Ann Rodgers of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has written a valuable overview of the manner in which the Episcopal Church has handled allegations of sexual abuse against clergy, particularly bishops in recent years.
When former Episcopal Bishop Donald Davis of Erie was accused of child molestation in 1994, he resigned so quietly from ministry that most other bishops didn’t know why. It was the same year that an Episcopal bishop who had admitted molesting a minor was reinstated after a year’s leave.
Since then, church laws have been changed to make it easier to remove offenders. Church leaders praise Erie’s current Bishop Sean Rowe for publicizing new accusations last month against his now-deceased predecessor.
But victim advocates say that church law still allows offenders in ministry.
“The Episcopalians, like most denominations, have a long way to go,” said David Clohessy, executive director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. “It’s alarming that the denomination hasn’t even committed to a ‘one-strike’ policy on paper.”
But Bishop Kenneth Price of Pittsburgh believes that the policies dioceses are required to enact create a de facto one-strike rule that keeps offenders out.
“Over the years this has become a much more public concern. The House of Bishops is very concerned for the protection of alleged victims … and the canons are very clear on what to do,” said Bishop Price, who is also secretary of the House of Bishops.