(RNS) The presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church on Thursday (Nov. 17) defended her decision to allow a former Roman Catholic monk to become an Episcopal priest even after he admitted to sexual misconduct with a minor.
The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori has been under increasing pressure to answer charges that she did not properly investigate the Rev. Bede Parry’s past when she was bishop of Nevada in 2004.

Jefferts Schori said she knew of only one incident, from 1987, when Parry sought ordination as an Episcopal priest. She also said that Parry, now 69, passed a background check and a psychological evaluation before he was ordained.

After ordination, she said, Parry was supervised by another priest and not permitted to work alone with children.

“I made the decision to receive him,” Jefferts Schori said in a statement, “believing that he demonstrated repentance and amendment of life and that his current state did not represent a bar to his reception.”

In 2006, Jefferts Schori was elected presiding bishop of the Episcopal Church, the first woman in the 400-year history of Anglicanism to lead one of its provinces.

In a signed statement and newspaper interview this year, Parry has admitted to several acts of sexual misconduct with young adults and teenagers while he was a Catholic monk in the 1970s and 1980s. “Frankly, those allegations, most of them are true,” Parry told the Kansas City Star in June.

Parry resigned from All Saints’ Episcopal Church in Las Vegas that month, when a civil lawsuit was filed alleging that he abused a minor in 1987. At the time of the alleged abuse, Parry was a monk and choir director at Conception Abbey in Conception, Mo.

Current Nevada Bishop Dan Edwards said Thursday that Parry has not been accused of wrongdoing since his Episcopal ordination. “His voluntary resignation was for the good of the church.”

Parry has not functioned as a priest since his June resignation and will not be permitted to return to ministry, Edwards said.

Before she agreed to ordain Parry, Jefferts Schori said she wrote to Catholic bishops in Las Vegas and Santa Fe, N.M., and received brief responses that “indicated no problematic behavior.”

Jefferts Schori also said she wrote to Conception Abbey “from whom I received only an acknowledgement that he had served there, been sent for treatment to a facility in New Mexico, and had been dismissed for this incident of misconduct.”

“His departure from the Roman Catholic priesthood had to do with his desire to take up secular employment,” Jefferts Schori said. “His background check showed no more than what he had already told us.” 

Patrick Marker, an abuse victim who has been tracking Parry’s history of sexual misconduct, said Jefferts Schori did not properly investigate the former monk before allowing him to become an Episcopal priest.

“She was taking the word of a predator at face value and not doing her homework,” Marker said.  “She was lazy and negligent.”

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