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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

The bishop and the cyclist

 I must say that Monday morning's news provided a very rude awakening.

The Bishop Suffragan of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, one Heather Cook, was said to have been the driver of the car which killed a bicyclist in the Roland Park section of Baltimore, MD on Saturday afternoon.

The deceased man, Tom Palermo, a 41 year old married father of two young children, was an avid cyclist, apparently out for a mid afternoon 'recreational ride'.

Apparently, the bishop left the scene of the accident - some say for 20 minutes, others say 45 minutes - but did return to "take responsibility for her actions."

Some reports say her car was weaving in traffic before she hit the cyclist. Other reports say she was texting. Still other reports say that the only reason she returned to the accident was because several other cyclists followed her to her home.

In 2010, while working as a priest for the Bishop of Easton, MD, Bishop Cook was charged with a DUI, her Breathalyzer test was .27 (legal limit in Maryland is .08) and she had drug paraphernalia in the car. She received "probation before judgment," went to rehab and eventually returned to work.

She was vigorously and fully vetted by the Diocese of Maryland before she was elected. 

Thus far, there is absolutely no reported evidence of alcohol or drug use by the bishop in this fatality.

Let me say that again: Thus far, there is absolutely no reported evidence of alcohol or drug use by the bishop in this fatality. There may be evidence to the contrary, but so far, nothing has been reported. The investigation is on-going, including blood analysis and computer generated reconstruction of the accident.

I say that because as stunning as this news story is, I have been absolutely sickened by the comments left on social media sites. By Episcopalians. Who are Christian.  Laity and ordained.

The conjecture and supposition, presumption and assumption - not to mention abundant evidence of very active imaginations - have been second only to the mean-spirit in which they are written.

It also doesn't help that the picture of Bishop Cook that is making its way around the internet is the one at her consecration, where she is at the altar in front of many carafes of wine.

Le sigh. 

Years ago, a woman in recovery and I were discussing sexism in the church and she said, "Honey, I have no doubt that you've had a rough time as a woman in this church, but you haven't seen the ugly side of sexism and misogyny until you've seen how women who are alcoholic are treated - even in 12-Step Programs. Men who are drunks are seen as pathetic people who need shelter and some help. Women who are drunks are disgusting, are shown no mercy and sent to jail."

I've thought of that conversation often as I've read headlines which scream things like, "First Woman Bishop Kills Doting Father of Two." And, "Bishop with previous DUI kills Cyclist."

Misogyny coupled with anti-clericalism is a pretty ugly sight to behold, no matter how subtle.

It's been simply awful. All of it. All.Of.It.

So, let us be very clear here:

Leaving the scene of an accident is a felony. 

Period. 

Whatever else she did or didn't do, she has admitted to leaving the scene of an accident. Doesn't matter that she returned. She left. She is already a felon awaiting conviction. 

Whether or not she will also be charged and convicted with vehicular homicide (pending the results of the investigation), she was directly involved with the death of a young man with young children. 

Nothing changes that. 

She will have to live with that fact for the rest of her life. If your imagination needs some exercise, try to imagine that for yourself.

The record reflects that, since her ordination in 1987, she has been a good priest with lots of skills and talents, creativity and imagination - good enough to be elected as Bishop Suffragan despite being thoroughly and vigorously vetted by the diocese.

I can't imagine the personal, spiritual and psychological hell she (and her family) must be going through, knowing that her actions resulted in the death of another human being (My God!), knowing she's probably going to go to jail (Sweet Jesus!), will probably be asked to resign as bishop and just may, in fact, lose her orders (Come, Holy Spirit!).

I also can't imagine the unbearable grief the deceased man's family must be feeling. I hope and pray they are getting the spiritual, emotional and psychological support they need at this time. 

My prayers are with the Palermo family - including a wife and two children - as well as prayers for compassion for Bishop Cook, which must be provided side by side with accountability and forgiveness. 


Now - right now, in these dark days - is time for the community to gather and rally and provide help and support for both of these families, for whom - in the twinkling of an eye and the gentle beat of the human heart - life was changed and transformed and will never again be the same. 

It's just so tragic, on so many levels, for so many people. 

No one comes out a winner in these situations.

So, why the mean-spirit and conjecture and 'trial by media'?

 I don't get it.

Not for Christians. 

Not for Episcopalians.

What a huge test of our baptismal promises - especially "striving for justice AND peace among ALL people" and "respecting the dignity of EVERY human being" - which includes the deceased and the bishop. 


Suddenly, those promises don't sound quite so rote or simple, do they?

And, the Anglican Via Media (Middle Way) seems a dangerous place to be, doesn't it? There you are, right out there in the middle of the road.  Neither left nor right, passenger or passing, nor in the cyclist lane. Nope. Right smack in the middle.

In the days and weeks ahead, as evidence is examined and the slow, creaking wheels of the justice system work their way to find The Truth and judgement is rendered, let us strive to keep in mind our baptismal vows. 

Because, the truth is, it is for times such as these that they were written.

117 comments:

Rosie Castelli said...

This is about the BEST analysis I've read. Thank you, Mother Elizabeth. Your point that Bishop Cook AND her family will have to live with this image in their hearts and minds the rest of their lives, is one that is easily forgotten in events like this. A man is dead and other lives have been impacted forever. The possible penalties facing her - - loss of orders, prison time, etc - - - will be excruciating for her, her family, her parishioners who put such trust in her. No one can lay easy with the number of lives effected by this. Thank you for bringing out all the points in an objective way.

JCF said...

ITA, Elizabeth. Look at what I just saw @ Episcopal Cafe:


Someone posted
"Can we please also pray for +Heather Cook and her family who are also grieving."

To which came the reply
"No, let’s save our prayers for the dead man’s family, not some scumbag."

[The above response from someone calling himself "Joseph Blow" (Joe Blow?), so just may be your Bog-Standard Internet Troll]

I can't help noticing the "piling on" that's been going on here, too, re TEC. That this tragic (yes, criminal) incident represents Something Ominously/Pathologically/Heretically Larger re the Episcopal Church. For God's sake, one Episcopal bishop's hit&run is NOT child sexual abuse by RC clergy! It is NOT endemic or even stereotypical.

I pray for ALL, esp the Palermos, and let the criminal process play out As It Will...

Happ(ier) New Year.

RomeLover said...

Thank you, Elizabeth.

Shelley B. Kesselman said...

AMEN!!! Thank you for these words, Elizabeth. There is so much we can all learn from this tragic situation, but I don't see how we can do that if we are jumping to conclusions and slinging mud.

