Deeper and Deeper

Midwest Conservative Journal
July 23, 2011

Missouri’s Conception Abbey is officially in serious trouble:

A second lawsuit has been filed against a northwest Missouri abbey alleging cover-up of sexual abuse by a former monk who directed its boys’ choir in the 1980s.

The lawsuit, filed against Conception Abbey by an Oregon man, claims that Bede Parry, a Benedictine monk, molested the plaintiff in the early 1980s when the plaintiff was a minor. At the time, Parry taught the boy piano lessons and led the Abbey Boy Choir of Conception Abbey.

The suit alleges the abbey knew Parry had sexually abused other students before abusing the plaintiff but kept it quiet. “He’s been dealing with this for a long time, and the memories started making it debilitating for him the last couple of years,” said Rebecca Randles, the attorney who filed the suit.

The suit alleges the inappropriate behavior began when the plaintiff began taking piano lessons from Parry in 1982 and also occurred when the boy attended choir camp at the abbey. The suit says Parry forced sexual favors from the boy and performed sexual acts on him on at least a half-dozen occasions over a span of 18 months.

The court filing is here and is not pleasant reading. But the fact that a second lawsuit has made the following claim:

34. In 2000, Fr. Parry underwent psychological testing relating to the possibility of 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 results of this testing were provided to the Abbey, the Catholic Diocese of Las Vegas and the Episcopal Bishop for the [Diocese] of Nevada.

badly undercuts current Nevada Episcopal Bishop Dan Edwards’ claim that the Diocese(and, by extension, Katharine Jefferts Schori) knew nothing about any sort of psychological evaluation of Parry.

It has been reported that there was a psychological examination showing that he was likely to repeat his offense. No such report was sent to the Diocese of Nevada and, to this day, we have no knowledge of its existence other than an assertion by the plaintiff’s personal injury lawyer in a John Doe lawsuit against the monastery. Reliable testing to predict such sexual abuse was not even developed until nearly two decades later, so the assertion in the John Doe complaint is dubious.

I keep going back to what Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem Bishop Paul Marshall had to say a little over a week ago.

Now let’s be serious. When 815-level lawyers threaten and cajole diocesan bishops not to reveal multiple sex-abuse cover-ups at the highest level lest former leaders be embarrassed, what can we expect and we do we look down on the RCC? Serious and credentialled invesigative reporters can contact me.

As a rector, I had to follow a priest who was simply passed along by another bishop, and as a bishop have had the same experience with a staff member who was protected by his bishop, with catastrophic results here.

On paper, we are a one-strike church, but in reality, too many people are walked. 815 refused comment on this story with principled-sounding obfuscation, which essentially tells all, doesn’t it? There is no more transparency at 815 than previously, as some commentators above know to their pain.

Is this problem a lot more extensive in the Episcopal Church than Episcopalians are letting on? I have no idea. I do know that if the Presiding Bishop had publicly admitted at the start that yes, we screwed up, we screwed up big-time and for that, we’re truly sorry, I wouldn’t be posting this because no one would be interested in it.

As things stand now, Katharine Jefferts Schori’s role in Bede Parry’s Episcopal ministry will keep coming back again and again with each new lawsuit. Will Schori face an inquiry over this affair? I seriously doubt it. But Episcopalians ought to be circumspect about criticizing the way the Roman Catholic Church has handled its sexual abuse scandals.

Motes, beams and all that.


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