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.]

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