Priest at the center of Nevada cover up scandal dead at 71

The Rev. Bede Parry, the priest at the heart of the 2011 scandal over claims Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori covered up his history of abuse when she was Bishop of Nevada has died in Las Vegas.

The former Roman Catholic monk turned Episcopal priest at the center of the sexual abuse scandal that raised questions of cover up and abuse of the canons by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, has died.

The Rev. Bede Parry (71) died after a long illness on 27 Nov 2013, his lawyer reported.

Fr. Parry resigned as assistant priest on the staff of All Saints Episcopal Church in Las Vegas after he was named as a sexual predator in a 23 June 2011 lawsuit filed by a Missouri man against Conception Abbey, a Roman Catholic monastery and seminary.

The lawsuit, filed in Nodaway County Circuit Court alleged Fr. Parry abused a teenage boy attending a choir camp at the abbey in 1987. The boy’s parents complained to the abbot and Fr Parry, who had previously confessed to four earlier incidents of abuse, was suspended and sent to a church-run clinic for sexual abusers in New Mexico. Upon completion of his treatment Fr Parry worked as a church music director in the Southwest and in 2000 applied for admission to another monastery.

The Missouri lawsuit contends that a psychological profile administered in 2000 by the monastery “revealed that Fr Parry was a sexual abuser who had the proclivity to reoffend with minors.”

Fr Parry began work as music director at All Saints in 2000 and in 2004 was received into the ministry of the Episcopal Church by Nevada Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori.

When he applied for reception as a priest in the Episcopal Church Fr Parry “did inform” Bishop Jefferts Schori “of the incident in 1987 and his subsequent treatment,” Parry’s attorney, Joseph Paul Smith told Anglican Ink in 2011, adding that “Fr Bede has not been guilty of or participated in any misconduct during his tenure as an Episcopal priest.”

Mr. Smith stated his client “has been open since 1987 about his involvement in the misconduct. Fr Bede went to church-prescribed treatment and has obtained treatment on his own since that time. There have been no episodes of misconduct at all since 1987.”

The reception of Mr. Parry, who had been defrocked by the Catholic Church for his misconduct, raised questions of Bishop Jefferts Schori’s handling of the affair for failing to investigate his background or for ignoring reports of his potential to reoffend.

The Diocese of Nevada’s October 2003 Manual of Policies and Procedures Concerning Sexual Misconduct states: “There shall be no ministerial or pastoral role within a congregation for any professional … with a civil or criminal record of conviction of sexual misconduct.”

The diocesan manual further stated: “There shall be no interaction with children and youth by anyone with a civil or criminal record of child sexual abuse or who has admitted prior sexual abuse.”

Canon lawyer Allan Haley charged the Presiding Bishop had violated the national Church’s canons when she received Fr Parry. The canons governing the reception of Catholic clergy require a certificate “that the departure of the person from the Communion to which the person has belonged has not arisen from any circumstance unfavorable to moral or religious character.” The canons further require background checks and a psychological evaluation.

Mr. Halley noted the “questions of what Bishop Jefferts Schori was told, what information she had available to her in the 2000 report, and any subsequent updating of it, and as a result of the background check done on Parry, thus become key to evaluating her decision to allow him to become a priest under her jurisdiction.”

“The report was sufficient to keep Father Parry out of a Catholic monastery. Was it not also sufficient to keep him out of a position as an Episcopal priest? If not, why not,” Mr Halley asked.

However the Rev Ed Lovelady, Fr Parry’s former superior at All Saints started his assistant had been “faithful to his priestly ministry, a wonderful pastoral presence to me and to members of the parish, and a friend. I never had even the smallest hint of any kind of inappropriate behavior, or any inclination to such.”

He added that Bishop Jefferts Schori had not informed him of Fr. Parry’s past nor given him any restrictions on his ministry with children and young adults.

On 5 July 2011, Bishop Dan Edwards of Nevada rejected suggestions of canonical violations by the Presiding Bishop as the decision to receive Fr. Parry was not hers alone but was “a multi-level decision which meticulously followed the applicable canons.”

Bishop Edwards stated the diocese’s clergy selection board, the Commission on Ministry, knew of the “incident of ‘inappropriate touching’ that allegedly occurred with a young man in his late teens. That incident was not covered up.”

He also denied any knowledge of a 2000 psychological examination that identified Fr. Parry as a serial sexual abuser.  “No such report was sent to the Diocese of Nevada and, to this day, we have no knowledge of its existence other than an assertion” in a law suit.

He did state that an independent psychological evaluation by the diocese “did not indicate any pathology or risk.”

Bishop Edwards added that his predecessor, Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori “added the restriction that [Fr Parry] should not have contact with minors. This was to add double protection and prevent even the appearance of any threat to minors. This restriction and the reasons for it were conveyed by the bishop to people who supervised Fr. Bede’s work.”

Bishop Edwards has declined to respond to questions about the Parry case or contradictions between his claims and statements made by Catholic Church officials that they informed Bishop Jefferts Schori of Fr. Parry’s past, that no restrictions were made known to Fr. Parry’s clerical supervisors in Las Vegas, nor Mr. Haley’s questions of canon law violations.

David Clohessy, the national director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, the nation’s largest and oldest self-help group for clergy molestation victims said he was unimpressed by the Presiding Bishop’s response.

She was “ducking and dodging.  If she truly acted responsibly with this admitted predator, she’d address the roiling questions of why she ordained him,” he said.

Fr. Parry’s funeral was held on 3 Dec 2013 in Las Vegas.

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