Updates in Bishop Cook case: Bail posted and a pastoral letter

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A deposed Episcopal priest has posted bail for Bishop Heather Cook who is facing vehicular manslaughter, DUI, and other charges, in the death of Thomas Palermo on December 27. Cook has been released from jail and is scheduled to appear in District Court on February 6th for criminal indictment.

Her bail was posted by Mark H. Hansen, a deposed Episcopal priest who now now serves as a “lay pastor” of St. Clement’s Episcopal Church, Massey, Maryland, in the Diocese of Easton (Maryland). Hansen was inhibited then deposed in 2005 by Bishop Andrew Smith of Connecticut for abandonment of the communion. Hansen is described in the autobiography that Cook provided before her election as “a steady companion” for the two years leading up to her nomination.

Both the Baltimore Sun and the Baltimore Brew report that Cook was headed to an inpatient treatment facility after her release.

Baltimore Sun:

Cook and Hansen attended General Theological Seminary in New York at the same time in the 1980s, according to the school’s website, and Hansen participated in Cook’s consecration ceremony last September.

Baltimore Brew:

Hansen posted $35,000 of collateral and signed a $215,000 promissory note to meet the 10% requirement of the $2.5 million bail for Bishop Cook, who was jailed last Friday on manslaughter and drunk driving charges stemming from a car crash that killed bicyclist Thomas Palermo.

Reached this afternoon, Hansen said, “I’m not talking to the press, OK? We have an attorney.”

Only one condition is required of Bishop Cook under the terms of today’s bail: “Do not drive while pending trial.”

Arinze Ifekauche, spokesman for State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, confirmed that Cook “is not on pretrial supervision.”

It is not known where Cook will go after her release today. After the fatal crash with Palermo, Cook stayed at Father Martin’s Ashley, an alcohol treatment center near Havre de Grace, before she was jailed last Friday.

The Baltimore Sun reported that Cook had entered a 28-day treatment program after the December crash that killed bicyclist Thomas Palermo. In a hearing on January 12,

[Cook’s attorney, attorney, Jose A.] Molina asked Klein to lower Cook’s [$2.5 million] bail to $500,000 and allow her to continue with residential treatment or home monitoring. He promised she would not drive.

The $2.5 million bail, which Molina said Cook could not pay, was upheld:

District Court Judge Nicole Pastore Klein rejected a request from prosecutors to deny bail, but also disagreed with Cook’s attorney that her bail should be lowered. Klein said the allegations against Cook show a “reckless and careless indifference to life.”

“I can’t trust her judgment if released,” Klein said.

Both the Baltimore Sun and the Baltimore Brew reported Hansen’s presence at the initial court proceedings, and that the Diocese of Maryland was not part of any bail arrangement. The Sun:

A spokeswoman for the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland described Hansen as a friend of Cook’s. Spokeswoman Sharon Tillman said the church was not involved in the bail payment but was “grateful that she’ll now be able to resume treatment.”

Hansen signed a promissory note agreeing to pay $215,000 in monthly installments of $1,000, records show. If Cook fails to appear in court, Hansen could be on the hook for the full $2.5 million.

Hansen attended Cook’s bail review hearing Monday but declined to talk to a reporter. He could not be reached for comment Thursday.

Bishop Sutton PortraitIn other developments, the Rt. Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton, Bishop of Maryland, wrote a pastoral letter to the Diocese dated January 13 and reported in the Baltimore Brew.

Bishop Sutton asks the question, “What do we do with our grief?” Bishop Sutton was presiding as bishop when Bishop Suffragan Heather Cook was elected in the Diocese of Maryland, and was aware of her 2010 DUI arrest.

There are still too many questions for which there are no easy answers, and we are filled with anger, bitterness, pain and tears. Our thoughts and prayers remain with the Palermo family in their bereavement and for ourselves as a diocese in mourning. And we continue to pray for our sister Heather in this time of her tremendous grief and sorrow, knowing the Episcopal Church’s “Title IV” disciplinary process is underway to consider consequences for her actions as well as review the process that resulted in her election.

Bishop Sutton lists five practices that are helping him through his own feelings of grief and sense of responsibility: prayer, being vulnerable rather than defensive, trust in the Spirit, be patient in the recognition that we cannot “simply fix problems on our own,” and acceptance:

After discussing this tragedy with some of my bishop colleagues for over an hour and being held up in prayer by them, one said, “Eugene, I am the child of an alcoholic and I’ve spent many years dealing with that and coming to understand the hold that alcohol has on someone who is addicted to it. I want to tell you that the Diocese of Maryland is not responsible for the terrible accident that killed that bicyclist. You are not responsible for that; Heather Cook is. It’s not your fault.” I burst into tears. I hadn’t realized how much I had internalized the weight of responsibility for the tragedy, the sense of shame, and the desperate need to make it all better. Later, praying before the Icon of Christ the Pantocrater, I gazed into those piercing eyes of our Lord, asking: What is Christ wanting to say to me? And what did I want to say to him? After what seemed like an eternity, I was finally able to gaze into his eyes and say: “Lord, it’s not your fault.” And both of us cried.

His letter is posted on the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland’s website here.

Posted by Cara Modisett and Andrew Gerns

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Rev Andrew Gentry
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Rev Andrew Gentry

I guess when you view the role of a bishop as a CEO of his or her diocese rather than the chief pastor, being drunk before you are installed as the CEO is not so bad after all, other than a potential image problem that any good consulting firm could fix! However if you understand the function of a bishop and the example he or she is to set as essentially pastoral and one of teacher, being drunk before your consecration would be sufficient cause for your being denied consecration! Then again if you look at the service of ordination as liturgical theatre where the vows you are making at least theoretically before God and his congregation really don't mean anything as evidenced by such gleaming examples of Mr Spong and Ms Schori you proceed with the theatrics with a hopefully sober participant!