Maureen said...

Thank you for these wise and necessary words. Living into our baptismal promises is hard at the best of times but needed during the worst of times. My prayers are with all in this dreadful situation. Let justice be done, may the Palermo and the Cook family find peace.

Anonymous said...

We are all so very good at complaining about one another. Any reasonable person would have asked the obvious questions. I hope it turns out that it was an accident, perhaps caused by a sudden status change of the victim. I would like to think that the Bishop was being careful, watching her speed, not abusing drugs (including alcohol a drug). My husband died suddenly at veered off the road. These things happen. Until the autopsy report comes back and all the investigation is complete we will all have to suspend judgement. In the meantime, as you say, there is a tragedy and a great loss to two families and a lot of Episcopalians are hurting to hear about it.

RFSJ said...

Thank you, for all of this.

RFSJ

RFSJ said...

Thank you, for all of this.

Michael Russell said...

Dear Elizabeth,

With the deaceased's family sitting in grief I do not understand what prevents her from saying publicly:
I did it.
I will save the community the expense of a trial and the family the further trauma of a trial. I will instruct my attorneys to negotiate a plea that reflects the severity of my actions and the seriousness of a death. I will further instruct them to negotiate a financial settlement with the family.
I will save the church the trauma of removing me and resign.

Or she can say: I didn't do it.

Now it may be that her silence is because her lawyers are doing just that. But after 4 days she could say that too.

But silence leaves people and media nothing. And nothing produces speculation.

She has all the power in her hands to end the trauma for everyone including her. Then grieving can happen.

Mollie Williams said...

Elizabeth, thank you so much for these reflections. There is no need to say more at this time. We pray for everyone involved, and we wait. Mollie Williams

Brother David said...

Prayers for the Palermo family, for +Heather and her family.

I read a post by a woman who said that she was a bicyclist who followed the bishop’s car to a gated community. She however said the bishop drove in, then drove back to the scene of the accident. She made no judgement calls, just simply reported the facts. But yes, the other comments were over the top in judgement.

I hope you don’t mind, I noticed on the Episcopal Cafe this website for a college fund for the Palermo children;
http://www.youcaring.com/tuition-fundraiser/children-of-tom-palermo/283939

As someone who has lived in Dallas twice now, the photo of the bishop at the altar looks to be a slew of carafes of iced tea!

Sister Pat said...

Thank you so much for this.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Michael - Honestly? The accident happened less than a week ago. I'm sure she and her entire family are in shock. The diocesan chancellor and bishop and her own lawyer are advising her. There is still time. Why do you assume she won't say, "I did it?" How do you know she won't resign her orders.

I'm glad you're a stand up kinda guy. I'm glad you'd know exactly what you'd do after this kind of trauma. But to judge her because she hasn't YET done what you think is right .... well ... it disappoints me. That's all.

Good thing your job is not to live up to my expectations, right?

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks for your comment, Anonymous. Next time, please leave your name.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thank you all for your kindness. I think we're all disgusted with the negativity and this piece struck a cord. Thanks for keeping everyone involved in this tragedy in your prayers. And, contributing to the college fund for the Palermo kids is a great idea. Thanks for posting that link.

Eric Funston said...

Thank you, Elizabeth. It all needed to be said and you said it beautifully. (I'm proud to call you a friend and fellow presbyter.)

SCG said...

I agree with you, Elizabeth. This story has been personally hard for me because one of my best friends recently experienced the death of her brother-in-law who was out for a recreational ride and was hit by a guy in a pick up truck who was texting at 60 mph. The difference is that he stayed with Paul, who was dead on impact. Leaving the scene, for no matter how long, is regrettable.
I am praying for +Heather, those close to her, and the diocese. She will face consequences for her actions, and her life has been altered in a tragic way. The Palermo family also needs prayers because they've lost a son, husband, father. The whole thing is awful. And perhaps the lesson for all of us: we need to be aware of those around us and be responsible... especially if we're driving.

Michael Russell said...

My principal pastoral concern is the Palermo family. How might 4 days seem to them? How it is for Bp Cook is ancillary. I am sure she is devastated. One the other hand she is not sitting in a jail cell while the investigation goes forward. It can take six months to get to an indictment in the Baltimore area (quick survey of stats) should the family have to wait that long?

A totally unvarnished admission by Bp Cook would surely make waiting on the justice system a bit easier to bear.

A man is dead, father and husband, what other concern is there than caring for the family's?

Martie Collins said...

Thank you for being a voice of reason and kindness.

Mother POS said...

Thank you so much. Prayer is the only talking I'm doing. Trying to be compassionate for all parties concerned; we all can do both. Peace.

Mark Cyr said...

Well said Elizabeth. Thank you.
Mark

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Michael, and my pastoral concern is with everyone touched by this horrible accident. I don't think the time it takes to apologize is what's important. It's that an apology is given. You are not owed an apology. I am not owed an apology. It's really no one's business but that of the bishop and the Palermo family.

RaeLee Baxter said...

Michael, the trauma has already happened, nothing and I mean nothing can ever fix that or take it away. They are grieving and will continue to do so and in some ways for the rest of their lives because they must live their lives without him. What she does or doesn't do will not ever change that. Nothing will ever make it better.

Anonymous said...

I'm a recovering alcoholic (over 24 years) who knows that but for the Grace of God I could have been the Bishop on a number of occasions. I was fortunate to find AA before I had an accident or arrest. I serve my parish in a number of positions. I'm not a saint, that's for sure.

I'm sure people would appreciate "an apology right now", but anyone with common sense would say nothing before seeing an attorney, priest, and other appropriate advisor. I would hope that wouldn't be in an effort to avoid whatever responsibility there might be, but to be sure that others are helped and/or protected, including both families. I'm sure that the "immediate apology (and confession)" has been and is being made to God, both by the Bishop and many others whom she knows and loves.

Sue Haseltine said...

Our standing orders includes: "Judge not, less ye be judged." When did this change? My Bibles in several versions all say this about judging the actions of another. Prayers for the best outcome of all involved.

Kim Kremer said...

I am a cyclist, an Episcopalian, and a woman. I lost a family member to a violent crime. I prosecute crimes. I tell you these things because they are the lens through which I view this story.

As a cyclist, knowing how I am at the mercy of the vehicles around me, I want Mr. Palermo's death vindicated. As an Episcopalian, I know I am called to love Bishop Cook as much as I am called to love Mr. Palermo. As a woman, I know how painful it is to be on the receiving end of misogynistic attacks. As a prosecutor, I know that our legal process cannot make victims or their families whole. As the widow of a murder victim, I know that forgiving the perpetrator prevented him from destroying me, too.

