous precedent which now raises suspicion about all other clergy. The Episcopal church is no longer a safe church for children if this statement represents the views of its leadership.