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Helen Kromm
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Helen Kromm

First of all, I have to state that I am both frustrated and anguished that Heather Cook is out on bail. I believe this circumstance represents a disservice to the community, and I believe that it represents a disservice to Heather Cook. Her interests and our interests would have been better served had she remained incarcerated until trial.
I don’t make that statement lightly. Nor do I make that statement out of any sense or need to extract revenge or heap an added measure of suffering or punishment upon Heather Cook. Yes, I feel anger and frustration. But if there is any paramount emotion at play here, it is one of extraordinary sadness.
Just a scant time ago, Heather Cook unnecessarily and with complete disregard took the life of another human being. She is, and remains, in the grip of an illness that renders it impossible for her to make rational choices. She is not in remission and is not in a stage of demonstrable recovery. And to make matters worse, there is not a single condition of her recovery that alleviates this ongoing threat to the community at large. I believe that she shouldn’t have been released, and that the potential danger to the community provides reason enough to leave her incarcerated until trial.
She was told not to drive. Ridiculous. Anyone with even a remote understanding of the thought process of an alcoholic knows that telling them not to drive is an exercise in futility. Her thought process is not like ours. She will do anything to serve her need for alcohol.
She would have been better served remaining in jail. Clearly, Cook has suffered from alcoholism for an extended period of time. Whatever treatment she has received, whatever process she has participated in to date and leading to the murder she committed has not worked. Statistics regarding those who recover from alcoholism vary. But regardless of whatever statistic you accept, most alcoholics are unsuccessful in long term recovery.
It is generally accepted that alcoholics must reach bottom before recovery has any hope of success. And I would posit that a dose of tough love, and an extended pre-trial stay incarcerated, would have served this purpose better than any opportunity available to her. And of course, there are in-house treatment programs available to those incarcerated. Had she remained incarcerated, this would largely eliminate the threat of Cook harming herself, and eliminated entirely the threat of her harming yet again another member of the community.
But none of that matters now. She is out on bail. And this, at least to me, raises serious and troubling questions. Questions that not only haven’t been answered, but as far as I can tell, have yet to be thoroughly asked.
We have heard that the Maryland Diocese was not involved in her release. And this is true. But an individual representing the church, who in fact occupies a position of leadership in the church, is responsible. And that of course would be Mark Hansen.
Mark Hansen is the lay pastor and rector of Saint Clements Church in Massey Maryland. He is the point of contact not only on the Saint Clements website, but also the point of contact on the Diocese of Easton website. The E Mail contact on the diocese website- the Pastor’s website, is the E Mail address for his non-profit Pegasus. Both links appear directly below.
http://dioceseofeaston.org/about-us/find-a-church/st-clements-massey-md/
http://www.saintclements.org/
The Facebook page for Saint Clements appears below. Although the last three posts are about Saint Paul’s Cathedral, contained therein are the by-laws for the church itself. The page appears to be managed by Mark Hansen.
https://www.facebook.com/saintclements.org
So, and according to public information available to us, Mark Hansen serves as an Episcopal official in a parish. Which to me begs the question how did he get there? It would have to have been as a result of an application made to the Bishop, and a license granted. And who was the Bishop, or which Bishop granted this or influenced this?
On the Diocese of Easton website, which obviously is outdated, the names of two Bishops appear. And the Canon of the Ordinary is Heather Cook.
https://www.facebook.com/saintclements.org
She was at that time unquestionably the second most powerful church official in the diocese. I don’t know what her specific role was, but some definitions of the role of Canon of the Ordinary refer to that position as a “Chief of Staff”. Other sources indicate this is a position that is deeply involved in personnel decisions.
Press reports have told us that shortly after his divorce, Cook and Hansen moved in together. Press reports indicate they have possibly lived together since, and they define themselves as “companions”.
Did Heather Cook facilitate this position at Saint Clements for Hansen as a result of her relationship with him, and as her companion and lover? That is a question which needs to be asked and answered. What were his qualifications for this position, other than an intimate relationship with an Episcopal Bishop. Was he the best choice to lead a Parish in light of his past conflicts with the Church?
What is his income, and what role did Heather Cook play in insuring her companion had an additional source of income?
It is clear that the diocese and the church were not inclined to provide bail for Heather Cook. So I am somewhat troubled that bail was provided by someone who occupies a position of responsibility within the church. And I am troubled by the fact that he may owe this position of responsibility to the very person who committed this crime and provided this position for him.
These to me are troubling questions. But questions that we deserve answers to.

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Steven Ford
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Steven Ford

Bishop Sutton is, of course, in no way responsible for Ms. Cook's disease, her actions or her decisions. Did he exercise "culpable negligence" by failing to inform electors, diocesan bishops and standing committees of her arrest record? That's for a court to decide in an inevitable lawsuit.

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Eileen quinn
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Eileen quinn

I am curious why Cook was elected. Out of the four resumes of the nominees there is one woman who seems far more qualified. I sent copies to several friends and all picked the same woman. Even without knowing about the DUI there must be some reason she was selected.

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David Streever
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David Streever

Eileen, I wonder if she interviewed compellingly? I know I've had a hard choice between candidates, where one seemed more qualified on paper, but another felt more natural & at ease in our office.

In one (memorable) interview, the highly qualified applicant said, upon arrival, "I hope you appreciate that I drove an hour to be here. That's going to factor into my compensation, or I'm not taking the job." He then brushed off pleasantries (tea, a glass of water, etc) with a dismissive, cutting comment about how inefficient we must be if we have time to sit around and drink tea instead of getting right to business. The interview lasted 5 minutes more; I asked him a question, & he cut me off to say that everything was on his resume already, before telling me he was certain I'd be calling him with a competitive offer and leaving.