I also know how many close calls I've had when I didn't see a cyclist or a motorcyclist - my fault, not theirs - when I was operating a motor vehicle, and we both got lucky. I know I've struck a parked car and had the immediate urge to flee because I was sure no one saw it.

This story makes me sad for all involved, including those people making angry, hateful comments on the internet. The thing I cling to is that God is still in the midst of all this, whether we can see that presence right now or not.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Anonymous, I certainly understand and honor your need for anonymity. Normally I don't publish anonymous posts (to the two I didn't publish, please understand) but I thought your perspective was one we all needed to hear.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Kim - I am profoundly grateful for your post here. Yours is precisely the spirit I most hope to emulate. You have so many reasons to hate and say mean spirited things. And yet, your post is filled with integrity and honesty and pain as well as enormous generosity of spirit.

Thank you. Thank you for modeling the living out of our Baptismal vows which, if we really understood what we were promising, I'm thinking lots of us would cross our fingers while saying them.

Jim said...

Rev. Elizabeth,

As you know from my post on the caucus website, I too am stunned and yes, hurt by the incredible judgemental crud being posted. The myopic misogynism that seeks to condemn the bishop while oozing slimy concern for the deceased and his family disgusts me.

FWIW

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thanks again to all of you who have been generous in spirit while still being honest and transparent in revealing your feelings.

Let us continue to keep prayerful vigil until the Truth is discerned, the full story can be told, and justice served. May we continue to find compassion in our hearts even as we strive for accountability

Kim Kremer said...

Thank you for your kind words. I aspire to live out the words I say; but the most important part of those vows is "With God's help, I will." Both God and I know how frequently I fall short.

John said...

This piece goes straight to the point. What we know are facts -- and only facts -- which at this point are (1) a cyclist was killed and (2) the driver left the scene for a period of time, to return at a later point in time. Anything else is pure speculation and serves no public good to anyone. What is needed is prayer for all concerned -- the victim and his family, the driver and her family. And even those who trash-mouth the driver -- perhaps they are most in need since their anger is so blind.

Ron Reed said...

I so appreciate the excellent conversation you have helped facilitate. My personal interest is more about the process that brought Bishop Cook to be elected under, what I am told, was the withholding of the facts of her prior legal difficulties. I am told by a clergy member in good standing in the Dio. of Maryland that the electing convention was not aware of any prior probationary sentence and so on. If that is in fact the case, there are other issues involved here about the withholding of public but not well known facts. What was that about?

Harriet Hutchins said...

Thank you for posting this. I appreciate knowing the facts and having them posted in such a kINd and caring manor. GODS PEACE

Benbow Cheesman said...

I'm a priest and retired assistant district attorney. The time for saying "I did it" is after negotiations with the prosecutor and in front of the court. Until then, any competent attorney will have advised her to stay silent. Don't criticize her for taking that sound advice.

Barbara H said...

I agree that we should have compassion for the bishop, absolutely. However, I think your post is lacking compassion for episcopalians who are deeply saddened and disappointed by her actions. Your admonishment of the laity for expressing anger at a church leader did not sit well with me, I'm sorry. It's natural that you identify with her so I'm sure it's very difficult to hear those opinions.
Just as you believe it's early days for her to publicly apologize, perhaps it's early days for people to have sorted through their feelings of disappointment and anger. Again, I do agree with you but I also didn't see any understanding of why people might be so angry - except misogyny which may be part of the reaction but not all of it. I pray we continue to strive for forgiveness but have understanding for those who are struggling.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

To the ten (yup, 10!!!) people who wrote perfectly hateful things and then didn't have either the courage or integrity to sign your name: May God have mercy on your souls.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Ron - I don't know much of the data about the circumstances surrounding either the accident or her election, but I will say these two things:

1. I don't think it is wise to even inadvertently participate in the fueling of rumors. Yes, I have heard the same "report" which has been repeated not by said "priest in good standing" but by someone else to whom it has been said. I really wish said "priests in good standing" would have the integrity and courage to speak their own truth rather than using others to fuel their reports/rumors.

2. I have served on the Standing Committee of the Diocese of Newark, including one term as President. f the nominating committee and the Diocesan Standing Committee (an elected body which has canonical authority and responsibility in this matter) fully vetted her as a candidate and felt she was fully qualified, if elected, to be bishop suffragan, then there was no infraction of any canon law. Was it the "right" thing to do? I still don't know and can't say. At the very least, hindsight is always 20/20, isn't it?

I will also say that there are more priests than you know who were ordained before or after serious legal infractions, including one man in the Diocese of NJ who was ordained while in prison as he served time for the murder of his wife in their kitchen with a bow and arrow. That particular priest served several years as a chaplain in that prison and was then paroled. He is a priest in good standing today.

See also: Our five baptismal promises. They aren't for the faint of heart.

Pigtown*Design said...

I read this great comment on another site: What is certain is this was a terrible accident, but a true act of atonement would have been to call 911 then sit quietly at the roadside with this man - take his hand, cradle his head and put your life vocation into action and be with him when he took his last breath - Who better than a person of faith to help make that transition from here to the afterlife - Instead, she failed on every level - A hit and run by a member of the clergy is more than a dereliction of duty, it's a professional crisis of conscience.

Mary Grace Brosius said...

Thank you - and Kim Kremer - for expressing so eloquently my thoughts and feelings about this. I cannot imagine what any of the people/families involved can be going through.

Tragic? Absolutely
Reason to personally attack and vilify? NO

I commend Bishop Sutton's swift, clear, and pro-active response, as well. Gone are the days of trying to sweep anything under the rug.

[It's also nice to see familiar names on this blog - other ex-pats from the Diocese of Maryland.]

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Pigtown - Anyone who leaves the scene of an accident is a felon. Even the law recognizes the morality of the situation. I have no problem with anyone who holds a position of public trust being held to a higher standard.

My question is: If you are an Episcopalian, have you not read our baptismal covenant? What part of "every human being" and "peace and justice" do you not understand?

If you're not Episcopalian, then my question is: What would Jesus do with Bishop Cook?

Benbow Cheesman said...

Blow's soul is in greater peril than hers.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Barbara H - Lack of compassion? Cheap rhetorical shot. I tried to demonstrate compassion for all Episcopalians - I specifically mentioned laity and ordained - by staying with the facts as we, in this moment, know them.

