Statement by Bede Parry Posted: Jefferts Schori Was Informed about His Past

The Website of Patrick Marker which delves into sexual misconduct (and murder!) at Conception Abbey in Missouri has posted a .pdf copy of a two-page statement signed by former priest Bede Parry on May 7 of this year. The statement sets forth a full chronology of Bede Parry's sexual misconduct with young male students at both Conception Abbey and St. John's, in Minnesota, while he was a student there.

Of particular interest to Episcopalians, and in light of the previous posts I have put up on this topic (here, here and here), Bede Parry's statement contains this unequivocal declaration about what was communicated to the Presiding Bishop, the Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori, when she was the Bishop of Nevada:
"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."
When compared with his earlier statements to the Kansas City Star at the time the Missouri lawsuit against Conception Abbey became public (and subsequently confirmed by his attorney), this statement provides further proof that Bede Parry had lied to Bishop Jefferts Schori about the extent of his previous abuse when he applied to her for reception as an Episcopal priest in 2002, and that she must have discovered the lie when she was fully informed by Abbot Polan of the findings with regard to Bede Parry. It is inconceivable that any Episcopal bishop at that point would not have called for the fullest background check of Bede Parry, if not have shown him the door right then and there.

Canon III.11 of the Episcopal Church at the time required that before he could be received into the Church, Bede Parry had to furnish proofs of his "godly and moral character", and that his departure from the Roman Catholic Church had not been on account of "any circumstance unfavorable to moral or religious character . . .". Again, it is inconceivable that the full information made available to Bishop Jefferts Schori could have satisfied either of these requirements before she agreed to receive him in the fall of 2004.

[UPDATE 11/07/2011: An alert reader points out that Bede Parry also says this in his statement (emphasis added):
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.
So Father Parry appears to have no longer been a priest in the Catholic Church (even one on suspension) at the time of his reception into the Episcopal Church in 2004, but had agreed earlier to being dismissed from his orders. While sacred orders in the Catholic Church, once validly received, never become invalid, the dismissal of a member of the clergy entails the loss of any ability to exercise the powers of his order. This new wrinkle raises the question: was Bishop Jefferts Schori made aware of Parry's cooperative dismissal from his orders in the Catholic Church? And if his prior offenses were grounds enough for his dismissal from orders, why were they not likewise grounds for refusing to receive him as a priest in the Episcopal Church?

Canon III.11.1(a)(2) in effect in 2003 required that Fr. Parry supply "[e]vidence of previous Ministry and that all other credentials are valid and authentic" (emphasis added). How could he have met this requirement if his credentials had been declared invalid by the Catholic Church -- with his cooperation and consent?? The questions for Bishop Jefferts Schori just get curiouser and curiouser. . . .]

It must be remembered, in considering all of this evidence, that 2003 was a year of intense examination in the Episcopal Church concerning its standards to prevent sexual abuse of minors and children. First, General Convention in summer 2003 enacted Resolution B008, "Protection of Children and Youth from Abuse." This recommended that dioceses obtain "a written application, public records check, an interview and reference checks" for every applicant who would "regularly work with children." (Bede Parry had been functioning as the organist, and assisting with the choir, at All Saints Las Vegas before applying to be received as a priest.) Next, the Episcopal House of Bishops, of which Jefferts Schori was a member, met in August 2003 and promulgated a pastoral letter addressed as follows:
To be read or cause to be distributed in every parish, mission, preaching station, and church-related institution which works with children and youth
The letter went on to state, in part:
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

We your bishops are steadfastly committed to seeing that the Episcopal Church is a community of safety and health for all people. The Body of Christ, the Church, must be a place where adults, children, and young people find the love and blessing of God, and where no one might be hurt and where their hurts may be healed.

