Maryland Episcopal Bishop Absolves Himself in Fellow Bishop’s Hit-n-Run Death of Cyclist
By David W. Virtue DD
The Bishop of Maryland, the Rt. Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton, has written a Pastoral Letter to the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland absolving himself of being complicit in the hiring of Heather Cook (Suffragan Bishop) by not revealing her true background to the Standing Committee.
Bishop Sutton revealed that he heard from an unnamed bishop saying that Cook’s fatal hit-and-run crash was “not your fault.” Really.
Sutton wrote that he cried when he read the words even though he knew about Cook’s 2010 drunk driving arrest. That conviction revealed she couldn’t complete a sobriety test and was just “one mistake.” Church officials also said Cook didn’t have a problem with the bottle prior to her elevation to the second-highest ranking position in the Diocese of Maryland last spring. Now we know that was not true.
With Bishop Heather Cook in a Baltimore jail cell on charges of manslaughter, drunk driving, and leaving the scene of an accident, the man who presided during her hiring says he didn’t realize how burdened he was by the incident until “a bishop colleague” spoke with him.
Sutton acknowledged to diocesan officials that he knew about Cook’s 2010 drunk driving and drug arrest, but did not disclose it to the people who elected her. He now believes he can draw comfort from his colleague’s words of solace, he wrote in his “pastoral letter”.
“Eugene, I am the child of an alcoholic and I’ve spent many years dealing with that and coming to understand the hold that alcohol has on someone who is addicted to it,” the colleague counseled, according to Sutton’s account.
“I want to tell you that the Diocese of Maryland is not responsible for the terrible accident that killed that bicyclist,” the colleague added, according to Sutton’s letter. “You are not responsible for that; Heather Cook is. It’s not your fault.”
Sutton goes on to say the colleague’s words prompted him to “burst into tears.”
“I hadn’t realized how much I had internalized the weight of responsibility for the tragedy, the sense of shame, and the desperate need to make it all better,” Sutton wrote in the letter that was posted on his Facebook page as well as on the website of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland.
So the spin begins.
He counsels readers of the letter to think before they act. “In a time of great upheaval, things said, decided upon and done in haste are rarely the most helpful over the long run,” he notes.
Not to be defensive is also recommended, with the bishop writing that “being vulnerable is better than being defensive.” He includes quotes from St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians and from the philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin.
“Later, praying before the Icon of Christ the Pantocrater, I gazed into those piercing eyes of our Lord, asking: What is Christ wanting to say to me? And what did I want to say to him?
“After what seemed like an eternity, I was finally able to gaze into his eyes and say: ‘Lord, it’s not your fault,’” he recounts.
So Sutton feels no responsibility for smoothing the way for Cook to the episcopacy in the name of a false compassion, the sort of phony compassion that allowed John Shelby Spong and Walter Righter to stay in power long after their heresies and apostasies were exposed, long after Gene Robinson’s acknowledged homosexuality, his divorce from his first wife, marriage and divorce to a man, and his own acknowledged alcoholism! It allowed a bishop like Charles Bennison to stay in office even though he said Jesus was a sinner who forgave himself!
So with no Biblical principles to guide them, dioceses elect the lowest candidate they can find in the name of “compassion” because a number of those voting are themselves recovering alcoholics. Cook had not done one notable thing to make her electable. Not one. She had never planted a church, never talked about leading people to Christ, and was, by all accounts, living with her new/old boyfriend when she struck and killed Tom Palermo. Was she ever asked if she was engaged in fornication or is that now off limits because The Episcopal Church acknowledges “that there are currently couples in the Body of Christ and in this Church who are living in marriage and couples in the Body of Christ and in this Church who are living in other life-long committed relationships….(D039).” Wink wink…
In the end we will be told that nobody is to blame. The spin will continue. Sooner or later, we will be told that Cook just couldn’t help herself, she was born with an alcohol gene which was not her fault, that she tried to get her drinking under control, but couldn’t so why should we blame her. She is a victim of her own genes.
In the meantime, Mrs. Palermo must raise two kids alone without a husband and father because Cook killed her husband, left the scene of the accident, and is now languishing in jail with a $2.5 million bail that a judge had the good sense to make so high because she might recommit. This will keep her in jail till her trial maybe in February. If she is found guilty, she could pay a $50,000 fine and do 5-10 years.
The Presiding Bishop may (or may not) exercise Title IV to finally get rid of her; with all the negative publicity globally, she might have no option. Or she can wait till the whole affair dies down and just let it ride. Don’t put it past the PB to do that. It is easier to get rid of an adulterous heterosexual bishop than to rid the church of theologically heretical bishops or a bishop who drives under the influence and kills someone.
Who among the bishops in The Episcopal Church believes in St. Paul’s words any more?
Meantime Bishop Sutton can feel good about himself because he has absolved himself – Je me absous.