07 July 2011

Why did the Episcopal Church knowingly ordain a child sexual abuser?

Those who vehemently attack the Church over the heinous scandal of clerical sexual abuse will often say that they care only for the children and victims and simply want justice to be done.  Why, then, do they not attack other Christian institutions with known scandals?
Consider this story from the Huffington Post regarding the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katherine Jefferts Schori who is accused with knowingly ordaining a man with a past history of sexual abuse, with my emphases and comments:
WASHINGTON (RNS) 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.

Jefferts Schori has remained silent on the matter, which surfaced after an alleged victim filed suit last month [why is this only now in the news?] against a Benedictine monastery in Missouri where the priest, the Rev. Bede Parry, once lived.

Parry, a former Catholic monk, was ordained as an Episcopal priest in Nevada in 2004, when Jefferts Schori was the local bishop before her 2006 election as presiding bishop.

Her successor in Nevada, Bishop Dan Edwards, said Tuesday (July 5) that a thorough review of church records shows that Jefferts Schori "handled the situation perfectly appropriately."

"The 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." [similar claims have been made - falsely - against Pope Benedict XVI when he did more clean up the Church 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 leadership [in no small part because the lawyers and the media haven't worked together against the Episcopal Church to get at the scandal present there, too.  Why?  If their concern is with the victims, where is their outrage about this case?].

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 [Where is the editorial outrage?  At the same time, where is the background on his status as a Catholic monk?  Was he a monk at that time?] . He also disclosed that he had gone to counseling.

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

"Nonetheless, Bishop Katharine directed that Bede Parry would not be allowed to have contact with minors in the ministry," Edwards told Religion News Service. "She gave that directive to people who oversaw him in the ministry."

A statement issued by the Nevada diocese after the lawsuit was filed raised more questions than it answered [such as?  Had this been a Catholic matter, these questions certainly would have been raised in the article.  Again, where is the outrage and the demand for transparency and a policy of permanent removal from ministry?], according to victims' advocates, and said nothing of Jefferts Schori's role in the matter.

"Parishioners 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) [At least SNAP isn't focused solely on Catholics].

"Many church officials, not just Catholic bishops, fixate on self-preservation rather than on preventing abuse and healing victims and exposing the truth," he said [It's as the Church has said for years: this not just a Catholic problem, but a societal problem that must be addressed in and by society].

Requests for comment from Episcopal Church headquarters in New York were referred to the Nevada diocese, which Bishop Paul Marshall of Bethlehem, Pa., 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 Cafe, an independent liberal-leaning website [one might think that would go without saying].

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 [What?  I suppose then he was a monk at the time of the abuse.  Why it goes without saying in the article is a good question.  Again, where the outrage at the failure to enforce the Episcopal Church's one-strick policy?].

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 [against children, but why mention that here?  If the article were directed against the Catholic Church you can be certain it would be in the article (and at the beginning of it, too, and on the front page and everywhere in the news)], and that this information was shared with the Episcopal Church prior to his ordination [and they ordained him anyway].

"I'm really skeptical that the report ever existed. But if it did, we've never seen it," said Edwards. [Where is the editorial doubt and indignation?]

After the suit was filed last month, Parry resigned from the priesthood, Edwards said. He had worked as an organist at All Saints' Church in Las Vegas and his pastoral care mostly involved senior citizens.
Capello tip to Deacon Kandra at The Deacon's Bench.

Writing on this story at Get Religion, Mollie wonders - as do I - why this story is getting little media attention.  I would maintain it is a subtle proof of the anti-Catholic sentiments of most secular news agencies.  Is there a better, more acceptable explanation?

Mollie provides a link to the initial story in the Kansas City Star and provides this little and insightful summary, again with my emphases and comments:
It seems that a former Roman Catholic monk, a Benedictine, who directed a boys choir in Missouri admitted he’d had “inappropriate” sexual relations with members of the group. I’m not really sure what would make for appropriate sexual relations, but there you go. One of the “five or six” members of the choir that Bede Parry admitted being involved with filed a lawsuit against Conception Abbey, alleging that the abbey knew that Parry had abused others but covered it up [why did the Huffinghton Post article wait to mention the abuse was done against minors until the middle of the article when many readers may well have stopped reading?  And why did this not matter to Jefferts Schori?  And where is the outrage?]. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages. 
But - as you might expect - that's not all.  Mollie brings in this little bit of information the Huffington Post does not, again with my emphases:
Rest assured, however, that Episcopalians and Anglicans are discussing this case, though, and there’s even a bishop in Pennsylvania who says this is just the tip of the iceberg and that Jefferts Schori threatens bishops not to reveal multiple sexual abuse cover-ups [where is the outrage?!]. For those interested in that angle, there’s more on him here
Let me echo again Mollie's final question, with my emphases:
So help me out here. What prevents this from being a mainstream news story? Why aren’t the major media outlets interested in this story about the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church’s role in a sex abuse scandal? Isn’t the Episcopal Church based in New York City? 
Yes, why, indeed?

