A story that has been hotly discussed among my Episcopal and Anglican friends has received, near as I can tell, almost no mainstream media coverage. And I have no idea why. But it’s been going on long enough that it certainly deserves a “Got news?” post.
It all begins with a sad story in the Kansas City Star by Judy Thomas.
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. The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.
Parry, not a target of the lawsuit, copped immediately and said he feels bad but that most of the “inappropriate sexual contact” was with adult males over 18 and only two were with males aged 16-18.
The twist is that Parry became an Episcopal priest in 2004 and has worked for the past 11 years at All Saints Episcopal Church in … Las Vegas. That’s a strong news hook because that would be in Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori’s old bishopric.
And so this story is not just about how the Catholic Church handles sex abusers in its midst but the Episcopal Church as well.
Parry resigned from his parish and is in the process of attempting to resign from the priesthood. The story in the Star, for what it’s worth, did a great job of explaining that distinction. Here’s an interesting section:
After the plaintiff reported the abuse in 1987, Parry was sent for three months of treatment at Servants of the Paraclete in New Mexico. Then he stayed in the Southwest, working at Lutheran and Catholic parishes.
In 2000, the lawsuit says, Parry underwent psychological testing because he was considering entering another Catholic monastery.
“The results of this testing revealed that Fr. Parry was a sexual abuser who had the proclivity to reoffend with minors,” the lawsuit says.
The results were provided to Conception Abbey, the Catholic Diocese of Las Vegas and the Episcopal bishop for the Diocese of Nevada, the lawsuit says. Yet from 2000 until Thursday, Parry was employed by All Saints Episcopal Church in Las Vegas.
So the lawsuit claims that “the Episcopal bishop for the Diocese of Nevada” was given information that Parry was a “sexual abuser who had the proclivity to reoffend with minors.” Parry tells the reporter he talked with Jefferts Schori about an incident of sexual misconduct he was engaged in. He says she told him “she’d have to check the canons, and she did.”
I’ll say it again, this is a very solid and thorough initial report. However, it’s really surprising to me that the story hasn’t spread beyond the Kansas City Star, given the personal involvement of the head of a church that the media normally love reporting on. (Here’s another interesting story from a few weeks ago about how she lacked precision, shall we say, in her resume.)
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. For those interested in that angle, there’s more on him here.
Meanwhile, there are other interesting news angles that have been unexplored outside of the blogosphere, too. Here someone explores how new disciplinary canons would come into play:
Today, July 1, the changes to ECUSA’s disciplinary canons (Title IV) go into effect at the national level. (The text of the new Title IV may be downloaded as a .pdf file.) Let us take the example of the violation of the ordination canons apparently committed by the Rt. Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori as the Bishop of Nevada in 2004, and use that as a test case to see how the new process would work at the highest level.
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?
That second picture is from Virtue Online and shows Parry (on the far right) taking part in a Mass after being received into the priesthood of the Episcopal Church by Jefferts Schori.