Reactions to the death of Tom Palermo continue throughout the Baltimore community and the Episcopal Church. In today’s Baltimore Sun, Dan Rodricks cites an unusual amount of transparent communication under the leadership of Bishop Eugene Sutton in the Diocese of Maryland as the diocese reaches out to the Palermo family and responds to grief, outrage, and despair in the church:
“All candidates have warts,” Bishop Eugene Sutton, the head of the diocese, told a Baltimore Sun reporter. “Everybody deserves a second chance. When the church ceases to give second chances, when the church ceases to show compassion, we cease to be the church.”
All of this public “Agony in the Garden” has occurred under Sutton’s leadership.
I emphasize it because it’s highly unusual for any organization, secular or nonsecular, to release information about officials or employees who might face criminal charges. The diocese has been way ahead of law enforcement in telling the story of Palermo’s death. You can take a dark or skeptical view of it, but this kind of transparency is rare.
More than others, religious leaders might feel particularly compelled to open up about the involvement of one of their own in a tragedy such as this. But public confession and contrition are hardly the hallmarks of large churches implicated in scandal and crime. In fact, coverup and silence are usually the rule.
We have seen something quite different from Sutton in this episode involving Cook, including savvy awareness that it’s nearly impossible to keep secrets anymore, especially in Smalltimore.
Over at Baltimore Brew, there’s this op-ed, dated January 5, critical of the justice system. The author is a public defender. Excerpts:
My reaction focuses on justice. Equal Justice.
Palermo died 10 days ago and still no charges have been filed by the State’s Attorney’s Office against the driver of the vehicle that hit him. Why? Based on my experience as an attorney in the Public Defender’s Office for 10 years, I believe one key factor is at work.
Heather Elizabeth Cook, who drove into Palermo and fled as he lay dying, is a member of the upper tier of Baltimore’s socioeconomic ladder as the Bishop Suffragan of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland.
If one of my clients, who are mostly African-American men, hit Palermo, charges would have been immediately filed against them. This would have been done at the scene by police without a formal arrest – or at the jail if the police took them in and prosecutors looked at the (still publicly unreleased) police report about the incident.
Posted by Weston Matthews