I'm not suggesting that the other candidates were rude, at all, but just speculating that there is much we can't know about the meetings & discussions, and sharing my own experience of finding the most qualified person to be a very poor fit indeed. It was such an outsized (and I hope unusual) experience, but having had it, I'm less likely to assume that the resume tells the whole story!

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Art Stewart
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Anand nails it. We keep drifting from the essential issues that the Church needs to face in this tragedy. Our system of discerning, vetting, and electing candidates to office of Bishop (and I would add Rector) is broken. It was a breach in due process for Bishop Sutton, and/or the MD Search Committee, to withhold all of the details of Heather Cook's DUI history during the election process. It was vital information that not only the convention delegates had a right to have but also the congregants at large throughout the constituency in which she would be charged with leading and serving if elected. It was information they had a right to have in order for fulfill their dutiful role in the election process. It is not sufficient to have simply disclosed that "one of the candidates has a DUI record" without disclosing who it was. That was a manipulative maneuver which could easily be construed as a political attempt to minimize certain facts in the biographical qualifications of a candidate because Sutton and the Committee denied the delegates their right to weigh the merits of such a 'factor' and evaluate a candidate in totality. Furthermore, I'm perplexed as to why the other candidates - all devoid of any arrest record (as far as we know) - would go along with such an approach as in a way it rests responsibility for the DUI arrest with all of them - rather than the one who needs to own it. And then the nondisclosure continued at the national level where Cook's elevation was affirmed by the various diocesan Standing Committees around the country who also lacked awareness of her DUI "situation" and the circumstances of it (shockingly high blood alcohol level, the bald tire, the pot, etc.). From my perspective it is clearly a technical slam dunk: By these omissions the process was compromised and her election was invalid.

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Anand Gnanadesikan
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Anand Gnanadesikan

What I see missing from this discussion is the sense that taking authority and responsibility in the church comes with increased accountability, not decreased accountability. The balance between mercy and justice needs to change as you move up in authority. There is now increasing evidence that in her personal relationships, in her alcohol and drug use, that Bp. Cook has chosen not to be transparent about her life and struggles.

The Bible makes it clear that very flawed people can be mightily used of God (David, the Samaritan Woman, Paul). But what is striking is that in all of these cases, transparency and facing up to sin was part of their ministry ("He told me everything I did!").

I see this as sadly missing in our church today.

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Theodore William Johnson
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Theodore William Johnson

Have you noticed how the comments here and elsewhere about the way Bishop Sutton is handling this matter have suddenly swung from high praise to harsh criticism?

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Jerald Liko
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Jerald Liko

That is an interesting observation, and I think it's accurate. I suspect that, as the initial shock of grief and anger over the accident is passing, and as we become more successful at reaching within ourselves to find compassion and Christian forgiveness for Bishop Cook, people are beginning to question the process that elevated a person who was vulnerable at best and unfit at worst to the episcopacy. Whichever way you tend to see her as a candidate, the next question goes to the process of her election: What information was provided to the people who elected her, and what information was hidden? Who made those decisions? In a hierarchical church, it is natural (though not necessarily correct) to assume that the Bishop Diocesan had all of the information that was, in the view of some, improperly withheld.

We are taking a fresh look at how we evaluate candidates for Bishop, and at what information should be available during the election process. My opinion is that this examination and re-evaluation of a process that can seem distant or inaccessible to the average layperson is a healthy thing, and one that will be good for the larger church. But a necessary element of that examination is the evaluation of Bishop Sutton's role in the matter.

I expect Bishop Sutton's role in the selection and election of Bishop Cook to become a subject of greater scrutiny as the conversation progresses from "She did WHAT?!?" to the more measured and infinitely more useful question of "What, if anything, could we have done to prevent this tragedy?"

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Mark Mason
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Mark Mason

Got the Gospel straight from Christ own lips have you David? Perhaps you have a copy in his own writ?

"Whom do you follow Nick, Jesus or Paul? Do the words there attributed to Paul echo anything attributed to Jesus or do they fly in the face of the teachings of Jesus? A number of passages come to mind attributed to Jesus that describe the pharisaical hate you spread here."

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David Allen
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David Allen

Sorry about your poor reading skills. My comment plainly alludes to scripture passages attributed to Jesus, not him whispering in my ear.

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JC Fisher
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JC Fisher

I found this letter very revealing, and helpful:

Thoughts from a Md. Rector

http://livingchurch.org/thoughts-md-rector

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Ann Fontaine
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Ann Fontaine

It was linked in the comments of an earlier story -- and yes.

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Philip B. Spivey
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Philip B. Spivey

I had wanted stay out of this Lead column because the circumstances of Bp. Cook's situation is so horrendous that there was nothing else I would want to add to the discussion but a call for prayer and expressions of great remorse for all the lives that have been directly touched by this tragedy. But after reading the previous 44 comments, I am moved to say this:

I haven't seen such a un-Christian pile-on and wish to punish scapegoats in a long time. And I specifically refer to the objects of these angry opinions as scapegoats because, fundamentally, they are not the problem. Many among us, lay and clerical, are never confronted about our chemical dependencies; in fact in some circles, social drinking until we're sloshed is de rigueur. Our church culture, with regards to drinking (and other recreational drugs) varies, I'm sure from diocese to diocese, parish to parish. But one thing's for sure: drinking problems are rife in our church.

