Episcopalians defend bishop’s decision in clergy sexual abuse case

The Episcopal Church is rejecting charges that its top leader,
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, mishandled the ordination of
a former priest who is now accused of sexual abuse.

Schori has remained silent on the matter, which surfaced after an
alleged victim filed suit in June against a Benedictine monastery in
Missouri where the priest, Bede Parry, once lived.

Parry, a former
Catholic monk, was ordained as an Episcopal priest in 2004 in Nevada,
where Jefferts Schori was bishop before her 2006 election as presiding
bishop of the national church body. Her successor in Nevada, Bishop Dan
Edwards, said July 5 that a thorough review of church records shows that
Jefferts Schori "handled the situation perfectly appropriately."

spin on this, that Bishop Katharine failed to follow the rules to
protect children, is highly ironic," said Edwards, who noted that the
Diocese of Nevada has wrestled with problems of clergy misconduct. "She
has done more to clean up this diocese than anybody."

While the
Roman Catholic Church has weathered years of allegations from victims
and lawyers of mishandling abuse cases, the issue has not similarly
roiled the 2.4-million-member Episcopal Church or Jefferts Schori's

Edwards said the process that accepted Parry as an
Episcopal priest was careful and long, stretching from 2002 until 2004.
Parry told church leaders, including Jefferts Schori, that in 1987 he
had inappropriately touched an adolescent in Missouri and that the
police had been called but charges had not been filed. He also disclosed
that he had undergone counseling.

Episcopal leaders found that
there had been no other incidents involving Parry and subjected him to
their own routine psychological testing, Edwards said. They concluded
that he did not fit the profile of a pedophile.

Bishop Katharine directed that Bede Parry would not be allowed to have
contact with minors in the ministry," Edwards said in an interview. "She
gave that directive to people who oversaw him in the ministry."

statement issued by the Nevada diocese after the lawsuit was filed
raised more questions than it answered, according to victims' advocates,
and said nothing of Jefferts Schori's role in the matter.

deserve the whole truth about why [she] kept silent about Parry's
crimes and why she ordained him," said David Clohessy, national director
the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

church officials, not just Cath­olic bishops, fixate on
self-preservation rather than on preventing abuse and healing victims
and exposing the truth," he said.

Requests for comment from
Episco­pal Church headquarters in New York were referred to the Nevada
diocese, a tactic that Bishop Paul Marshall of Bethle­hem, Pennsylvania,
called "obfuscation" and a failure of leadership. "On paper, we are a
one-strike church, but in reality, too many people have walked,"
Marshall wrote on Episcopal Café, an independent liberal-leaning

The lawsuit does not name Parry, the Episcopal Church or
the Diocese of Nevada but instead targets the Conception Abbey, a Roman
Catholic monastery and seminary in northwestern Missouri where the
alleged abuse occurred.

The civil suit also contends that the
results of psychological testing in 2000 showed that Parry was a serial
abuser who was likely to offend again and that this information was
shared with the Episcopal Church prior to his ordination. "I'm really
skeptical that the report ever existed. But if it did, we've never seen
it," said Edwards.

Parry resigned from the priesthood in June
after the suit was filed, Edwards said. He had worked as an organist at
All Saints' Church in Las Vegas, and his pastoral care mostly involved
senior citizens. —RNS

Lauren Markoe

Lauren Markoe writes for Religion News Service.

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