Whatever the reason, it's probably the same why these stories have also not gone public first published in October of 2007:


  1. In addition to the usual anti-Catholicism narrative that the establishment media maintains, another reason for lack of media interest could be the fact that the Episcopal Presiding Bishop in question here, Katherine Jefferts Schori, is quite Liberal on the social issues. Her name brought to mind this article from First Things: http://www.firstthings.com/article/2008/08/001-the-death-of-protestant-america-a-political-theory-of-the-protestant-mainline-19

  2. This is both an Episcopal Church (TEC) and a Catholic Church (RCC) story.

    For the Episcopalians the issues include
    (i) why did they not bar Parry from being received in to the TEC as a priest once they knew of his choir camp predation and
    (ii) why do they now justify having taken the risk of ordaining him a TEC priest on the mistaken belief that he was only a ephebophile and not a pedophile (you will, of course, recognize that as the old-school, and now thoroughly discredited, RCC argument for keeping child molesters in the priesthood).

    For the RCC the issues include why, (i) after Parry's admitted sexual molestations at St. John's (seemingly the spawning ground for generations of RCC molesting priests), at choir camp, at the monastery, etc. and (ii) after the 2000 psychological evaluation showing he retained a proclivity to molest, the RCC never got around to defrocking Parry.

    So, why did the TEC get off relatively easy in the media on this one and the embattled RCC get dragged into the gutter again by the press ?
    - Parry molested lots of young males while a Catholic priest, but there is no evidence, nor even any suggestion, that he molested anybody while a TEC priest.
    - The media doesn't really care much about the TEC these days, now that it's no longer powerful and its membership is plummeting. But the RCC is still the dominant religious institution in the country and its appalling record of cover-up and dissembling is well-established and provides a ready narrative whenever another predatory RCC priest is exposed.

    Until the RCC can demonstrate that it has really cleaned up its act (how about finally dealing with St. John's College and Abbey for starters ?), a little more humility from its blogging clergy on this issue might be appropriate.

  3. Reverse the situation, Ed, and suppose a former Episcopal priest who sexual abused a minor was allowed by a Catholic bishop to be ordained a Catholic priest. Would the news coverage be the same as the present story?

    You never addressed my question of the abuse scandal in the public school system or, really, in the Episcopal church.

    The Catholic Church remains the only institution to have made public the statistics of abuse; the Episcopal church has not done this and neither has the public school system. Why? And why does the media not care? Better yet, why is society refusing to acknowledge that is present on a far greater scale than it has been among priests?

    This question is not asked to excuse the bishops and priests responsible. Rather it cuts to the deeper issue at hand.

  4. "You never addressed my question of the abuse scandal in the public school system or, really, in the Episcopal church."

    Not having the time to address the 15+ issues you raised, I tried to address what seemed like the recurring theme behind many of your questions marked with ?'s and !'s that I understood to be mostly about why the RCC seems to get picked on in the press so much more often than the TEC for child abuse scandals.

    And why does the media not seem to care that the "Catholic Church remains the only institution to have made public the statistics of abuse" ?

    Well, the Church was painfully late in providing honest statistics and even later in treating many of the victims with simple pastoral compassion. Perhaps a lesson has now been learned by the RCC that timeliness really does matter to its congregants and to the public-at-large when the vulnerable children's psyches are at risk.

    And the RCC is proudly counter-cultural in many of its doctrines and practices. Any reader of the scriptures or history knows that's not a prescription for garnering supportive media coverage.

    So, of course, a minimum-wage robo-re-writer at the Huffington Post is going to package any story about a former RCC priest that serially molested adolescents under his care while a RCC priest with a familiar headline (while including plenty of criticism of the TEC by a TEC Bishop in the body of the article).

    Now I am aware that, according to the John Jay study, RCC priests, on average, may not be much worse (or much better) than other male clergy in other traditions in the matter of child abuse.