And that brings me to the essential source of my discomfort with these conversations: No body is talking about how we are to come to the aid of some who is impaired, like Bp. Cook is. We are not looking at our selves and our brothers and sisters and asking: "When have I looked the other way?" How could I have helped a parishioner or colleague face up to the fact that they have a drinking problem?" "Do I even know what a drinking problem looks like?"

Yes, we (the church) should have seen the signs of trouble a long time ago (probably even before her ordination) and taken appropriate steps to get Heather Cook help. Yes, Bp. Cook might have sought help of others and avoided this tragedy. Yes, Bp. Sutton should have better public relations advisers at his disposal. Yes, our P.B. might have been more forthcoming. But the fact is we didn't and they didn't.

I wonder just how different this conversation might be if Bp. Cook had been mortally wounded.

It's time to put away our swords and remove the rust from our plowshares and get to work on ourselves. The Episcopal Church deserves members who are freed from a fatal disease.

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Dave Paisley
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Dave Paisley

It's NOT a drinking problem. It's a drinking and driving and texting with utter and complete disregard for human life problem.

The culpability of the diocese, such as it is, is not in electing Heather Cook bishop, it is in completely ignoring the signs she was an unrepentant alcoholic when they had a chance to figure it out during the search process.

If they hadn't elected her we'd be talking about some other poor dead bicyclist in a different part of Maryland being killed by a Canon to the Ordinary.

Slightly different story, same outcome.

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Jim Frodge
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Jim Frodge

I hope that my comment is not considered in any way as diminishing the problem of alcoholism in our society in any way. My father was an alcoholic who physically abused my mother. I was a police officer for 27 years and I dealt almost on a nightly basis with problems caused by alcohol consumption.

However I also know from me education, training and experience that there was absolutely nothing that anybody could have done to deal with Heather Cook's alcoholism until Heather Cook herself realized and accepted the fact that she needed help and reached out to do something about her situation. Sadly up until the day that she hit Mr. Palermo and drove away leaving him dying on the road that never happened. Heather Cook is deserving of our prayers. She must also be held accountable for her actions and I feel that any attempts to explain away her actions diminish the life of Thomas Palermo and the seriousness of her conduct.

In addition there has been a serious failure of leadership in the church by those responsible for elevating Heather Cook to the episcopacy. Thus far it appears that nobody in leadership is willing to step forward and accept that responsibility.

I was a supervisor when I worked in law enforcement and as such I was responsible for the actions of all officers under my command. Wearing a gold badge did not necessarily make me smarter but it did make me accountable for their actions. This is a harsh but true lesson and I pray that one day our church leaders learn and abide by the same standard.

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Philip B. Spivey
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Philip B. Spivey

Jim: I concur with your view that the consequences of chemical dependency cannot, and should not, be explained away. A person in the throes of the illness is not responsible for their illness, but they are responsible for taking the steps to have it treated. True, many people don't take those steps on their own; they will require, what we call, external motivation. External motivation often consists of prominent members of the person's community having the courage to pointedly confront the person before their drinking turns tragic. An informed, compassionate and non-judgmental community can save lives.

My other point is that when people turn a blind eye to colleagues, parishioners, friends, family and, yes, neighbors whose drinking is out of control, we enable the disease to progress to, what can be, lethal levels. Chemical dependency is a chronic and progressive disease that is ultimately fatal, if not treated. Not unlike heart disease, cancer, diabetes...

Frankly, I'm not sure that the Church knows what a chronic drinking problem looks like and that might explain why many folks over the years have been excused their "indiscretions" if these indiscretions didn't bring harm to another or embarrassment to the church; sadly,we can no longer look away from Heather Cook's indiscretions.

I fervently pray that this tragedy opens the eyes of many to the dangers of looking the other way.

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Nancy Bennett
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Nancy Bennett

"Heather Cook was arrested in 2000 in the Diocese of Easton for DUI and Drug Possession for which she received pre-trial adjudication."

It was 2010. Four years ago. If you miss a single monthly payment on your credit card bill, the credit reporting companies don't take it off your credit report for 7 years because they figure anything more recent than that indicates you may do it again. The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior unless something significant has taken place to alter that.

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Jim Frodge
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Jim Frodge

Heather Cook is an alcoholic and has been one for years. These are not my words but are the words of her attorneys when they argued in court for a reduction in her bond. Despite the words of her attorneys we are asked to believe that nobody who worked around her or saw her at any church function noticed a problem. Heather Cook was arrested in 2000 in the Diocese of Easton for DUI and Drug Possession for which she received pre-trial adjudication.

Despite this Heather Cook was consecrated as a Bishop in the Diocese of Maryland. Bishop Sutton, aware of her prior DUI, described it as a "wart". The decision was made to keep her DUI conviction a secret from the voters at convention although Heather Cook was encouraged to talk about it on her walk around. According to a priest familiar with the situation this did not happen. Heather Cook was elected and consecrated with the Presiding Bishop presiding at the service. Another participant in her consecration service was Mark Hansen, her companion.

Heather Cook then drove drunk again and hit and killed Mr. Palermo. She then left him dying on the road while she fled the scene.

Mark Hansen, Heather cook's companion, is a defrocked priest from the Diocese of Connecticut who now serves a congregation in the Diocese of Easton as a Lay Pastor. Mark Hansen is also the director of the St. Paul's Trust in America, a 501 C3 that purports to raise funds for the care of St. Pauls Cathedral in London, England. According to records at the court in Baltimore this tax exempt religious organization wrote a check for $35,000.00 to help secure Heather Cook's bail. According to the trust's website Heather Cook is a contributor to the trust. Talk about a return on your tax deductible investment.