You illustrate my point perfectly. Of course we are all saddened and sickened and angry and distraught, and worried and concerned. That's not the point. The point is, what do mature Christians do with all of those emotions, especially when our baptismal covenant calls us to "respect the dignity of EVERY human being"? What part of "EVERY" do you not understand?

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thank you, Mary Grace. I hope others will read your comment and consider it carefully. There is NO reason for a Christian to vilify anyone in this tragedy. Neither is it time for others to live up to our own personal standards. The time now is for prayer and reflecting on our baptismal covenant and waiting for the truth to be discerned and told.

ML+ said...

Thank you for your words. Bishop Cook has been my colleague, friend, and now bishop. You express what I am too sad and heartsick to say.

Scott Ehrlich said...

The back story to my comments is helpful On May 27th of 2014 I was bicycling and hit from the rear by a reckless driver, who sped away in his Mercedes leaving me for dead on the side of the road. He actually returned on the other side of the wide, quiet road (4 lanes) and sped away again. I was unconscious, but the witness saw everything. Hit and run drivers are motivated by self protection and survival instincts. Self-protection and survival are deep & powerful human characteristics. It runs deep through most of us. So, the Bishop's urge to flea is understandable, particularly if drugs or alcohol were involved. HOWEVER, there can be no excuse for shirking responsibility for what happened. I feel no sympathy for her or her family. How dare she deny the truth to the family of the person she killed? She's not entitled to an iota of sympathy -- until she stands tall, and tells the truth about what happened. Until then, she is an irresponsible and despicable woman.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Scott - I hear your pain which comes from your own horrific story. Let me first say that I'm glad you are here to be able to tell it.

I also want to say that you seem unaware of the legal ramifications of the case. Yes, unfortunately, these must also be carefully considered.

I have it on very good authority that the bishop and her ENTIRE family has been instructed NOT to reach out to the Palermo family, no matter how badly they wish so to do. I have no doubt that the Palermo family is in as much shock as the Bishop's family. Things said in a certain way can be heard differently than intended.

I pray for your continued recovery, body, mind and soul and that you may heal the bitterness and anger you continue to feel towards the person who ran you down and then drove away. I suggest you pick up the five promises of the baptismal covenant and meditate on those for a while. In my own life, when I have experienced the pain of betrayal and human failure, they have proven helpful and healing to me.

God's peace.

Keith Patterson said...

Thanks Elizabeth for your words on this sad turn of events. I am reminded that in situation like these (and I have seen and been part of many) that time was be taken before commentary is given. At this point more words about what was or might have been are more hurtful than helpful. We all should hold our tongues and think, "Do my comments stay true to the baptismal covenant?"

Hospice Guy said...

No situation, circumstance or experience is outside the realm of God's ability to heal or redeem, if we are only willing to allow it. The loving God of my understanding is equally present, everywhere, always.

Kristen Vanneman-Gooding said...

I appreciate the comments that are being shared and Elizabeth, I also appreciate your reflections on forgiveness and grace in this situation.

However, I know the Palermo family. We are friends with Tom and Rachel and my daughter has played with their daughter, Sadie; they also live in our neighborhood. They are kind and generous people. Tom was quick to smile and was the love of Rachel's life. He recently attended the father-daughter dance at Sadie's school. His son, Sam, is only 3; he will barely remember his father.

What happened to Tom cannot be undone, that is true. As an Episcopalian, I know the liturgy forwards and backwards. I pray, not as often as I should, but most frequently I pray in times of crisis and grief, like most of us. I have prayed for Tom, Rachel, and their whole family.

I hope that Bishop Cook prayed for them, too. I hope that she prays for them daily. However, I am struggling with a church that installs a bishop that is capable of what she has done. I'm not even referring to the accident itself. Clearly, Bp Cook never intended to kill Tom. I'm sure that we can agree on that.

But my expectation of clergy is that they are held to a higher standard and should rise to that expectation. I believe that my rector, should he witness an accident where a man lies dying on the ground, would pull over to the side of the road and pray and offer comfort to the wounded. The fact that Bp Cook did not do that is incomprehensible. Do I believe that she's beyond forgiveness? No, but I believe that she let the church down this past week when she hit and man and then abandoned him. I know that there is forgiveness for her, as there is for all of us. There's comfort in that somewhere, but it's hard for me to find right now.

GraceCan said...

Thank you for this post, Elizabeth.As always, it is wise and compassionate and calls us back to our better selves. I must confess that some of my thoughts and comments over the past few days have been less than charitable, and I have felt angry and, yes, betrayed by a situation that is being seen by some as an indictment against women clergy.
But my overriding feeling is one of great sadness. This is, above all, a tragedy for all involved: the Palermo family, the Bishop and the church. May God have mercy.

Grace Cangialosi

Barbara H said...

Hmmmm, what part of EVERY do I not understand? I am praying for Bishop Cook but I also include those commenters under the heading of every human being.

I'm sorry if you felt I was taking a cheap rhetorical shot. You might want to go back and read the words you used to describe the comments and commenters. I truly hope you have compassion for them but i didn't see it in your post.

That was my point. They are also human beings. They are also struggling and in need of prayer. We can judge them or dismiss them but that's not really what we're called to do, is it?

La Tina's Blog on family, life, and love said...

Dear Elizabeth: Thank you for posting this and for engaging in meaningful, thoughtful, dialogue. I've tried to remember, when faced with the temptation to judge the actions of others, that we are not called to judge, we are called to love, pray, forgive, and leave judgment to The One.

I am reminded of an occasion many years ago, when I was a brand new vestry member, and one of our parishioners was convicted of a sex crime and sentenced to jail. At our vestry meeting following the news of the arrest, many were confused and silent, some asking "what do we do?" I was new so didn't feel comfortable speaking up, but I wanted to say, "What do we do? We pray! We pray for everyone involved in this tragedy, including the perpetrator and the victim. We pray for the family. We pray for our community. We pray for healing and comfort." For such is our duty as Christians.

Keith Voets said...

Thank you for this! As my heart has been breaking for the victim, his family and the Bishop I have also been heartbroken by the comments, especially the comments about addicts not being fit to lead. As a priest who has been sober for 12 years and generally thought the Episcopal Church was a safe place for me, I have begun to question that assumption.

If we force recovered addicts to disclose their past addiction problems in order to hold leadership positions in the church we will force far too many people back in to sobriety closet. When we can honestly claim that we see addiction as a disease and not a moral failing, only then will it be safe to be open about our struggles. Unfortunately, over these past few days I have seen too many comments begin "Now I know addiction is a disease but..."

