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Presiding bishop explains role in receiving Nevada priest Bede Parry

[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.

The complete text of the presiding bishop's statement is here.

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." The local civil authorities did not charge Parry, she said, and he told her he had been sent to a treatment facility in New Mexico and had been asked in 2002 to "formalize his separation from the monastery."

"In consultation with other diocesan leadership and the chancellor, we explored the possibilities and liabilities of receiving him," including contacting Roman Catholic officials in two dioceses, Jefferts Schori said. The abbey simply acknowledged that Parry had served there, been sent for treatment and had been dismissed for this incident of misconduct, she said.

Jefferts Schori said she never received a report of a psychological examination in connection with his service in the Roman Catholic Church, as the lawsuit and some critics claim. 

Parry was required to "undergo a psychological exam in the Diocese of Nevada, was forthcoming about the incident he had reported to me and did not receive a negative evaluation," she said, adding that a background check "showed no more than what he had already told us."

Jefferts Schori 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.

"Since that time, as far as I am aware, he has served faithfully and effectively as a minister of the gospel and priest of this church," Jefferts Schori concluded, directing further questions to the Diocese of Nevada.

In late June, current Nevada Bishop Dan Edwards supported his predecessor's decision to receive Parry, saying that the diocesan leadership had determined "he was not a threat to children."

Edwards told ENS Nov. 15 that Parry has resigned from both All Saints and the diocese, has not functioned as a priest since the summer and will not do so in the future.

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