June  2011

Posted by geoconger 

First published in The Church of England Newspaper.

The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church has declined to respond to questions concerning her ordination to the priesthood of a paedophile.  Her silence has prompted questions from liberals and conservatives in the church about what she knew of the Rev. Bede Parry’s confessed abuse of boys, and when she knew it.

Last week Fr. Parry resigned as an assistant priest on the staff of All Saints Episcopal Church in Las Vegas.  On June 23 he was named as a sexual predator in a lawsuit filed by a Missouri man against Conception Abbey, a Roman Catholic monastery and seminary in Missouri.                         Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori

Fr. Parry admitted he had abused the victim in 1987 in an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Kansas City Star, but told both newspapers he had not reoffended since that time.

The lawsuit, filed in Nodaway County Circuit Court in Missouri, alleges that Parry joined the Benedictine order in 1973, leaving the abbey from 1979 to 1982 to study at St. John’s University School of Theology in Collegeville, Minnesota.  Upon his return to the abbey, Br. Parry was appointed secretary to the abbot and director of the choir.  In 1983 he was ordained to the priesthood.

The lawsuit contends that between 1973 and 1979, Br. Parry confessed to abusing three boys, and in 1981 confessed to having had sexual contact with a student at St. John’s.  Br. Parry allegedly confessed his actions to his ecclesial superiors at Conception Abbey and St John’s College, but was permitted to remain in the order if he underwent psychological counseling.

The 1987 abuse case was the fifth reported to the abbey, the lawsuit said.  After learning of their son’s abuse at the hands of Fr. Parry, the parents of the choir boy demanded the abbot, Fr. Jerome Hanus, take action.

Fr. Hanus, who now serves as Archbishop of Dubuque, Iowa, told the parents Fr. Parry had had a “mental breakdown” and would undergo psychiatric counseling.  The abbey sent Parry to church-run clinic for abusers at the Servants of the Paraclete in New Mexico. After he completed his stay, he was suspended for three years and forbidden to return to the abbey.  Fr. Parry found work in the Southwest at Lutheran and Catholic parishes as a music director.

In 2000, the lawsuit states, Fr. Parry underwent psychological testing after he applied for admission to another monastery at the end of his suspension from the order.  “The results of this testing revealed that Fr. Parry was a sexual abuser who had the proclivity to reoffend with minors,” the lawsuit stated, adding this information was shared with the abbey, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Las Vegas and the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada.

Fr. Parry acknowledged the truth of these allegations, but said the Episcopal Diocese had not been informed of his history in 2000, when he began working as music director  at All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Las Vegas.

However, he told the Episcopal Bishop of Nevada, the Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori of the 1987 incident when he applied to be received as priest in the Episcopal Church in 2002.

In an interview with The Star, Fr. Parry stated the allegations in the lawsuit were true.  “When I left Conception Abbey in ’87, it was for sexual misconduct,” he said. “But that was all that was ever said or known.”

After serving as music director for two years at All Saints, Parry said he noticed “they needed clergy, and I felt called. I talked to the bishop, and she accepted me. And I told her at the time 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. She said she’d have to check the canons, and she did.”

On June 23, members of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, held a rally outside of All Saints Church to demand the Episcopal Church “come clean about why they hired [Parry] despite clear ‘red flags’ in his past,” and to “aggressively seek out others he hurt and prod them to call police and prosecutors.”

“The reason that this is so horrific is that the Episcopal Church authorities knew about Father Parry’s history, and yet they still allowed him to come and work here,” SNAP president Barbara Blaine told reporters.

Joelle Casteix, the western regional director of SNAP asked church officials not to “split hairs, make excuses, and be silent.”

“Shepherds have a duty to protect [their] flock, help law enforcement, warn unsuspecting families and work hard to find and help others who’ve been wounded,” she said.

Asked to comment on the allegations, a spokesman for the Presiding Bishop told The Church of England Newspaper, “We do not comment on lawsuits or allegations” and referred questions to the Diocese of Nevada.  The Diocese of Nevada did not respond to questions as of our going to press.

In comments on the initial press accounts of the lawsuit printed on the liberal church blog, Episcopal Café, hitherto stalwart supporters of the Presiding Bishop urged her to explain her actions.

The Bishop of Bethlehem, (Pennsylvania), the Rt. Rev. Paul Marshall, was not surprised by the church’s response.  When lawyers for the national church “threaten and cajole diocesan bishops not to reveal multiple sex-abuse cover-ups at the highest level lest former leaders be embarrassed, what can we expect?” he wrote on the Episcopal Café website.

“On paper, we are a one-strike church, but in reality, too many people are walked. [The national church] refused comment on this story with principled-sounding obfuscation, which essentially tells it all, doesn’t it?” Bishop Marshall said.

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