    But a church leader you frequently cite, Archbishop Dolan, has said “we priests deserve the more intense scrutiny, because people trust us more as we dare claim to represent God, so, when one of us do it – even if only a tiny minority of us ever have — it is more disgusting.”

    So, I hope you'll supplement your periodic expressions of indignation at the mainstream press' treatment of the Church with an occasional spotlight on the work that still needs to be done by the Church in exposing those that abuse their clerical positions of trust, so that being a priest will once again be considered, on average, to be something better than average.
    [For starters, how about an brief piece on the allegations recently appearing in court filings that the the TEC priest in question, Bede Parry, while a monk at Conception Abbey, reported having committed multiple incidents of abuse to Jerome Hanus, then Abbot there and now Archbishop of Dubuque, and that Hanus disclosed none of them and allowed Perry to continue at the abbey and graduate to commit subsequent acts of abuse elsewhere ?]

    By the way, the kind and degree of "outrage ?!" you are seeking on this TEC priest defrocking story has the episcopal and anglican blog sites ablaze - you may find some of your lust for media justice satisfied if you dare venture into those realms of the unrepentant schismatics.

  5. By the way, Wm, thank you for the cite to the First Things article on The Death of Protestant America... it's a first class piece and quite on point.

  6. Whenever the media turn a blind eye toward the abuse scandal present in the public school system, the Anglican Communion and other institutions, they are no better than the Catholic bishops who also turned a blind eye.

    The media claims to care about protecting children, but there sole focus on the Catholic Church proves this claim to be false.

    The sexual abuse of minors is not something exclusive to the Catholic Church; it is a societal problem and must be addressed by society. That is point of my many questions.

    The Church may be have late - and inexcusably so - in addressing the scandal and sin of sexual abuse by people in the Church, but, even so, it remains the only institution to have addressed in a serious and public manner. When will other institutions do the same? When will the media demand - in a all justice - demand it of others?

    What you describe as my "lust" is for the media is simply a demand for justice. When teachers in the public school system are convicted in sexual abuse, why is the story not on page 1, or even page 2? Why when a Protestant minister is convicted of sexual abuse, is the story not on page 1?

    Archbishop Dolan is right that we do deserve the most intense scrutiny, but others also deserve scrutiny by the media.

  7. I agree with your statement that the sexual abuse of minors is not exclusive to the Catholic Church.

    But I find it impossible to agree with any in the next series of statements you set out in your last response:

    (1) "The media claims to care about protecting children, but there sole focus on the Catholic Church proves this claim to be false."

    I know of no one that, and I doubt that even you really, believes the "SOLE" focus of the media in the area of sexual abuse of children is on the Catholic Church.

    [For example, a quick google news search on "child sex abuse" this afternoon finds the Catholic Church garnering only one story among the top five listings, that of the Irish Government's critique of the Vatican's stalling of reforms recommended by Irish Bishops in the wake of the Church’s sex abuse scandal in that country.]

    (2) "The Church… remains the only institution to have addressed [sexual abuse of minors] in a serious and public manner."

    You really believe the Catholic Church is the "ONLY" institution that has addressed in a serious and public manner the sexual abuse of children?
    Really ?
    Res ipsa loquitur...

    (3) "Whenever the media turn a blind eye toward the abuse scandal present in the public school system, the Anglican Communion and other institutions, they are no better than the Catholic bishops who also turned a blind eye."

    We all know that the responsibilities, duties, and priorities of those employed as journalists are quite different, and frequently much less noble, than the spiritual stewardship obligations undertaken by priests ordained in Christ's sacred ministry.

    And when the Church has some (I'll accept the John Jay number of only one-in-every-twenty) priests that molest children under the Church's care, it is the Church, not some AP-stringer, that has the primary and dominant responsibility to rescue and comfort the victims of the agents of the Church, to spare the faithful from further exposure to the predatory clergy, and to effect the kind of "justice" you frequently "demand".

    Catholic Bishops that choose to turn a blind eye on sexual abuse in their churches and in their schools that is committed by their priests working on their payroll on children that are placed in their care by parents relying on the spiritual leadership and guidance of those priests and the historic discipline of the Church are, by someone like Archbishop Dolan's yardstick, judged to be multiple degrees worse than any random, negligent, and biased reporters who, unlike the RCC clergy, have no individual or corporate responsibility for the commission and cover-up of the actual abuse that they choose to, or not to, expose.

