Lawsuit Alleges Abuse of Boys by Monk at Conception Abbey

By Judy L. Thomas
The Kansas City Star
June 23, 2011

A Missouri man filed a lawsuit today against Conception Abbey in northwest Missouri, alleging a coverup of sexual abuse by a former monk who directed its boys’ choir in the late-1980s.

The lawsuit, filed in Nodaway County Circuit Court, claims that Bede Parry, then a Benedictine monk, molested the plaintiff in 1987 during a summer camp at the abbey. At the time, Parry led the Abbey Boy Choir of Conception Abbey.

The plaintiff, who filed the suit under the name John Doe 181, alleges that the abbey knew that Parry had sexually abused other students prior to abusing him but kept it quiet.

“This is a grave institutional failure,” said Jeff Anderson, a Minnesota attorney who represents the plaintiff. “Bede Parry wasn’t able to control himself, but it was the abbot and the top officials who knew that and made the choice to protect themselves at the peril of many kids and young adults.”

Abbot Gregory Polan, the head of Conception Abbey, told The Kansas City Star this morning that he could not discuss the lawsuit.

“I am aware of the situation, but at least at this point, our lawyers have asked us to simply not comment,” he said. “We are praying for all of the people involved.”

Jon Haden, a Kansas City attorney who represents Conception Abbey, also declined comment.

“Until I or Conception Abbey actually sees the petition and has a chance to review it, we’re not going to have a comment on it,” said Haden.

Records show that Parry, 69, became a priest in the Episcopal church in 2004 and is now the music director and assisting priest at All Saints Episcopal Church in Las Vegas. He could not be reached for comment this morning.

Anderson said the coverup of Parry’s actions continues.

“This guy is in a position as a choir director, in ministry with all the officials’ knowledge, all of them keeping the secrets,” he said.

Anderson said the plaintiff recently came forward because he learned that Parry was still in active ministry.

“He was led to believe Parry was out of the ministry,” Anderson said. “He was told that they would take care of it. He just thought everything had been dealt with and that other kids couldn’t get hurt. Now, he learns that the guy is in Las Vegas and in good standing and nobody knows.”

Conception Abbey is a Benedictine Monastery with a 30-acre campus. It is home to one of the largest Roman Catholic college seminaries in the nation and the largest priest training center in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph. Conception Seminary College draws students from about two dozen dioceses in the United States. The college is run by the monks of Conception Abbey.

According to the lawsuit:

Parry joined the monastic community at Conception Abbey in 1973 and lived there through 1979. Between 1978 and 1979, Parry assisted with the Abbey Boy Choir as an accompanist. From 1979 through 1982, Parry attended the St. John’s University School of Theology in Collegeville, Minn. He returned to Conception Abbey in 1982 and served as secretary to the abbot. He also taught classes at Conception Abbey Seminary and directed the choir. Parry was ordained a Roman Catholic priest in 1983.

The plaintiff attended a residential choir camp at the Abbey in the summer of 1987 when Parry was the choir director. While at the camp, Parry had sexual contact with the plaintiff. The plaintiff called his parents the next day and told them about the sexual abuse.

“When plaintiff’s parents confronted Abbot Jerome Hanus at the Abbey, Abbot Hanus told plaintiff’s parents that Fr. Parry had a ‘mental breakdown’ and that he would be treated for this breakdown,” the lawsuit says. “In fact, Fr. Parry did not have a ‘mental breakdown.’ Instead, Fr. Parry was a known serial child predator who had sexually abused numerous students before Fr. Parry sexually abused the plaintiff.”

According to the lawsuit, the incident was the fifth report of sexual abuse involving Parry.

Between 1973 and 1979, the lawsuit says, Parry told Hanus that he had been involved in three inappropriate sexual relationships. And in 1981, the lawsuit says, Parry had sexual contact with a student at St. John’s in Minnesota. Parry admitted that misconduct to several people, including the St. John’s abbot and Hanus, according to the lawsuit.

Parry was allowed to stay at St. John’s until he graduated but was required to undergo psychological treatment, the lawsuit says.

After the plaintiff reported the abuse in 1987, Parry was sent for treatment at Servants of the Paraclete in New Mexico. After completing three months of treatment, Parry stayed in the southwest.

From 1988 through 1990, Parry was employed by St. Timothy Lutheran Church in Albuquerque, N.M., the lawsuit says. Parry then was assigned to Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church in Albuquerque from 1990 through 1992. In late 1992, Parry was assigned to Holy Family Catholic Church in Las Vegas, and some time in the 1990s he was employed by Reformation Lutheran Church in Las Vegas, the lawsuit says.

In 2000, the lawsuit says, Parry underwent psychological testing because he was considering entering another 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 of the testing 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 to the present, Parry has been employed by All Saints Episcopal Church in Las Vegas.

Officials from All Saints could not be reached this morning.

To reach Judy L. Thomas, call 816-234-4334 or send email to


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