¡Pobre de mi!

Clerical narcissism is the bane of many, perhaps all churches. It was a major factor in the sexal abuse crisis in the Catholic Church, and Episcopalians are not immune. He Baltimore Brew reports:

With Bishop Heather Cook in a Baltimore jail cell on charges of manslaughter, drunk driving and leaving the scene of an accident, the man who presided during her hiring says he didn’t realize how burdened he was by the incident until “a bishop colleague” spoke with him.

Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton – Cook’s Episcopal Diocese of Maryland boss, who has acknowledged diocesan officials knew about Cook’s 2010 drunk driving and drug arrest but did not disclose it to the people who elected her – recounted the colleague’s words of solace in a “pastoral letter” published today.

“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,” the colleague said, according to Sutton’s account.

“I want to tell you that the Diocese of Maryland is not responsible for the terrible accident that killed that bicyclist,” the colleague said, according to Sutton’s letter. “You are not responsible for that; Heather Cook is. It’s not your fault.”

Sutton goes on to say the colleague’s words prompted him to “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,” Sutton wrote in a letter posted on his Facebook page as well as on the website of Episcopal Diocese of Maryland.

But the areas where Sutton addresses his personal feelings of culpability – and seemingly absolves himself – are also striking.

“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,” he writes.

“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,’” he recounts.

Well, no, the death of Tony Palermo is not God’s fault, although the question of theodicy is the most difficult matter in Christianity, as Pope Benedict admitted once in an interview.

ButSutton is quick to absolve himself and the diocese of any responsibility.

Commentators on Baltimore Brew site were spot on:

The Diocese knew of Cook’s alcohol, and drug, abuse. Yet the church saw her fit to be placed in a position of power. They promoted her (but did not disclose it to the people who elected her) to the second highest position in the church in Maryland. They did this even with her recent horrible choices. In the world of us alcoholics, four years is very recent. The church chose to say marijuana and a .27 BAC wasn’t a huge deal. They chose to say being so drunk that you’re driving with a shredded tired and covered in your own vomit isn’t a big deal. They chose to call this a lapse in judgment. They saw no problems with her as being a leader of Christians. Was she the best choice the Episcopal Church could come up with. How did she make it to the final four? Was the church trying to fill a spot with a politically correct choice? And now, finally, they are going to review that process that allowed her to keep her background private. During the election process she was encouraged to self disclose but chose not to.

Another is more direct but also spot on:

The Bishop’s Super-sized crosier says it all. Bigger than the Pope’s staff!

No wonder with this culture of the High and Mighty, Bishop Cook lost her basic Christian values and compassion, as well as what is right and wrong!

This cult mentality of supreme power and elitism has nothing to do with the teachings of Jesus.

Exodus 32.4 all over again with the Pagan imagery going to their heads and good judgment going out the golden temple door.

No wonder the High Priestess has a skewed vision of right and wrong.

And another give the bishop some good advice:

Mr. Sutton, there is a reason why you have “internalized the weight of responsibility for the tragedy, the sense of shame, and the desperate need to make it all better”. You are not responsible for this murder, but your actions in hiding and ignoring Cook’s problems did play a part in causing it. What you are feeling is called a conscience. What you do about it will show who you are as a man. Hiding behind god and your position is not the answer.

I do not know Sutton’s involvement in the appointment of Cook, but many people were complicit and were enablers. Also, I doubt that the day of the accident was the first day since 2010 that Cook was blind drunk. Had no one in the diocese noticed her drinking problem? The precise legal liability of the diocese will probably be tested in court, but their moral responsibility in choosing an irresponsible alcoholic for a position of church leadership, an action which gave her the sense of invulnerability from consequences of her actions, is clear.


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