Bishop Sutton, after talking with fellow Bishops, has according to his letter realized he bears no responsibility for this situation. According to a letter from a person attending a meeting in the Diocese of Maryland the Standing Committee believed that the Presiding Bishop's Office vetted Heather Cook prior to her election as Bishop. The Presiding Bishop was in of all places Maryland recently for a meeting and refused to discuss Heather Cook with the media, telling them that this was a budget meeting. It seems at this point that absolutely nobody in the Episcopal Church bears any responsibility for Heather Cook being a Bishop.

A retired friend of mine who was once Canon for Ministry Development told me that Bishops care about their flock for a couple of years and after that they are all about defending the institution. When I asked what the institution was I was told "the purple shirt club".

Serious mistakes were made here by people in positions of responsibility. As of now it seems that all of these people are ducking responsibility for this tragic event that now stains our church. The people in the pews deserve far better than they are getting from our "leaders".

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Diana Butler Bass
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Can you supply the link to the information that the St. Paul's Trust wrote the check? I've seen this a couple of times in comment streams but cannot find that information otherwise on line. Thank you.

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Ann Fontaine
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Ann Fontaine

See Andrew Gerns comment on 1/17.

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Member

Nick, fair enough. I'm not sure, though, that we all have a common understanding of the purpose of bail. According to the ABA, bail is established based on several factors:

- the risk of the defendant fleeing,
- the type of crime alleged,
- the "dangerousness" of defendants, and
- the safety of the community.

If we start from the assumption of innocence until proof of guilt is established in a court of law, the question has to be one of why refuse bail rather than why grant. Using the factors above, it seems the judge took the seriousness of the case into account.

I don't know what the standard bail is for vehicular manslaughter, but $2.5 million has to be high, and fitting the seriousness of the crime.

Given her connections and likely limited resources, I think flight risk for Bp Cook is unlikely, especially if she has a companion willing to post such bail and if she is in a treatment facility. Home monitoring is also effective in that regard. Easy steps can be taken to remove her easy access to a vehicle.
So, given the high bail matching the seriousness of the crime, I'm comfortable the rat of the concerns have been taken into account.

Finally, as Christians, our primary concern isn't punishment, but healing and reconciliation. It strikes me that a sober Heather Cook is far more likely to move through penance and healing than one who faces jail without the tools of sobriety.

She is our sister in Christ. We can't not care, even when her actions make us want to not care. In what way can we make room for the Holy Spirit to work through Heather, the judicial system, and each of us to prevent this from becoming an even worse tragedy than it is?

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Nick Porter
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Nick Porter

With all due respect Dirk, seeing that a life has been lost, it can’t get any worse, other than the church disciplinary board doing something other than defrocking her. That would be a nightmare on top of a nightmare.

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Member

For those who are angry about Bp Cook making bail, are you prepared as pastors to look your parishioner in the eye who is arrested and has the opportunity make bail that they shouldn't because somebody else in a similar situation couldn't?

Or are you prepared to say to their face that their offense was so egregious they should just suck it up and not accept bail?

The unwillingness among alleged progressives to allow a person full access to the legal system is mind-boggling.

Calling a person'so Judy,net into question for associating with q conservative is the mirror image of the conservatives refusing to associate with us because we're heretics in their eyes.

If I recall, Jesus hung out with one or two tax collectors and sinners in his day. . .

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Nick Porter
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Nick Porter

With all due respect Dirk, seeing that a life has been lost, it can't get any worse, other than the church disciplinary board doing something other than defrocking her. That would be a nightmare on top of a nightmare.

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Nick Porter
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Nick Porter

Dirk, I don't that she should have been offered bail in the first place but I do agree with your second point.

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Nancy Bennett
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Nancy Bennett

"You sit in judgment and condemn her for her addiction and its consequences, however you don’t care that she can get treatment. There’s the hate about which I spoke."

What's the addiction that made her drive (apparently regularly) so impaired most people wouldn't be able to turn the ignition key? An addition to driving? What's the addiction that made her text while driving? In this particular case she clearly didn't even see Palermo because she made no effort to brake. She was out of her lane because she wasn't looking. Is this a texting addiction?

In law, when you become impaired by your own voluntary actions, you cannot then use as a defense the lack of judgment (as in choosing to drive drunk or choosing to drive while texting) caused by your impairment. Stay home and drink yourself into a stupor. There are actually people who *voluntarily* put a breathalyzer lock on their cars so they won't be tempted to go out and kill somebody. You know -- people who care about other people's lives.

What's with the dead penguin in the photo, BTW?

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Ian Montgomery
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Ian Montgomery

Commenting only on the Penguin -- I believe the reference is to the "mascot" of the General Seminary where, I assume, the folks in the photo are from -- some if not all are as I recognise a few from my days there.

As to my brother Dirk's comments -- I would echo the response of the commentor who questioned what addiction caused her to drive or text and add or leave the scene, and leave a man for dead. I would hope that were I to have struck someone on the road my human instinct would be to help and my priestly instinct to anoint and absolve the dying. Her instincts in both this situation and the last seem to tell me that, yes, Dirk, she is likely a person who disregards her responsibility as a human and as a priest and was likely not a good candidate for advancement to the episcopate.

BTW -- is there any way to edit a post -- e.g. Dirk probably did not mean "making book" in his first paragraph but is likely to have meant "making bail". And I think he later mean "accused" not "accuses". I can't figure out how to edit my own posts in which I later read mistakes either.

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Nick Porter
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Nick Porter

Thing is Nancy, I never said that I didn't care if she gets help. I just don't believe it should be on the church's dime, especially in a case like this.

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Nick Porter
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Nick Porter

I know that, but that quote was in response to me, the person who said that said it to me.

