From EPISCOPAL NEWS SERVICE:
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori said Nov. 17 that she received a Roman Catholic priest into the Episcopal Church despite him admitting an incident of sexual misconduct because she believed "he demonstrated repentance and amendment of life." Questions about Jefferts Schori's decision, made in 2004 when she was bishop of the Diocese of Nevada, arose in June after a plaintiff listed as John Doe 181 filed a lawsuit against Conception Abbey, a Roman Catholic monastery in Missouri. The Rev. Bede Parry was a monk at the abbey in the 1980s and directed a choir. The plaintiff, now an adult, alleged that Parry had sexual contact with him during a 1987 summer choir camp at the abbey. Parry, 69, served All Saints Episcopal Church in Las Vegas since 2000 as organist and later as an assisting priest, but resigned after the lawsuit was filed.
Jefferts Schori said that when Parry asked her to receive him as a priest, he told her about a 1987 sexual encounter he had with "an older teenager." She said in her statement that he "indicated that it was a single incident of very poor judgment." She said she decided to receive Parry as a priest "believing that he demonstrated repentance and amendment of life and that his current state did not represent a bar to his reception." She said she restricted Parry to an assisting role, under the supervision of another priest, and told him that he could not work alone with children. The latter requirement is a restriction the diocese places on all its clergy and laity.
COMMENT: I think it important to stress that Parry was not just received into the membership of the Episcopal Church (which would have been problematical but proper), he was received into the priesthood of the Episcopal Church. It does not matter how many restrictions you put on a priest in a parish setting or how strictly a priest is watched over, that priest will always have opportunities to relate to members of the parish and others in a more intimate way than is usually possible for members of the laity. It just comes with the job and the way many people view the priesthood.
It is my opinion that Jefferts Schori allowed Parry to practice as a priest in the Episcopal Church out of Christian charity and nothing else. It is also my opinion that when Parry told her that he had repented and intended "to sin no more," he was more than likely telling the truth.
However, at the time Jefferts Schori made her decision regarding Parry it was already well understood by society in general that it is always extremely likely that a sexual predator will offend again no matter how much they intend not to or how much they feel guilty about past offences.
Therefore, it is my opinion that Jefferts Schori, and those who advised her at the time, made one huge mistake. It was negligence at such a high level that if a child had been abused by Parry subsequent to his reception as a priest in the Episcopal Church, Jefferts Schori would have possibly been charged with criminal negligence (although I say that from my knowledge of English law, not American law).
This begs one huge question. Should Jefferts Schori continue in any position of authority within the Episcopal Church in which she may well be responsible for making decisions about similar cases in the future? In fact, does this error of judgement mean that she is not to be trusted to make competent decisions in any area of the Church's life?
Second only to the sin of putting the wellbeing of members of her own church and other people at risk is the sin of hypocrisy that raises its ugly head well above the parapet in this case. Can liberal episcopalians in America continue to call for extremely strict measures in other denominations to protect young people from predatory sex offenders, and full accountability of leaders of other denominations if they allow or enable sexual offences to occur and/or cover them up when they take place, if they turn a blind eye to a similar beam in their own collective eye, especially when the person concerned is a high ranking liberal?
Charity may lead us to conclude that we should let the presiding bishop off the hook. But, of course, as I assume above, it was most probably charity that got the Episcopal Church, and Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori in particular, into this embarrassing and blameworthy mess in the first place.