The Baltimore Brew has fleshed out some of the details behind the timeline first published by the Diocese of Maryland yesterday concerning the election and subsequent actions of Bishop Heather Cook. Cook has been indicted on charges including vehicular homicide and others in the death of Thomas Palermo in December. The timeline included the report that Bishop Sutton had suspected at a dinner held two days before the consecration service that then Bishop-elect Cook was inebriated. He conveyed his concerns to the Presiding Bishop the next day. The Brew quotes diocesan spokeswoman, Sharon Tillman.
“It was a private dinner at a restaurant on September 4″ in Baltimore, Sharon Tillman, the diocesan spokeswoman, told The Brew today. “It was a spouses kind of thing.”
In attendance, Tillman said, were Sutton and his wife; Katharine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the national Episcopal Church, and her husband; and Heather Cook and her “steady companion,” defrocked Episcopal priest Mark Hansen.
The timeline has been updated since it originally appeared on the diocesan website yesterday to clarify the sequence of events between the dinner and the consecration service.
September: Bishop Sutton suspects that Cook is inebriated during
pre-consecrationa private dinner two days before the consecration and conveys concern to Presiding Bishop before rehearsal the next morning, one day before the consecration. Presiding Bishop indicates she will discuss with Cook. Cook consecrated a bishop.
The Brew characterizes the timeline as
an opportunity to rephrase and reframe a much-criticized earlier statement about the December 27 crash that killed Palermo and left Cook facing multiple charges, including manslaughter, drunk driving and leaving the scene of a fatal accident.
But their report also alleges discrepancies between the timeline published and comments made by Bishop Sutton at a meeting at Holy Comforter Church in Lutherville on January 15.
In response to questions from the audience, Sutton said he had no indication that Cook had a drinking problem. Asked specifically if he had knowledge prior to December 27 that Cook was an alcoholic, Sutton said, “The reality is that we had zero indication.”
Pressed some more, he said, “Was she an alcoholic? In the process that was never said to us, although questions were asked.”
Asked again if he had personal knowledge of her drinking problem, Sutton said, “I had no evidence,” explaining that Cook’s 2010 DUI was handled by the Easton Diocese, where she then served as canon ordinary to Bishop James J. “Bud” Shand.
Based on a conversation Sutton said he had with Shand and others, “What we were informed was that there was no problem. . . No indication that she was alcoholic. That this [the DUI] was a one-time event.”
Sutton never brought up the September 4 dinner with Cook, or his suspicions of her inebriation, at the Lutherville church meeting.
The details of any conversation that Presiding Bishop Jefferts Schori’s might have had with Cook are unknown. Jefferts Schori told the paper through a spokesperson that
it would “not be appropriate” to comment on the Maryland diocese’s timeline pending completion of the church’s Title IV disciplinary investigation of Cook.
The section of the diocesan website dedicated to news about the Cook case includes details of the fund set up to benefit Palermo’s children, and prayers for use in times of conflict, for victims of addiction, for those who mourn Tom Palermo, and for Heather Cook.
Posted by Rosalind Hughes