Known and unknown,
things done and left undone

Since the news came that the Rev. Bede Parry has resigned from All Saints Church in Las Vegas and from the Episcopal priesthood, we have had statements mainly from Bishop Daniel Edwards and the Diocese of Nevada (here, here) a description of the process used to receive Parry’s orders, a news story from Episcopal News Service and timeline from the Office of Public Affairs. As the story has bubbled up a little on the main-stream media, and there is much discussion on the internet, it took over a week for the first substantive statements to come out.

We appreciate the timeline and the detail offered by Bishop Edwards so far. As the Bede Parry case unfolds, here are some things we know, and some things we don’t know and some things that just confuse us.

The discussion from the diocese of Nevada and 815 centers on the lawsuit filed against Conception Abbey for abuse that took place in 1987 in the Benedictine monastery in Missouri. It is less clear as to whether the Bishop and Diocese of Nevada knew about the other incidents, particularly in Minnesota.

We know that the Bishop and diocese of Nevada knew about the 1987 incident. The fact sheet says: “Parry was forthcoming about the 1987 incident at Conception Abbey in the background check.”

What we don’t know is whether Parry was also as forthcoming to the Bishop and Diocese of Nevada about the other incidents of sexual misconduct. The original Kansas City Star report says:

Parry confirmed to The Star his three relationships between 1973 and 1979 at Conception Abbey and one in 1981 in Minnesota. He said he reported those incidents to then-abbot Jerome Hanus at Conception Abbey and to the abbot at St. John’s Abbey in Minnesota….

…Parry said he first opened up about his sexual misconduct last fall, when a Seattle area man named Pat Marker showed up at his doorstep. Marker, a sex abuse victim who had attended St. John’s Preparatory School in Minnesota, had learned about Parry while researching other cases from St. John’s.

“I confronted Bede with the allegations … that took place at St. John’s, and he admitted to the misconduct and expressed remorse but did not disclose any information about the (Conception Abbey) boys choir at that time,” Marker said. “After learning he directed the choir, I confronted him again. At first he denied anything but later admitted to misconduct.”

The responses this week from Bishop Edwards and through the Office of Public Affairs only discuss the one incident, in 1987, that he admitted to Bishop Jefferts Schori in 2002. Apparently all the canonical steps in 2002-04 were taken in light of that one incident being fully known. They make the case that based on the dioceses own psychological evaluation, Parry posed no threat. Two question remain: if Parry was not a threat, then why the restriction on children and, does the decision by the bishop and diocese change when other incidents come to light?

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that in 2000 a Roman Catholic religious order conducted a psychological evaluation of Parry.

The lawsuit alleged that the results of psychological testing in 2000 showed that Parry was a “sexual abuser who had the proclivity to reoffend with minors.” The results were provided to Catholic and Episcopal church leaders in Nevada, the lawsuit said.

Parry acknowledged the results but said Episcopal leaders here were not informed in 2000. He said he told church officials about the 1987 incident when he was applying to become an Episcopal priest in 2002. They did a background check and ended up allowing him into the priesthood in 2004.

Parry knew of the outcome of that evaluation and did not disclose it when he entered the ordination process in the Episcopal Church. Even if this report was never sent to the Episcopal Diocese, it was Parry’s responsibility to disclose that it had taken place.

Once it became clear that there was abuse in addition to the 1987 incident, and that the applicant knew and withheld critical information, doesn’t the withholding of material facts from the Bishop, Commission on the Ministry and the Standing Committee have an effect on the discipline of the cleric?

Bishop Edwards’ statement goes to great lengths to clarify that the Bede is not a pedophile.

At the time of Fr. Bede’s application, he had been working in churches as an organist for 15 years without a hint of any impropriety. An incident with a late adolescent, while certainly morally wrong, and unquestionably a matter for serious concern, does not indicate pedophilia. Pedophilia is sexual attraction to pre-pubescent children. It is a condition that is usually compulsive, so repeated misconduct is common. American Psychiatric Association Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (4th ed. 1994) (DSM IV) Pedophilia Sec. 302.2 pp. 527-528. Fr. Bede is not a pedophile. This is not a moral difference but it is a psychological difference that matters a great deal in determining whether someone is likely to err again.

It would be inaccurate to say in a blanket manner that Parry abused children. He does admit to inappropriate sexual contact with members of his choirs most of whom were between the ages of 18 and 20. This is not pedophilia, but it is sexual abuse and harassment. That two of his known victims were between 16 and 18 at the time, makes matters more complicated.

We are told a condition of Parry’s reception of orders into this church was that he would not have contact with minors, and statements from the diocese indicate that he has focused his priestly ministrations on the elderly, but it is hard to conceive of a priest in an active parish–especially when he is the music director–never having contact with any minor ever.

Again, how was the parish informed of this condition on his ministry and how was it enacted? Was the agreement that he would not form a children’s choir, teach Sunday School or run a youth group? Or was the restriction more general?

Which brings us back to the initial question: if Parry was not a pedophile then why restrict his interactions at all?

Bishop Edwards wrote:

For those who have the story of the predatory pedophile fixed in their minds, it will be difficult to hear and accept the actual facts. These facts will not fit their entrenched assumptions. But if we are to tell the truth, we must tell a different story.

Second, our guiding principles: Keeping children safe is an absolute moral duty. There is no exception to that. We also believe in the transforming power of Jesus Christ to change people. That transforming power can be mediated through psychotherapy. We do not naively believe people have changed just because they say so. When someone truly changes, there is evidence of that change in their conduct. It is visible, verifiable.

It may be true that, as Bishop Edwards says, that there is not even a hint or rumor of inappropriate behavior on Parry’s part since his reception into the Episcopal Church, the question remains: why would Bishop Jefferts Schori, the Commission on the Ministry and the Standing Committee move forward with a candidate who was removed from his previous religious order and denomination for an admitted act professional misconduct?

The core of these allegations–which Parry has acknowledged as true–is that these were people under his care and direction and that Parry, both as a choir director and a priest, was in a position of authority over them and that he violated that trust.

And while it is true that neither Parry, the Diocese of Nevada, nor the Episcopal Church is party to any lawsuit, this does not eliminate the requirement to investigate once new information came to light.

As we look more and more deeply into this story is very apparent that Parry said what he needed to say to get where he wanted to be. He told the truth, but not all of the truth. When confronted with additional truth, he admits only enough to deal with what is in front of him. Even when he resigned his position at All Saints, one can’t escape the notion that he will only take just enough responsibility for his past while giving the impression that he is somehow a victim of that same past.

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