I am in full agreement that the Bishop must be held accountable for her actions and should face both the legal and ecclesiastical consequences. I also agree that the vile and hateful war against her must stop. That is not Christian.

Any cleric who maintains that they have lived up to the trust put into them is a liar and any lay person who expects the cleric to be without fault is going be be let down.

In our sinful and broken humanness, healed by Jesus is where we find our compassion. Please start to look for it.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Kristin - I am deeply grateful for your painfully honest comment - and the maturity of your spirituality. Thank you. Know that you, also, are held in prayer.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Barbara H - I will not tolerate sanctimonious vilifying comments on my blog. My blog. My choice. Not that I don't understand that people are hurt and angry but that does not give them the right to hurt others with their angry comments.

I just deleted 10 more Anonymous comments which were filled with hate and judgement. It's not that I don't have compassion for these cowards. It's that I will not tolerate that kind of "anonymous bomb over the wall" on my blog.

And, to BJ and Margaret: while I appreciate your willingness to leave your names, I have this to say.

Margaret - While I'm glad you're "sure" of what Jesus would or wouldn't do, I don't think that's very helpful here, especially when you hide behind your own image of Jesus to cast your own judgments. Or, did you not think I'd notice?

BJ while I appreciate the pain and anger from which your outrage flows, I don't think what you have written is helpful at this point. We do not have all the facts. Not yet. So, save your sanctimonious outrage for when there's a charge, judgment and conviction. Now - right now - it would be helpful if you would consider your baptismal promises and try to act accordingly. I mean, as long as you're talking about "justice". Thank you.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Keith - thank you for your painful but very brave comments here. I am so grateful that there are Episcopalians like you in the church. I believe the fact that there have been so many people reading this blog post is directly due to the fact that we have all been sickened by the vilifying, negative comments we've all be reading. We've all been hungry for something of spiritual substance. Thank you for your contribution to feeding us with spiritual food and sustenance.

Lyn G. Brakeman said...

Dear Elizabeth, Thanks so much for your clarifying and pastoral reflections. I recall something that Stanley Hauerwas once said, "Some things are simply tragic." We jump quickly to polarities— like good/bad, right/wrong— moral/immoral, as if finding fault would create resolution, expose all truth, and make peace. God is the first to weep at such tragedies, and God is close to the broken-hearted all round.
All I can do is pray and trust that divine compassion will be sought and found in the responses to this tragedy for and from all concerned. Thanks again, Elizabeth.

Scoop said...

I too read this when it was first "news," and then haven't had time to read any comments. My prayers then and now remain with both families and friends, as well as the people of the Diocese of Maryland. I am deeply disappointed that my fears about what would be said were realized. You are absolutely right about the treatment of women in recovery. There is nothing that is accomplished and much that is harmful in reactions like some you catalogued ("scumbag") I continue to experience the same thing with people referring to those who have died at the hands of police as "thugs"-- including a classmate acquaintance of mine from high school who as a police officer vented his spleen on those who question the police in any way.

Nothing in this world is black and white. As Christians we are called to work for justice and peace but also mercy and compassion.

Tom Kiefaber said...

In the Washington Post, Baltimore Edition, in the Metro section, an article written by, Michelle Boorstein, states "an investigator with the traffic division told the family that the bishop was texting at the time of the crash”. The article goes on to state "There was no indication that alcohol or drugs were involved". The article quotes the slain cyclist's brother-in-law, Jeff Hulting: "Hulting said an investigator with the traffic division told the family that the bishop was texting at the time of the crash”. WTF? Why is the Washington Post reporting this information in a print edition re: a fatal accident on Roland Avenue, yet The Sunpaper & the rest of Baltimore’s selectively reserved local media is not? Why is that? http://www.wernerherzog.com/index.php?id=128

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I don't know, Tom. My question is: Why are you repeating information that has not been proven to be a fact - either that the bishop was texting or not texting or drinking or not drinking. Just because it appeared in print, in a newspaper, doesn't make it fact. Newspapers can - and often do - print retractions of all sorts of allegations, including "confessions" of murder and allegations of rape.

It's not a court of law. It's just rumor and inuendo at this point. Someone told someone that the investigating officer said . . . . . . . . .WTH????

What's the point? Are we really that crazed for information (vs. data and fact) that we will grab at straws, even if it inhibits the healing process so necessary at this point?

(The Rev.) Mary Beth Rivetti said...

Thank you for this blog.I'm writing to address particularly Keith Voets' comment about being afraid of disclosing recovery status. I, too, am a priest of 15 years with 28+ years sobriety. Maybe I've been in the wrong dioceses, but I've never felt a need to hide my recovery status from any search committee. It is on my background check, it is part of my medical record, and it's probably the first thing that people who have interviewed me for a potential call will learn about me. So if the Diocese of Maryland, which led the church years ago in raising awareness and establishing Employee Assistance Programs and a national church policy that protects alcoholics and addicts from discrimination, has an atmosphere that threatens those in recovery from being open about their status, that is tremendously sad.

I realize that the facts are not in yet regarding Bishop Cook's physical status. I suspect I'm one of the people that has been accused of jumping to conclusions about whether she has a problem with alcohol and other drugs. But if the diocesan politics are such that it's not ok to discuss it openly, if being an alcoholic becomes a moral issue and not a health issue, it feels like we've slipped back into some pre-Bill Wilson time warp. And yes, in other comments I have detailed some of my own worst pre-recovery behavior. As a culture we drink and drive; and some of us can't stop it until we are stopped. There but for the grace of God go I.

My prayers do not cease for all involved - for the Palermos, for Bishop Cook and her family, for Bishop Sutton and the diocese, and all who will be addressing this tragedy in the days and years to come.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thank you, Mary Beth, for your honesty in posting here. I think there are more clergy in recovery than most people know. I know that a substantial number of bishops in the HoB have their own 12 Step Group wherever they gather. Bishop Gene has been very honest and open about that. Of course. Not too many others have been. Unfortunately.

One of the reasons the DioMD may be so open to clergy in recovery may have a great deal to do with +Heather's father. He was also in recovery when he was rector of Old St. Paul's in Baltimore. He was an amazing man who helped an enormous amount of people.

Know that you are held in prayer.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I'm not publishing all of the comments I get here, even the ones with a "names" attached to them. Please read the "Comment Code of Conduct" in the upper right hand corner.

