New Charges of Cover-up against Presiding Bishop

By A. S. Haley
Virtue Online
October 27, 2011

Disturbing new charges have surfaced about a cover-up concerning just how much Episcopal Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, when she was the diocesan of Nevada, knew about the past sexual abuses committed by Father Bede Parry, a former Catholic priest whom she canonically received into her diocese as a priest in 2004.

The allegations stem from telephone conversations and emails exchanged between Abbot Gregory Polan, the current ordinary of Conception Abbey in Missouri, where Father Parry was only a novice when his sexual abuses of young men originally came to light in the 1970s, and a certain Patrick J. Marker. Until recently, Mr. Marker had remained anonymous as another victim of sexual abuse, who had been molested by a different Catholic priest, while a student at a preparatory school operated by a different Catholic abbey in Minnesota (St. John's).

Bede Parry, before being ordained at Conception Abbey, had taken courses from 1979-1982 at the School of Theology also run by St. John's in Minnesota, and had admitted to his then Abbot in Missouri that he had engaged in sexual misconduct with a teen-aged student there. The Abbot required him to undergo "psychological treatment", but kept him on as a priest. Notwithstanding his treatment, Fr. Parry continued to molest young men in contact with him at the Abbey, and who had been enlisted to sing in its choir. It was during a summer camp for that choir in 1987 that Fr. Parry made the sexual advances which resulted in the current lawsuit on file in Missouri, and which the Circuit Court just ruled could proceed, over objections by the Abbey that the offenses alleged were outside the statute of limitations.

Patrick Marker, as a victim with ties to St. John's, where there were already a number of lawsuits pending on account of apparently widespread sexual abuse of minors there, became aware of the allegations concerning the molestations which Fr. Parry now admits he committed while at St. John's. As a result, Mr. Marker began investigating alleged abuses by the monks of Conception Abbey, and found credible charges concerning at least three of its members -- including Father Parry. He contacted Abbot Polan, as noted, and attempted to persuade him to approach the prior choristers and students at the Abbey who could still be found, in an effort to allow the ones who were willing to come forward to reach closure with regard to sexual abuses which they had suffered there so long ago.

After Abbot Polan, on his attorneys' advice, declined to try to make contact between the Abbey and other potential victims of its predator monks, Mr. Marker opened up a Website for the purpose of creating a point of contact for other victims of abuse at Conception Abbey. Frustrated by his inability to get anywhere with Abbot Polan, Mr. Marker put up a post on his Website last month which reproduced detailed contemporary notes of his conversations with the Abbot, both singly and in the presence of others, in order to document his efforts.

This post remained unnoticed in the world of ECUSA until earlier today, when VirtueOnline linked to it and reproduced it in its entirety. What should disturb Episcopalians in particular are the following extracts from Mr. Marker's contacts with Abbot Polan which concern the case of Father Parry and his subsequent reception into the Episcopal Church. Please note especially the remarks which Mr. Marker recorded the Abbot as having made last April 28 concerning Bishop Jefferts Schori's knowledge of Father Parry's prior sexual abuses before she agreed to receive him -- remarks made in the presence of two other priests taking part in the conversation:

July 19, 2011 Abbot Gregory Polan Conception Abbey [Address omitted]

Abbot Gregory,

Attached please find an exchange of emails with a subject line of "Being Proactive" that we exchanged in April and May of this year. The exchange begins with my email to you on Wednesday, April 27, 2011 wherein I reference to our telephone conversation of Monday, April 25, 2011, and ends on May 3, 2011 with an email relating your telephone conversation with Bishop Dan Edwards.

In addition to the emails we exchanged, below please find notes from four of our phone conversations.

*** During our first telephone conversation, on Monday, April 25, 2011, you shared the following information:

1) You heard something about Bede's 1981 misconduct at St. John's "at the time of the incident".

2) You were aware of an incident involving Bede Parry with a member of the abbey's choir in the summer of 1987.