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Nancy Bennett
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Nancy Bennett

The comment wasn't in response to you. It was in response to the comment quoted. My point was that she has/had no addiction that compelled her to get behind the wheel of a car when inebriated or text when driving. And she got a very lucky wake up call in 2010 and choose to ignore it.

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Jane Miller
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Jane Miller

I'm really sad that someone posted bail for Cook...but it figures. Any "lesser" person would be sitting in jail forever and no one would be feeling sorry for them. Seems like she needs to learn to face reality and take her punishment just like anyone else would have to.
The bereaved family isn't getting any breaks, why should she?
And why wasn't she taking herself to treatment before the accident?

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Anne Canfield
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Anne Canfield

Heather Cook broke 3 laws resulting in the death of the father of two small children: 1. drunk driving; 2. texting while driving; and, 3. leaving the scene of an accident. Let's deal with these issues first and leave the church out of it for now. You are correct, she should be treated as a person who committed a crime and be punished by the courts accordingly. The terrible loss to the Palermo family needs to be the focus of our attention.

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Michael Hartney
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Michael Hartney

Title IV.9.1 (Title IV.17.2(c) provides that because the Member of the clergy is a Bishop, the Presiding Bishop = the Bishop Diocesan in this canon.) provides that a Bishop, or the Presiding Bishop, may propose terms of discipline (including deposition) at "any time". If they agree, an Accord may be entered into specifying the discipline which is irrevocable.

Title IV.17.6 provides that the president of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops (who is not the Presiding Bishop) shall pronounce the disciplinary sentence agreed upon in the Accord. The president of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops has no discretion to decline to pronounce the Sentence or to pronounce a lesser Sentence.

Title IV.2 Deposition means that a "Member of the Clergy is deprived of the right to exercise the gifts and spiritual authority of God's word and sacraments conferred at ordination."

There is no quirk, as mentioned above.

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Paul Powers
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Paul Powers

The quirk is in the renunciation canon (III.12.7), which forbids the PB from accepting a bishop's request to be released from the ordained ministry when there's a pending disciplinary matter.

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Jay Croft
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Jay Croft

Yes, but a 28 day rehab stay isn't cheap. No skin off my back either, Nick, but she would go into a deeper financial hole should she resign now. She's got all sorts of legal and financial advisers, for sure.

We can be assured, though, that she won't be returning to any form of ministry in the Episcopal Church.

An independent prison ministry, perhaps. Hey, I read some place that Bernie Madoff is giving financial advice to fellow prisoners!

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Member

I'm disturbed by anger at Bp Cook making book and at suggestions that associations with defrocked clergy are inappropriate for a candidate for Bishop.

Bail is a judicial matter. As I understand it, it is not something the one has to argue for, but that the state has to argue against since the accuses is presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law. One of the purposes of bail is to allow the accused maximum freedom to assist in the preparation of a defense. Bail should be set commensurate with a person's potential threat to society or potential to flee. The amount can mitigate the latter by making the stakes for fleeing too high. With proper supervision and inability to drive (a condition of bail), I don't expect Bp Cook to be a danger to society while awaiting her day in court. Do we have any evidence that, apart from her addiction, Bp Cook is a lawless, unreliable person? If so - then Good Lord, why was she ever a priest and nominee in the first place? That's on us. If not - then we need to step back and see that this person is a also a child of God and deserving of every same right and privilege granted everybody else under the Constitution.

As for outrage that her companion is a defrocked priest serving as a lay pastor in an Episcopal congregation - why are we sneering at that? Is it possible that this is the avenue for the priest to return to recognized ordained ministry? There are ways to restore a person to priesthood. Disappearing to a quite diocese to do the Lord's work as a lay person in an appropriate congregation would certainly be a great one.

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Jay Croft
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Jay Croft

She hasn't resigned yet because there's some quirk in canon law saying that since she is being charged in ecclesiastical court, the matter first must be resolved.

And secondly, if she resigns, she will lose her health insurance, which will pay, partially or fully, for her stay at Ashley.

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Nick Porter
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Nick Porter

That's a strange quirk. But I'll be honest, her losing her health insurance really isn't a concern to me or I imagine many others after what she has done.

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Nick Porter
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Nick Porter

David, you calling my opinions hateful is your prerogative but it doesn't change them. As for who I follow, I follow the same Jesus who appeared to St.Paul and made him an apostle. Have a nice nice day. 🙂

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David Allen
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David Allen

Whom do you follow Nick, Jesus or Paul? Do the words there attributed to Paul echo anything attributed to Jesus or do they fly in the face of the teachings of Jesus? A number of passages come to mind attributed to Jesus that describe the pharisaical hate you spread here.

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Nick Porter
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Nick Porter

David:

"For what have I to do with judging those outside? Is it not those who are inside that you are to judge? God will judge those outside. ‘Drive out the wicked person from among you.’"-1 Corinthians 5:12-13

It was her responsibility to be humble enough to say, you know, I'm not fit to be a bishop because I have issues. Then this whole ordeal probably wouldn't have happened. If calling a spade a spade "hate" then I am guilty as charged.

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David Allen
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David Allen

You sit in judgement and condemn her for her addiction and its consequences, however you don't care that she can get treatment. There's the hate about which I spoke.

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Nick Porter
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Nick Porter

Here's another question: Why hasn't she resigned yet? Surely there are people close to her, and I would imagine some in the diocese as well, must be begging her to resign.

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Gary Carter
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Gary Carter

Thank you, Connie, Meg, Nick, and Brian, for your comments about Bishop Sutton's embarrassing, cringe-worthy words. Someone needs to remind him that when you find yourself in a hole, the best advice is to stop digging.