Please pay close attention to the part that says, "I will express myself with civility, courtesy and respect for eery member of this online community, especially toward those with whom I disagree - even if I feel disrespected by them."

I am especially distressed by one anonymous poster who claimed to be a member of the Palermo family. If you are not a family member, you are an exceptionally cruel monster. If you are, I understand that the pain you all must be in must be monstrous. I'm hoping you will, one day, be grateful for the fact that I didn't print your comment.

I am remembering the story about the time Tutu won the Nobel. There was an interview by Peter Jennings in which he asked the Bishop how he could remain so optimistic in a world going increasingly crazy. Tutu's response, as he raised his right arm in a fist and pumped the air: "Because I've read the book! And I know who wins in the end!"

Love always wins. I believe that. I trust that. I'm sorry that there are those of you who don't. If you don't, it's probably better to find a blog or social media site where you can find, I'm sure, lots of company.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nancee McPherson said...

Thank you for this post, Elizabeth. I am always grateful for your perspective on issues - compassionate, thoughtful, honest, loving.

Although there are many things I love about the Internet, there is a level of hate and judgement I wasn't aware of before. It renders me speechless sometimes.

I am an elder in my faith community of recovery. One of the things I've learned over the years is that I am capable of many things that surprise me, regardless of my standing on my community. Knowing and experiencing this has definitely increased my compassion. The other side of this is that I am responsible for my actions as you pointed out.

This is tragedy for all concerned that I can't even begin to understand. I pray for all involved. I ask to be helpful in whatever way I can. I process my "stuff" privately unless sharing it would be helpful, as many replies to this post have been.

I try not to spew on social media and don't tolerate hate on my pages, etc, a boundary I've learned to gently and firmly stand by, in part learned from you.

Thanks again for leading by example and to those who gave shared their pain on this thread.

Scott Hoogerhyde said...

Thank you, Elizabeth. As is often the case, your comments echo my own thoughts, except far more articulately. I'm praying for everyone involved in this awful situation.

8thday said...

Thank you for posting this. Although I only scanned the headlines on this particular case, I have been very dismayed by the trend in social media of people constantly blaming and shaming others.

I wonder if it is because people are now comfortable shaming others because they can do it cowardly from the safety of their computers rather than confronting others face to face. Or perhaps because people love to criticize in others what they dislike in themselves.

Whatever the psychology behind it, I can’t help but see the parallels between this and the Michael brown/Darren Wilson story (among others) - the need to instantly take sides often without any evidence except for media sound bites, the spinning of evidence to play to emotions, the viral photos either showing sinner or saint. The total lack of compassion that two lives have been irrevocably changed forever.

I am not Episcopalian. I no longer even consider myself a Christian. But I don’t get it either. Social media seems to have enabled and accelerated a mean-spiritedness that I find so sad and contrary for humanity. I have chosen to walk away from anyone participating in it.

Catherine Cheek said...

I love this blog entry. So many people are ready to condemn Bishop Cook. Many people will use this tragedy as an excuse to hate. And, sadly, some of them call themselves Episcopalians.

I try to put myself in Bishop Cook's shoes. I can imagine that her guilt is insurmountable. And to add fuel to the fire, people are quick to judge. We have no right to judge and point fingers. We may end up in a similar situation.

We weren't there when the tragedy occurred, so it isn't right for us to assume she was drunk or texting. She could have been tired. Bishops put in many work hours. She could have had some sudden health issue.

I feel sad about the death of Parlemo. It is tragic, and his family will be plagued with grief. And Bishop Cook's soul is in pain. Her guilt must be horrendous. This will affect her entire life, and judgemental, self-righteous jerks are going to make things worse.

As I stated on an Episcopalian social media page, let us pray for the Parlemo family and Bishop Cook and her family and her diocese. We call ourselves Episcopalian Christians. We should act like Episcopalian Christians. Leave the judgement to God. It isn't our place

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

I think the nasty comments on social media about this situation as well as the awful situation at GTS and EDS and the Presiding Bishop and LGBT people and women and alcoholics (a 'disease' or a character defect or moral deficiency) and whether or not the church vets their clergy for the office of the episcopacy or as priest or rector . . . and . . . and . . . are precisely why people aren't going to church any more.

Social media can be a force for great good. We've seen this over and over again. Unfortunately, it can also be used to do great damage. Thus far, it has not been used well in this particular tragedy.

GK said...

What a horrible situation for EVERYone. Beyond tragic.

"Let he (or she) who is without sin cast the first stone."

Please people, let GOD'S LOVE be first and foremost in our hearts. It HAS to be, for this horrid tragidy is indeed testing us .. and has the potential to tear us asunder.

They will KNOW we are Christians by our LOVE.

Amen

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Dear "Liz' formerly known as "Anonymous". I have deleted every single one of your seven comments. Give it a rest dear. You need it.

And, to the Lutheran from B'more - I'm delighted to learn that $43K was raised for a college fund for the Palermo children in a "Memorial Ride" in which over 1,000 participated. I understand that many Episcopal Clergy and Episcopalians were also in that event which was endorsed by the DioMD.

You make my point that social media can be used for good. The rest of your comment was just mean-spirited and proves my point that social media can also be used to do damage.

Kathy Schlecht said...

This is a terrible situation for everyone, and prayer for the Palermos, Cooks, Elizabeth Kaeton, and each reader and writer on this blog is crucial. I would suggest we might take a 24 hr break from discussion, and simply pray for each soul concerned with some basic heart questions...
Where is Gods mercy and love here? What has this touched off for ME...and what does the spirit say back when the ears of my heart are listening? the discussion can come after the heart work is done.

Wendy C. said...

Elizabeth, thank you for this post and for creating a space for open, honest, and compassionate conversation about this horrible accident.

I am an Episcopalian who also happens to be a bicycle commuter in Washington, DC. This tragedy hits close to home in more ways than one.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Kathy, thanks for that suggestion. I have asked some friends how to stop comments on this post but so far I still haven't learned how to do that. If I could, I absolutely would. But, taking a break is a great idea.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Wendy C - Someone wrote to me and said that he thought that Episcopalians were reacting so badly because we know that the institutional church is dying. With all the crap still going on at two of our seminaries and more and more churches closing, this tragedy with the bishop - whose face represents all the social changes in our church - touches deep anxiety and fear and they are embarrassed. That's why all the mean spirited comments.

That sounds about right.

So as much as I'd love everyone to take a break, I'm thinking not a lot of people who are reading this post have that kind of maturity or self discipline. I'm still getting lots of wacky, hate filled, vilifying and otherwise sanctimonious crap.