3) Bede Parry was sent to New Mexico soon after the 1987 incident.

4) When Bede Parry tried to enter another monastery, he took psychological tests that showed a "proclivity toward sexual misconduct with minors."

5) You called Parry's boss at an ambulance company and a woman bishop with the Episcopal Church with the information.

6) You identified the woman bishop as Katharine Jefferts Schori.

7) You told Katharine Jefferts Schori not only about the allegations [plural] against Bede, but also of Bede's attempt to join another monastery, the psychological testing and his "proclivity".

8 ) That Katharine Jefferts Schori, despite your revelations, "allowed him to continue to work."

. . .

*** During an April 28, 2011, telephone conversation you shared or confirmed (with Fr. Patrick Caveglia and Fr.Daniel Petsche in your office and all on speakerphone) the following information:

1) You agreed that Katherine Jefferts Schori had known about Bede's "propensity to reoffend" for nine years.

2) Bede Parry is a sick man.

3) No one is monitoring Bede Parry.

. . .

6) Bede's return to Conception Abbey would never be possible.

7) You will call the new Episcopal bishop in Nevada, Dan Edwards.

. . .

In our last conversation, you said that you had to trust your conscience. I find it hard to believe that your conscience is telling you to stonewall.

My conscience has led me toward numerous phone conversations and email exchanges with parents, choir members, former monks, and seminary students. I have learned a great deal about the history of misconduct at Conception Abbey.

I respectfully request that you make a public statement regarding misconduct by the members of your community. Those who offended must be held accountable - and publicly named. Those who protected the offenders must also be held accountable.

I know of at least twelve victims who would have benefitted from such accountability years ago. . . .

I also request that you end all speculation regarding your conversations with Katharine Jefferts Schori and Dan Edwards. They ignored your warnings and are rewriting history to serve their own agendas. Please do not fall victim to that trap.

The entire Conception Abbey community deserves the truth. The victims deserve no less.

Bishop Jefferts Schori, it is time for you to come out of your cocoon of silence on this topic, as well. The entire Episcopal Church (USA) deserves the truth as to why you regarded a Catholic priest with such a prior record -- known to you after being "warned" by his Abbot -- as morally fit for reception as a priest into your own Diocese.

Particularly, your Church deserves to know how you reconciled the version of the facts which Father Parry admits he gave you, which was incomplete and admitted only one prior offense in 1987, with the version you heard from his Abbot -- and then decided to receive him despite his lies to you.

More particularly, we need to have your own word on the record as to whether or not you received and read the psychological report on Father Parry which Abbot Polan had in his possession and which ended, as Abbot Polan apparently admitted he told you, with a conclusion to the effect that Bede Parry had a propensity to offend again. (This is the same report which the lawsuit filed by one of Fr. Parry's adolescent victims alleges was sent to you for your information, even though Bishop Edwards of Nevada now denies that it is in the files he has on Fr. Parry.)

More particularly still, given that Bishop Edwards claims that you gave instructions, following his reception, that Fr. Parry be kept from all contact with minors, we need to hear from you as to why his employers at All Saints Las Vegas stated in 2011 that they had never been aware of any such instructions.

Finally -- and not least of all, but far more serious -- one would like to know just what evidence you had before you in 2004 of Fr. Parry's moral and godly character (to quote Canon III.11 as then in effect [and continued unchanged today as Canon III.10.3 (a) (3)]), which was substantial enough and sufficient, in your view, to override all the testimony you then had to the contrary, so that he qualified for reception into your Diocese as one of your priests.

Failing your open, full and honest response on all these weighty matters, one waits to see whether you will self-report your offenses against the Canons in this case to your own Intake Officer, Bishop Matthews, for investigation by the same Disciplinary Board for Bishops whose report you are awaiting in the case against Bishop Lawrence of South Carolina. And the longer the period during which you refuse to speak openly to this matter, then perhaps the more might you subject yourself, mutatis mutandis, to charges that you have likewise "abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church."


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.