As the sex abuse scandal among Roman Catholic priests unfolded, it was often said that it never would have happened if the Church did not require celibacy. Of course, that myth was busted by the staggering incidence of abuse committed by married men against their own children.
Another myth which we often hear is that, if women had more positions of authority in the Catholic Church, abuse cases would have been dealt with more swiftly and never covered up.
Just as with the celibacy myth, it turns out that women are just as likely as men to avoid confronting the abuse of clergy members and to cover it up.
Case in point, the controversy swirling around the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada and its former bisthop, Katharine Jefferts Schori, regarding revelations of abuse by Bede Parry.
Parry was a Roman Catholic monk living in the Benedictine monastery, Conception Abbey in Missouri. He was accused of abusing members of the abbey’s boys choir in 1987 and was dismissed from the monastery.
However, in 2000 after receiving treatment, he sought to enter another monastery. Before accepting him, the monastery required that he undergo psychological testing which revealed the likelihood that he would be a danger to minors. Needless to say, he was not accepted.
What was Parry’s next move? He joined the Episcopal Church working in the diocese of Nevada which at that time was led by Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. Though the psychological report was allegedly shared with the Episcopal Diocese of Nevada and he had admitted committing the abuse, Parry continued to work at All Saints Church in Las Vegas and was ordained an Episcopal priest in 2004.
Lauren Markoe filed the following report for The Christian Century:
(Bishop Dan) Edwards (current Episcopal bishop of Nevada) said the process that accepted Parry as an Episcopal priest was careful and long, stretching from 2002 until 2004. Parry told church leaders, including Jefferts Schori, that in 1987 he had inappropriately touched an adolescent in Missouri, and that the police had been called but charges had not been filed. He also disclosed that he had gone to counseling.
Episcopal leaders found that there had been no other incidents involving Parry, and subjected Parry to their own, routine psychological testing, Edwards said. They concluded that he did not fit the profile of a pedophile.
“Nonetheless, Bishop Katharine directed that Bede Parry would not be allowed to have contact with minors in the ministry,” Edwards told Religion News Service. “She gave that directive to people who oversaw him in the ministry.”
Of course, if he had been seeking admittance to a Catholic seminary, he would never have been considered. And if he had already been ordained, he would have had his faculties suspended and been dismissed from ministry.
Bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori, a woman in a position of authority in the Episcopal Church, admitted to the priesthood a man who admitted committing abuse in the past and was identified as likely to reoffend by recent psychological testing.
Another myth busted.
For more on this case see: http://www.christiancentury.org/article/2011-07/episcopal-church-defends-top-bishops-record-abuse-case
Please, I do not bring this case up to gloat or throw stones at my Episcopalian sisters and brothers. I am simply pointing out that the causes of abuse are complex and that there is no quick fix whether it be ending celibacy or allowing women to become priests.
At the same time, I have to wonder whether there is another agenda behind those who continue to propagate these myths.
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