I mean, how DARE I - another ordained woman in TEC - call for compassion and patience? Just who do I think I am, anyway?

I will add that I've gotten two perfectly lovely emails from people who have found my email address and tel number on the internet and have written to thank me for this blog and to warn me that it was really easy to find my personal contact information.

I was deeply touched by their notes and their impulses to protect me.

So, I'll keep the post up and the comments open but if anyone knows how to turn them off for a particular blog post, please let me know. Also, if you know how to make it so that people can respond to a particular comment, I'd love to know that, too. I can do that on my iPhone but not my iPad or laptop.

Thanks for all of you who who still understand the importance of kindness and compassion and the full meaning and practical applications of our baptismal vows. You give me hope for our church and restore my faith in humankind.

clweaver said...

I'm having a really hard time finding compassion for anyone leaving another person on the side of the road to die. Sorry.

David Justin Lynch said...

My reaction is to pray for the repose of the soul of the victim, Mr. Palermo, and to forgive Bishop Cook and pray that she gets help for her obvious problems. All of us clergy (I am a Deacon now) are flawed in some way. We are human, We grieve. We hurt. We hunger. We thirst. We are just as human as all you laity. I refuse to judge or condemn Bishop Cook. If I were with her now, I would hug her and remind her God loves her. If I were with the Palemro family, I would tell them the same thing. Let's not get too hung up in the legalities.I would prefer to see prayer on all sides, not condemnation.

Anonymous said...


Thanks so much for this post, Elizabeth, and for moderating a very tough conversation. I am a Baltimore Episcopalian, acquainted with Bishop Heather, and as you no doubt know our community is devastated by what has happened. Your words are wise and pastoral. I am holding you in prayer along with all those involved.

Mary Clara

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

clweaver - I understand and I pray you and others will find it in your hearts to forgive. Not because the bishop needs it, necessarily, but because not forgiving is, as they say in 12 Step programs, like drinking rat poison and expecting the other person to die.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Congratulations, David, on your ordination. And thank you for your wise words.

I have reason to celebrate that, when I came over just now to moderate comments, there wasn't one I had to delete because of nastiness or sanctimonious B.S. and/or because it was left anonymously.

Either the word has gotten out that there is no forum for that kind of stuff here or, one week to the day afterward, people are realizing that the wheels of justice turn slowly and patience is what is called for now. Patience and prayer.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thank you for your visit and your comment, Mary Clara. Please know that many of us are also devastated and are holding you all in the DioMD in our deepest prayers.

It was just six months ago in June of 2014 that Bishop Mary Gray-Reeves in the DioElCaminoReal lost her husband Michael in a cycling accident. The driver was uninjured. There were no drugs or alcohol involved. The driver was an 86 year old man. I've googled the story and can't find any updates. I'm sure the man is no longer able to drive but whether or not any criminal charges were filed is, as yet, unknown to me.

Good people can do bad things which cause bad things to happen to good people. In the very blink of an eye.

Know that you are held in prayer as we wait and watch.

Scott Ehrlich said...

Hi Elizabeth. Thanks for your thoughtful response about how her lawyers have instructed her not to speak out about the incident. As a bishop, shouldn't she speak out in truth and responsibility regardless of the legal outcome she may face? If she's guilty of DUI or reckless driving or felony hit-and-run, then she should face those consequences. In the meantime, she can't hide from God behind her lawyers. Her moral obligation is to tell the truth and comfort the family of the man she killed.

Eileen O'Brien said...

With the exception of a few hateful comments (and with gratitude that Elizabeth deleted the even more vile ones), I have thoughtfully read all of the posts. I have been deeply troubled in recent years by the media tendency to to rush to judgment before all facts had been gathered and adjudicated, a pattern that is exacerbated when the designated wrongdoer is famous or holds a significant position (in which case the most negative speculations are raised to the level of virtual facts). In these events and other stories recently in the news, there also seems to be the assumption that when something terrifying happens in a split second, we nevertheless must be capable of viewing the events in slow motion, thoughtfully assessing appropriate responses and then acting in a calm and measured way. That's ridiculous. If my windshield suddenly imploded eliminating visibility, I wouldn't stop to consider whether I'd hit something (a deer perhaps?) or whether someone shot a gun at my car. I would head for safety and then, as my panic subsided, try to figure out what had just happened. Whatever the events involved in the recent accident, the tragedy is that a man is dead and the Bishop will have to live with that for the rest of her life. I pray for them and their families.

It's not really relevant here, but ironically I was thinking of Bishop Cook shortly before the accident, though not by name. Years ago, I heard her preach at Old Saint Paul's as a guest. She was identified as the daughter of a former rector, and I only recently realized that that young priest and Bishop Cook were one and the same. Of all the sermons I have heard (or sometimes only half-heard, to be honest), hers held me in rapt attention and has stayed with me ever since. Her subject was the story of the Prodigal Son, and her lesson was about God's infinite capacity for forgiveness.


Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Scott - When people start to "should" on other people, I begin to wonder what else is going on.

What makes you think she won't apologize? Do you have any information about her nature or character that lead you to believe she is of weak moral character and won't do the right thing - not only as a bishop but as a human being?

What information do you have about her personality and character that leads you to wonder, much less suggest, that she is hiding from God or anyone?

The wheels of the legal system move very slowly, as they should. I'd want them to move slowly and leave no stone of evidence unturned before a charge was made.

I note that the husband of the Bishop of El Camino Real was killed six months ago in a cycling accident and I can't find one piece of evidence that any charges have been brought against the 86 year old man who was the driver. (No drugs or alcohol were present. )

Should we expect a bishop in the church demand justice for her own husband? Should we think she is weak or stupid or a fool for not ensuring that "justice" has been served for her deceased husband? Should the people of TEC rise up and insist on justice?

"Shoulding" only reflects badly on the one doing the "shoulding", not the one upon whom the "shoulding" is being done.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thank you for your note,Eileen. I hope what this bishop has preached and what she believes brings her some measure of peace and inspiration at this time, even as I know she (and her family) continue to pray for the Palermo family.

Nick Porter said...

There has been a lot of nasty comments that have nothing to do with the situation, some blaming the fact that the bishop is a female, stupid things like that. But what can't happen is having real concern being brushed away because people want to be ugly. There is a LOT of fear out there that the bishop will not be held accountable for her actions. There are people who love to point their fingers at the failings of other churches but when it comes to our own, some people become mute and scream out "Don't judge!", taking that passage way out of context but that's another story all on its own. While there is ugliness out there, please do not brush away the real fear and concern.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Hi, Nick,

I hear your concern but I'm wondering what you've read here that causes you to have that concern.

