September 1, 2011


Churches full of sinners, of course

Two sexual molestation lawsuits against yet another Catholic institution surfaced late this summer. Bede Parry was a priest and director for a boys’ choir at Conception Abbey in Conception, Mo., about 17 miles southeast of Maryville. While supervising a boys’ choir camp in 1987, he allegedly engaged in sexual relations with a minor.


The first lawsuit sprang up when the 1987 victim just recently resumed interest. He pressed charges after finding out that Parry was still active in the ministry, probably in an attempt to keep him away from violating other young men.

The defendant is in fact not listed as Parry, but Conception Abbey itself. This could help make the case more public, which would inspire other victims to come forward. Such was the case of the second lawsuit against Conception Abbey, filed just weeks after the first.

Sin in the church? Well, obviously. Before going any further, keep in mind that churches – or monasteries, seminaries, convents – are clinics for sinners, not museums for saints. The people in the pews and behind the pulpit all have their faults, make plenty of mistakes and need saving.

Parry needs saving. As is the case of most sexual abusers, the incident during choir camp in ’87 was just one of several black marks in his life. According to the lawsuit, he was also allegedly involved in three inappropriate sexual relationships with different victims between 1973 and 1979 while serving as a monk at the abbey, and in 1981 while attending classes at St. John’s School of Theology in Collegeville, Minn.

Here’s the sick part: This all happened before he was ordained. Several of his supervisors knew about his troubling urges, but approved him for ministry anyway. According to the lawsuit, “Parry admitted to the sexual misconduct to both St. John’s (then) Abbot Jerome Theisen and two other monks at St. John’s as well as (then) Abbot Hanus at the Abbey.”

He only left the abbey after the 1987 scandal because it probably was the most public one. The victim’s parents confronted the abbey about it, which prompted Parry to leave and receive sexual offender treatment in New Mexico. He worked in several churches in the Southwest for the next three years. By 1990, Abbott James at Conception Abbey perceptively and wisely advised him not to return.

With a track record like that, people should be demanding justice for Parry. There should be a unified public disgust with a man who was aware of his lustful tendencies, acted on them, and still enjoyed 28 years as a man of the cloth. He’s a sinner like the rest of us, but he should have acknowledged his shortcomings and never pursued the ministry.

Speaking with community members, that disgust is certainly present. But they hold equal contempt for Parry’s supervisors. Their negligence in the matter was “sadly predictable,” according to David Clohessy, executive director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

Abbot Gregory Polan at Conception Abbey never sent a letter he had prepared in April for the parents of the boys who were in Parry’s choir. The letter would have “explained the situation regarding Bede Parry and (sought) information about how we can make contact… to see if there was any sexual misconduct of which we are unaware.” Polan planned to send the letter and had discussed it with Patrick Marker, who manages

Worse yet, the abbey denied the existence of sexual abuse after the bizarre 2002 shooting in their halls killed two and left two wounded. After almost a decade of investigation, no one has officially linked the 71-year-old male shooter to sexual misconduct at the abbey. They may not be related. But that was the chance for someone to come forward with the truth.

Polan had just taken his position as Abbott prior to the shooting. He probably didn’t know of the sexual misconduct unless the information had passed from Abbott Theisen and Abbott James to him. However, that is still quite possible.

They Abbey wouldn’t comment on the allegations, but Parry publically admitted on Facebook that “the allegations are true, but that was many years ago.”

What an ugly, disgusting mess. Tragically, it joins the ranks of dozens of similar cases plaguing the Church. It’s enough to have a dedicated job position for Clohessy with SNAP, and multiple web sites devoted to tracking homosexual and pedophilic priests.

The only cure for this epidemic is found in the very Bible these priests and monks are supposed to be studying every day. That book provides a message of hope for the lost and the virtues of honesty.

Church leaders like the aforementioned Abbotts need to come clean with the truth, and lust-ravaged clergy members like Parry must leave the ministry and seek counseling. Enough lies. Enough guilt. Come to terms with your faults and find forgiveness.

For the first case, a hearing has been scheduled Oct. 7 on the Abbey’s motion to dismiss. No hearing has been set for the second case, but the Abbey filed a motion to dismiss that case on Aug. 24. The plaintiff has not filed a motion to dismiss in either case, according to Conception Abbey’s attorney, Jon Haden.


Thursday, September 1, 2011
By Philip Gruenwald
Opinion Editor
NW Missourian