    It is simply not possible, on so many levels, to equate the profoundly grave sin of the well-documented and willful "blind-eye" of that rotten tier of US Bishops that for years systematically used Church resources to cover up evidence of abuse of thousands of children under their direct control with the uneven performance of journalists endeavoring to chronicle and make sense of the pandemic of abuse that they have witnessed by third-party predators, like some priests, in the RCC, schools, and other institutions that serve children.

    Frankly, as a life-long Catholic who has put up with, while simultaneously funding, a lot in this all-too-imperfect-church-temporal of ours, I’m just floored that that such a specious argument would be posted in the year 2011 by a well-educated Catholic priest to suggest the relative parity of the performance of poor reporters with the discredited and sinful behavior of Bishops that have effected such a monstrous and grievous scandal upon the Church, that have damaged the souls and lives of so many innocent children, and that have caused so many others now to question, and in many cases to reject, the Church as a legitimate spiritual authority.

  8. Ed, the story you referenced to prove your point only proves mine: it was about the Catholic Church, via the Irish government, just as this story was really about the Catholic Church, via the Episcopal church.

    The Church remains the only institution to conduct real studies into the seriousness of the problem and the only institution to release the relevant data to the public.

    Why will the public school system not do the same? We know the rate of abuse in the public school system is higher than that among Catholic clergy. The same is true among Protestant clergy. Why have the Protestant churches not done the same?

    It is no secret that the media was a driving force in getting the Bishops to address this issue in a serious matter. The media could force the school system and Protestant churches to do the same. That they will not force them to do so with the same concerted effort they used against the Catholic Church shows a clear bias. By not doing so the reporters show they are not trying to understand this pandemic.

  9. Father Daren, I appreciate your having continued this conversation so that we all might benefit from a dialogue on the topic of media treatment of sexual abuse of children in the Catholic Church and the Church’s response to the ensuing litigation.

    I think it’s clear that you and I both agree that the sexual abuse of children in Catholic Church has at times generated disproportionately negative coverage by the media relative to incidents of sexual abuse in other religious and non-religious institutions for a variety of reasons (ignorance, bias, hierarchical nature of church, all-male clergy, ready narrative, the devil at work, etc.).

    And I agree with you that the Catholic Church has taken substantial steps to rid the Church of many of the priests and bishops that so systematically betrayed their vows and children under their care.

    However, it seems to me that your assertions that
    (i) on the topic of sexual abuse of children, the SOLE focus of the media is on the Catholic Church,
    (ii) the Catholic Church is the ONLY institution to have addressed in a serious and public manner the sexual abuse of children,
    are, at best, embarrassingly naïve.

    And your eagerness to assert the moral equivalence of
    the bias and/or negligence of journalists that disproportionately attack the Church for its mixed performance in protecting kids from pederast priests
    the massive, multi-year cover-up by RCC bishops of sex abuse of vulnerable and trusting children and
    the facilitation of its continuation by those Bishops’ intentionally “[turning] a blind eye” to the predation of priests under their direction
    (who, as you well know, have been called to make Christ present during every moment of their lives)
    seems stunning on just so many levels.

    But, if that’s your story and you really want to continue to stick to it, then I doubt there’s anything more I could possibly do to shake your steadfast credulity in your own private facts or to persuade you to alter your curious application of moral theology to this situation.


  10. As you learned when you read it (but perhaps may have forgotten by the time you posted your last reply), the Irish RCC sex abuse story was the only story, among many other child sex abuse stories, involving the Catholic Church to be found in the first set of listings that day in Google News.

    That story dealt with the Irish government’s report on the numerous instances of unreported/denied sex abuse cases in the Diocese of Coyne covered up by Bishop John Magee.

    In anticipation of the release of the government’s report, Bishop Magee fled Ireland weeks ago.

    The monsignor that was Magee’s diocesan “child protection delegate” now refuses to tell the government to where Magee has fled.

    And Archbishop Clifford of the Diocese of Coyne says he has no idea where Magee is and, in any event, asserts that Magee is accountable only to the Vatican.

    A few Irish bishops have bravely publicly called upon Magee to return and to meet with the inquiry, but their call has not been supported by most other bishops.

    And in the middle of all that mess, the Irish government has summoned the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Leanze, to explain to it why the Vatican gave individual bishops like Magee the freedom to disregard the government’s 1996 child protection guidelines and to request the Vatican to tell the government where Magee is hiding.