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Art Stewart
Guest

Astonishing ineptness continues to be the game plan on the part of the official MD diocesan leadership (Sutton and spokespersons) - and now the Presiding Bishop and the 815 machine. Let me be clear: I'm a cradle progressive Episcopalian so I remain innately supportive of the evolutionary direction the Church has taken during my lifetime (I was confirmed by PA Bishop Robert DeWitt in 1972). However, the curt statement by Bishop Katharine in response to a reporter's prodding during the Executive Council meeting, when she was asked if the Heather Cook matter was under discussion, is eye-opening: "... this is a business meeting." Really? What is the number one business we are in Katharine? Have you lost your compass? Is it now the business agenda, at this moment of crisis in the Church's reputation, or the public pastoral response that has been flagrantly lacking throughout this tragic episode - that should take priority? Our leadership is just not getting it: The public is quickly forming (what we refer to in crisis management) an 'associative assumption' which is very difficult, often impossible, to repair. And quite dangerous to the hard-earned reputation equity of any organization. The association is that Cook, in her callous disregard for human life by taking so long to finally return to the scene (after "prodding" by a witness and her own drive-bys) - and by what reports now suggest are that Mr. Palermo was likely left bleeding to death along on the road for some time before the first witness arrived on the scene - reinforces an image of ECUSA as a bunch of aloof, pseudo-aristocrats (frozen Republicans at prayer) who are exclusively focused on the self interests of their private "club". To say nothing of the media visuals exposing the country club recovery center where Cook has sought treatment. The continuous dribble of calculated and evasive written statements, with no public appearance by Bishops Sutton or Schori on-camera to make even the simplest pastoral gesture that could give the Church's response a dose of humble humanity, is inexcusable. In this age of digital animation, written statements don't cut it. I am slowly, and unfortunately, beginning to side with Katharine's critics who blast her administration for their impulsive, legalistic response strategy to just about everything. This is one glaring example where their years in the bunker justifiably fighting off the schismatics has turned on themselves. Get with the program!

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Brian Taylor
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Brian Taylor

Bishop Sutton's letter disturbed me, too. This was not the time or place to publicly reveal his own emotional process, especially self-absolution.

It is important to note the difference between guilt and shame. Shame is when we condemn ourselves as a person, and I would not wish that on anyone.

But there is such a thing as healthy guilt. Perhaps if Bishop Sutton had accepted his guilt for being an active participant in an enabling situation that had a tragic outcome, he would have said something like "I bear some responsibility for this death, and will have to find a way to live with my guilt about that." But I suspect his chancellor would have censored that.

As a Jewish friend of mine says - "You Christians are too quick to forgive guilt." We call it cheap grace. Living with justifiable guilt (not shame) for some time - perhaps years - can be the very thing that brings about clarity, understanding, and most importantly, the repentance that one's actions demand.

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David Johnson
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David Johnson

Brian...

Thank you for one of your typically very thoughtful comments.

David+

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Theodore William Johnson
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Theodore William Johnson

Gossip is that Bishop Sutton is on the short list to be nominated for election as Presiding Bishop.

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Nick Porter
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Nick Porter

I hope he's off that list now if that was the case before.

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Elizabeth Kaeton
Guest

This story is absolutely covered with the paw prints of the Holy Spirit. I mean, who else but God would use a defrocked priest as a vehicle of treatment and healing for an alcoholic bishop who committed a hit and run vehicular homicide?

This story is far from over, folks. The Book of Heather is still being written.

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FThermary
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FThermary

Thank you for being a voice of reason.

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Michael Cudney
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I too find the connection with Mark Hansen very troubling. It certainly calls into question other aspects of Bp. Cook's judgement.

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Nick Porter
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Nick Porter

No it doesn't. The main thing that should have called her judgement into question is that .27 DUI that the national church chose to overlook, not having a person who is traditional as a friend. Stop the bigotry please.

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Nick Porter
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Nick Porter

Geoff, using terms like heterosexist and making the baseless claim of "doublespeak" of which there is none, will never help your own personal cause and will only make the flames of real hatred that much hotter.

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Geoff McLarney
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Geoff McLarney

The doublespeak here is troubling. "A person who is traditional"? To be a Christian and a priest in a mainline, liturgical denomination is pretty traditional, so Episcopalians are not going to be giving anybody any flak for being "traditional." Based on the biographical data Hansen's case, "traditional" in this context is apparently a euphemism for heterosexist. Heterosexism is not an "orientation" and questioning someone's judgment because of it is not a form of "bigotry," cutesy attempts by antigay folks to reappropriate language of tolerance to contrary.

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Bruce Bevans
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Bruce Bevans

Nick, thank you. I've been getting the not so subtle hint that being a traditional Christian, a conservative Episcopalian, is as equally bad as leaving the scene of a fatal accident while driving drunk, very drunk, at .22. Really? I am offended by people who throw around the homophobe moniker indiscriminately and apparently wish that all conservatives would just fade away so that they would be justified in also calling them schismatics. Harrumph!

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meg fairfax
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meg fairfax

There are so many things that bother me about this whole thing:

* Hansen has been revealed as a homophobe, and this certainly goes against the Church's teachings. Isn't it a bit odd that her "steady companion" is someone who's been thrown out of the church where she's a top leader?
* Bishop Sutton's letter is terrible. How is it possible that her colleagues didn't know she was still drinking. Everyone seems to be distancing themselves from her, and saying it's not their fault. His choice of words could not have been worse.
The accident took place across from a good friend's house and another friend drove by just minutes after it happened. They are shaken to the core.

This is a road on which I travel routinely. It shouldn't have happened. It didn't need to happen. The more that is revealed about this whole incident, the worse it becomes.