We are all aware of the reports in the media, during the past year and more, of incidents of sexual misconduct in churches. Many of these tragedies have involved children and young people. While the Roman Catholic Church has most often been mentioned in news reports and accusations, the rest of the Church and many secular agencies have also been caught up in trying to address the damage done to our children by sexual predators. The Episcopal Church is not immune to this scourge in our society and we must respond to it honestly and forthrightly. . . .
. . .
Because of these mandates of love, respect, service, and justice, we have acknowledged our obligation to articulate clear standards about sexual harassment and misconduct, and to ensure that all our work and ministry is guided by them. We have been committed to sexual conduct training and abuse prevention for all our clergy and lay leaders. We have been clear that exploitation and abusiveness are always unacceptable in our common life. We have made efforts to become aware of the spiritual and emotional damage that is done by sexual misconduct, and to do our best to guarantee that none who come to us will suffer such harm. In spite of our best efforts, it is sad when we discover that we have not done enough.
As if these statements were not enough to raise the red flag in the Diocese of Nevada, the Pastoral Letter from the House of Bishops went on to discuss the kind of abuse with which Bede Parry had been most prominently involved (bold emphasis added):
While we were in conference together at Kanuga, North Carolina in the spring, many of us had the opportunity to learn more about pedophilia, a form of predatory sexual behavior that has caused untold harm in our society and in the Body of Christ. It is especially important that we as a church focus on understanding and preventing pedophilia.

While we need to be aware that pedophilia is a reality in our society, which can be manifest in the church, we must be very clear about the nature of this tragic problem. Pedophilia is pervasive; one in eight males and one in four females will be molested before they reach the age of eighteen. Of reported cases in the general population, sixty percent (60%) of abusers are known to their victims, thirty percent (30%) are family members or relatives, and ten percent (10%) are strangers. We must be aware that the Church is a community which offers predators the opportunity to become known and trusted by parents and their children.

We also know that offenders are predominantly male and heterosexual. We must take great care not to equate pedophilia with homosexuality in our minds or our conversation, and we must never assume that only men molest children in this way.

What we have learned most recently about the repetitive nature of pedophilia makes it imperative that we take very clear steps together to do the screening necessary to ensure that our children encounter God’s love among us, and that we do all in our power to protect them from the distorted perceptions of love offered by predators.
The Bishops went on to emphasize the specific measures that had been listed in Resolution B008, and then advised the Church that in conjunction with the Church Insurance Group and the Church Pension Group, a set of model expectations and standards would be promulgated regarding the protection of children and youth from predators and sexual abuse. Remarkably in light of later developments, the Pastoral Letter concluded in part with these words:
. . . In the case of pedophilia, our consistency in carefully screening, choosing and training all who work with children and youth will serve to allay any concerns about favoritism or carelessness, prohibiting those who have harmed children from ministries involving children, while providing the ability to firmly guide those who might harm children into other areas of ministry which serve the Church and contribute to our mission.
Following this letter, exactly as stated, (a) the Diocese of Nevada under Bishop Jefferts Schori adopted in October 2003 its own Manual of Policies and Procedures Concerning Sexual Misconduct, and then (b) the Church Pension Group promulgated a nationwide set of model standards for dioceses and parishes to follow. Those standards required a full application which included the inquiry: "Have you ever been accused of physically, sexually or emotionally abusing a child or an adult?" It also required a background check, including a check of references.

Bishop Dan Edwards, the current Bishop of Nevada, says that a review of Bede Parry's file shows that Bishop Jefferts Schori placed a restriction on his ability to work with children -- which shows that she had been made aware of his tendency to prey upon young males. But an interview with his most recent employers at All Saints in Las Vegas disclosed that they had been unaware of any such restrictions.

There is also no showing made in the records disclosed thus far that Father Parry ever fully confessed to his offenses with Bishop Jefferts Schori. At the time she received him in 2004, it does not appear that he had apologized, or been required to apologize, to his previous victims, or to acknowledge his injuries to them in any way. Amazingly, Bishop Jefferts Schori appears to have allowed him to wipe his slate clean and proceed to function as a priest in her Diocese without further concern or ado.

Given the stringent standards adopted by both the Diocese and the national Church, and given Bishop Jefferts Schori's specific participation in their promulgation, she has quite a bit of explaining to do. Hindsight does not equal foresight, and the Church needs to hear why, in light of all that she learned from Abbot Polan about Bede Parry's prior misconduct, and his proclivity to repeat it, she did not follow her own pastoral direction, and "take very clear steps together to do the screening necessary to ensure that our children encounter God’s love among us, and that we do all in our power to protect them from the distorted perceptions of love offered by predators."

No comments:

Post a Comment