Ex-bishop Heather Cook interviewed by RNS

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Heather Cook has been released from prison today after serving three and half years of a seven-year sentence for vehicular manslaughter, DUI, leaving the scene and texting while driving. She agreed to an interview with Religion News Service on the condition the report not be published until after her release.

RNS:

[M]onths after she was consecrated the first woman bishop [suffragan] in the Diocese of Maryland in 2014, she was behind the wheel, texting, driving drunk and causing an accident that killed a bicyclist on a Baltimore road. “Part of the great challenge for me is to know that I, through this experience, have added more pain to the world,” said Cook in one of a series of phone interviews from prison before her release this week (May 14).

Two days after Christmas, she struck and killed cyclist Thomas Palermo, a husband and father of two. She initially left the scene of the accident but was later arrested. Authorities said her blood alcohol level was .22, almost three times the legal limit.

Cook, 62, agreed to talk with Religion News Service on the condition that this story would not be published until her release from prison. She described her willingness to be interviewed as “part of my amends” — a word used in the ninth step of the 12-step recovery process.

Her fellow Episcopalians have mixed feelings about Cook. There is anger over her crimes and a feeling that she was an embarrassment. She’s also forced the denomination to rethink its often cozy relationship with alcohol that caused some members to call themselves “Whiskeypalians.” A commission set up after Cook’s arrest found that the Episcopal Church often failed to intervene with clergy who struggled with alcoholism.

Her fellow Episcopalians have mixed feelings about Cook. There is anger over her crimes and a feeling that she was an embarrassment. She’s also forced the denomination to rethink its often cozy relationship with alcohol that caused some members to call themselves “Whiskeypalians.”

A commission set up after Cook’s arrest found that the Episcopal Church often failed to intervene with clergy who struggled with alcoholism.

Read it all.

Additional coverage:

Ex-bishop Heather Cook released from prison after serving half of sentence for fatal drunken driving crash – Baltimore Sun

 

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Philip B. Spivey
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Philip B. Spivey

Family secrets work this way: "Whatever it is you think you have discovered. You must forget it."
[...Diane Samuels]

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Eric Bonetti
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The real issue is lack of accountability. Church systems and officials do their best to maintain the status quo, too often without regard for the underlying ethics of the situation. Additionally, the church has a flawed theology of forgiveness, in which someone just says the other “magic words,” (“I’m sorry) and suddenly sunshine and Chardonnay should flow like rivers, with nothing more. That’s not how forgiveness works.

Moreover, church structures to promote accountability by clergy are fatally flawed, with bishops having almost monarchical authority to ignore clergy misconduct when it so suits them.

In this case, there were ample warnings over the years that there was an issue, yet Cook continued to climb the ranks.

The embarrassment is not Cook. It is the church’s inability to address misconduct.

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