We pray for Tom Palermo's family and friends, and for the safety of the cyclists we know and love.

(Meg: we cannot post the information about the bail without a link to your source. Thanks, editor)

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meg fairfax
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meg fairfax

This is what I saw:
http://www.baltimorefishbowl.com/stories/heather-cook-released-jail/

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Editor
Andrew Gerns

Both the Fishbowl, and the story in the Baltimore Sun to which it points, say that the check came from the director of the trust not from the trust itself. Second, the Sun story to which the Fishbowl points says nothing about the reporter "getting his hands" (as the Fishbowl says) on the check itself, but rather the Sun reporter got his facts came from the bailbondsman.

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Nick Porter
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Nick Porter

"Against church teachings"

In what way? Does anyone know the reason why he was defrocked in the first place?

http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/maryland/crime/blog/bs-md-ci-bishop-cook-posts-bail-20150115-story.html

He took an unauthorized sabbatical and they went about attempting to obtain DEPO status the wrong way. There are quite a few parishes in TEC that have DEPO status. He was not (NOR SHOULD ANYONE BE) defrocked because of his traditional views on sexuality. There's a process for everything and they didn't go through with it correctly. I don't think people understand how TEC works. We allow women ordination as well as non-celibate LGBTs but there is NO rule saying that a parish has to call them. I don't think people understand that.

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Nick Porter
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Nick Porter

I guess it just depends on the parish or diocese. I don't think Maryland would never elect another female again, they might. But what I said in my previous post, I don't think some people in TEC understand how it works, nor some of the people who left TEC. Even in dioceses, bishops aren't compelled to ordain someone they feel shouldn't be,and they could use whatever reasoning they want.

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Ann Fontaine
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Ann Fontaine

Something I have observed: men can be bozos as clergy but no one ever considers never calling another man, but one woman or LGBT person messes up and that is the end of calling either.

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James Wolfe
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James Wolfe

Bishop Sutton is looking for someone to tell him he is not responsible. Terrible letter seeking media absolution. Is it now the position of the church that Bishop's can just live with somebody if they feel like it ? No wonder we are in such a state of affairs.

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John Chilton
Editor
John Chilton

All right, I will ask it. Did anyone ask nominee Cook what she would do if a clergy person refused to recognize the authority of the diocesan? And was she forthcoming that her companion such a person? (Sort of in personal statement as a nominee) http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/14/nyregion/14episcopal.html?_r=1&

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Theodore William Johnson
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Theodore William Johnson

John, I believe that Mark Hansen can function as Lay Pastoral Leader of a congregation only by license from the Bishop. In this case that would have been the Right Reverend James "Bud" Shand, Tenth Bishop of Easton, who retired on July 1, 2014, or currently the Right Reverend Henry Parsley, Provisional Bishop of Easton. Did either or both of these Bishops consider the consequences for them of Mark Hansen's ecclesiastical history when granting the license?

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Helen Kromm
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Helen Kromm

Apparently, and at that time, Bishop Heather Cook was Canon of the Ordinary for the Diocese of Easton. She is in fact still listed in that capacity on the Diocese website.

http://dioceseofeaston.org/clergy/

Unless I'm mistaken, she had to be involved in this decision. In fact this may have been her decision.

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Jay Croft
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Jay Croft

Very probably, Bishop Parsley simply continued whatever arrangements were in place throughout the Diocese of Easton, when he became their Provisional Bishop.

I was privileged to serve him in the Diocese of Alabama, beginning two days after his consecration, until he retired. He is a good, and godly, man.

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Connie Clark
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Connie Clark

Thank you, John. Good questions.

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Columba Gilliss
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Columba Gilliss

I do not know Heather well and may not have met the friend who posted bail but I am glad he did and hope she is back at Ashley. I continue to be deeply grateful for the 28 days I spent there over 21 years ago and awareness I gained there that alcoholism is a chronic condition. It would take so little for me to find myself in the same situation as Heather. I pray for Heather and all who are helping her.

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Matthew Burt
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Matthew Burt

Bishop Sutton's statement concerns me, frankly. In stating somebody told him "You are not responsible for [this incident]; Heather Cook is. It’s not your fault" I feel he's taking a pass on whether it was appropriate for the electing convention to take place in ignorance of her recent criminal acts. This article says he personally was aware of them. Does that mean he supported the decision to elect her without understanding her recent criminal history? While I'm not a member of that diocese, were I a standing committee member of my dioceses voting to consent to Bishop Cook's election, I would be furious if this had been withheld.

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Connie Clark
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Connie Clark

I am pained that Bp. Sutton published his pastoral letter. It is obvious he is suffering and stressed, as who wouldn't be, but the letter comes across as self-justifying and a little bit weird, especially the "Lord, it's not your fault" thing.

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Nick Porter
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Nick Porter

Cook shouldn't even received a price for bail to begin with. I guess they put it that high because they figured she wouldn't be able to pay it. I assume they are kicking themselves in the foot now.

"Lord, it's not your fault"

Why on earth would Sutton even think it was Jesus' fault anyway?

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Connie Clark
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Connie Clark

I have been wondering the same thing about Bp. Sutton's words to the Lord. Truly puzzling.

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Nick Porter
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Nick Porter

I'm sorry Sunny, but this whole "pastoral letter" seems self-serving and "self-absolving".

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Sunny Gardner
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Sunny Gardner

The experience of alcoholic codependency is fraught with paradoxical truths and confusing falsehoods. It is a disease. There comes a point in our acceptance of God's truth when we, the fellow sufferers, may have to turn to the Lord and say, "I know this was not your divine fault.". It is a profound acceptance that it was not our
own fault. People who have not suffered this way may not understand.

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