    If that isn’t enough of a Vatican connection to the story, it was Pope John Paull II that placed Magee in his position as Bishop of Cloyne after almost 40 years of service at the highest levels in the Vatican. Magee was then the personal secretary to John Paul II (previously he had been secretary to Paul VI and John Paul I) and was the only man ever to have served three Popes in that capacity.

    So, to mention the Church, the Irish government, and the Vatican in the coverage of the story about a report issued by the Irish government dealing solely with the Catholic Church seems more like journalistic common sense than one more example of unjustifiably harsh treatment of the Catholic Church.

    It has been a blessing for the Church here in the United States that there has been little coverage of the horrors that so many of the Irish bishops have inflicted upon the Church in Ireland and how far behind the US Church the Irish Church remains in admitting its sins and cleaning itself up.

  11. You may be right, Ed, that the Church isn't the sole focus of the media in relation to sexual abuse of minors, but it has received a more than disproportianate level of courage, especially considering the instances of abuse - tragic and inexcusable as they are - are fewer in the Church than in society at large.

    You have twice said the Catholic Church is not the only institution to have a seriously confronted sexual abuse in a public manner but you have not yet offered an example. What other institutions have so publicly and seriously addressed this terrible scourge?

    In a recent interview with John Allen, Archbishop Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., said:

    "The sexual revolution of the 1960s and 70s was a difficult time in the church. I think many of the bishops of the church were left confused by it all, and some of them didn't act appropriately because they were confused. It wasn't just the church, it was the broader society. I know that civil authorities acted in exactly the same way that the church acted in those days. School districts acted in exactly the same way.
    ....I don't think the Catholic church is being made a scapegoat, quite honestly. I do think, however, there's a tendency to punish the church as though it was the only one involved. It's important for those who are critical of the church to understand the church in the context of the broader society."

    He's right.

    The media is focusing on others as they should be doing.

    Anyone who rightly condemns a bishop or priest for involvement in the sexual abuse of a minor but also condmen a relative, teacher, coach, Protestant minister, etc. who are also guilty of such abuse.

    This simply isn't being done publicly by the media with same level and focus as the Catholic Church.

  12. Regarding the story of the Irish government, if you're going to refute my claim you're going to have find an article that does not involve the Catholic Church; you need an article in which the media, from many locations and with a concerted effort, goes after a public school district, Protestant denomination, school board, etc. that has also moved sexual abusers around and covered up what has been done. Such instances abound, but the media will not cover the story.

  13. Father Daren,

    I am delighted that, after a week of your steadfastly standing by your declaration that the Catholic Church has been the SOLE focus of the media on the child sex abuse issue, you have now progressed to admitting that your statement “may be” wrong (although you still can’t seem to bring yourself to admit the obvious truth that you were, without a scintilla of doubt, absolutely wrong).

    Remarkably, however, you remain comfortable in your repeated statements that the Catholic Church is the ONLY institution to have confronted sexual abuse in a serious and public manner.

    Perhaps an extremely modest starting point for you to begin to understand that there really are other institutions that have also made visible and credible efforts (many even before the Catholic Church’s belated response in the last decade) in this area would be the 2010 materials prepared by the USCCB and distributed in your diocese to trumpet the progress the Catholic Church has recently made along with, as the USCCB pointedly makes clear, OTHER institutions, in doing more (regrettably not enough, of course) to protect children.

    By the way, I recently shared your observations on the relative moral culpability of journalists and “blind eye” Bishops with a senior member of the US clergy who has spent a lot of time at the Vatican and in the United States addressing spiritual formation issues in seminaries. Without going into extensive detail as to his reaction to your novel analysis, suffice it to say he was staggered by your conclusion, even more so when he subsequently learned that you might have some responsibility for assisting young men in deciding whether to pursue a vocation with the Church.

    Perhaps you might begin to restore some of your increasingly fraying credibility if you were finally to definitively abandon your multiple and obstinate misrepresentations of fact and also to reframe your analysis of the relative responsibilities and roles of Bishops in the sexual abuse scandal.

  14. Ed, if you and this anonymous cleric would simply read my comments - as they are and not as you would have them be - you will see that I have not excused the bishops and priests involved with the sexual abuse scandal, as previous posts of mine will show.

    You have yet to demonstrate what other institutions have taken strong action in removing the scourge of sexual abuse, despite your repeated criticisms of me.