Actually, I don't think we're so much afraid as I think we're all embarrassed and that makes us really, really angry.

Just a few weeks ago the Archbishop of Canterbury said he didn't think the Anglican Communion would "hold". In the past six months we've seen two of our Episcopal seminaries implode in a very public way. I've had several people tell me that what they've read on social media about the implosion at General Theological Seminary is one reason why they have joined the growing ranks of the "Nones" and refuse to go to church. We're hypocrites, they say, preaching about "forgiveness" and "respecting the dignity of every human being" except we can be pretty selective about that.

And now, this. A bishop in the church - recently ordained with a four year old DUI on her record is involved in a vehicular fatality and, and, AND, leaves the scene of the accident.

I think we're on overload right now. And, I think that's what we're seeing in the ugliness and nastiness. I understand it's there. I see it. I'm not sweeping it away. I'm just not tolerating hurtful expressions of it on my blog.

Someone's got to have standards. That's why there's a moderation feature on blogs. So I can take responsibility for what's printed here. Too many people are already hurting. I refuse to add one more iota of pain to anyone's suffering but feeling compelled to print every stupid, ugly, surpassing unkind mean spirited and/or smug sanctimonious hiding behind Jesus comment, no matter how afraid people are.

There are plenty of places on social media for people to express their fear in unbridled ugliness. This is not one of them.

Thankfully, things have settled down. I have not had to delete one ugly comment all day. Because, blessed be, I have not gotten any.

I am grateful for small miracles.

clweaver said...

Elizabeth, with all due respect, I have compassion for those that make mistakes. I forgive those that show remorse. And in this case, I struggle because I can't come to terms with the fact she hit another human being and left him to die. Accidents happen, but why couldn't she stop, hold his hand and pray for him? Why do I need to forgive? Bishop Cook made a mistake, yet she didn't believe God would forgive her, as evident in her leaving this man to die. It's really not about forgiveness for me... I wasn't brought up in a very religious environment, but I was taught right from wrong. In this case, it's wrong. I just want her to take accountability for her actions.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

clweaver - Gee, I don't know - and I know you weren't "brought up religious" and all - but I don't remember Jesus saying anything about having forgiveness only for those who show remorse. I believe he said we were to forgive, "70 times 7". Or, maybe you weren't paying attention to that part. I encourage you to - pay attention, that is - because you, yourself may need it one day.

There are many reasons people don't stop after an accident. Three actually. It's the body's reaction to trauma: Fight. Flight or Freeze. None of them are dependent upon the state of one's moral character prior to the event. It's just that the body takes over. That's not an excuse for her leaving the scene. I don't know why she left the scene. I hope we will learn the reason from her. I believe we will. Because, in the state of MD, it's a felony. If nothing else, she will be charged with that. The state does not practice forgiveness. The church does. Or, is supposed to, anyway, even if she goes to jail.

I keep scratching my head when people say stuff like, "But she hasn't apologized." Who said she won't apologize? Whoever said that she has to apologize according to your time table? I believe she will apologize as soon as charges are filed. I mean, you know that charges have not yet been filed, right? They will, of course, and when they do - in all good time, as the wheels of justice turn as slowly as they do to make certain every stone of evidence is thoroughly examined. And, when charges are brought or after the trial, she will apologize.

You don't have to believe that. I do.

May I ask you a question? You don't have to answer it. Indeed, I hope you don't. I hope you just keep it and consider it in your heart.

Here is my question: Why do you feel it's necessary to tell me - in public and on social media - that you can't forgive Bishop Cook? You've done it twice. Clearly, it's bothering you.

Maybe this is a time when you need to seek spiritual counsel. Someone whom you feel you can trust and have this holy conversation face to face. I'm sure there are lots of ministers from a wide variety of denominations who will listen carefully and have a holy conversation with you about forgiveness.

In my experience, it is often God's way to use tragedies like this for small, mostly unknown works of kindness and mercy.

I wish you peace.

clweaver said...

Thank you for your response to my last blog. You are correct. I am struggling with this horrific accident. You have helped me to understand the true meaning of compassion and forgiveness. I will pray for all affected. Thank you and god bless.

Christine said...

At last. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Christine. I've been waiting 72 hours for the personal attacks to subside and for the appreciation of the baptismal covenant to begin. they have. So, thank you.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

There are lots of wonderful clergy and laity out there, people of deep faith, who can help you on the path of forgiveness. I'd be happy to help you find them.

I admire your courage and honesty. God's peace to you.

Matthew said...

Thanks for this. Many of these negative comments make many of us feel unsafe in the church -- i.e. we've done far worse than Bishop Cook ever has so there must not be room for us, or only as marginalized laity. I've also been disappointed in the lack of pastoral response to this from our leaders -- radio silence -- not you Mother Kaeton of course but others, Bishops, the PB, etc. They don't have to get into specifics but just the kind of basic reminders you did. Given that the news has gone national (huff post) its not just a Maryland thing at this point. Here is one good contrary example to that but we need more people reminding people of our baptismal covenants in moments like this. Silence accomplishes nothing.
http://bishopdansblog.blogspot.com/2015/01/hey-mr-cunningham-reflections-on.html

Catherine Cheek said...

Matthew, I figured Bishop Cook and the Palermo family would be included in Sunday's 'Prayers Of The People.' Our rector was on vacation and drove from D.C. the day before and didn't get to it. I will suggest this to him when I am at the church on Saturday for Euchastic Lay ministry classes. I also think that this would be an awesome topic in Adult Formation. It covers topics like judgement, forgiveness, and grief.

Sometimes we forget our clergy are human beings. We have hits ad runs almost daily here, and they are a quick clip on the local news. Since Bishop Cook is clergy, people run with the story.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Even though some of you have included your "name" I will not contribute to the social media "circus" by posting your negative comments. This is the time for spiritual and emotional maturity and rhetorical restraint?

Don't like that? There are lots of places on social media that will be happy to post your comments.

Thank you.

Anne Welch said...

I'm from Boston, not Baltimore and I'm a Catholic not an Episcopalean. This story came to my attention, because I am part of the bike community here.
I gave up driving 11 years ago when my vulnerability as a bicylist made me aware of the responsibility I had as a driver, trying to steer --what is is--2 tons of steel?--through the mess of traffic in this city. Even a small small lapse of attention, like thinking of the groceries I needed to buy, could have consequences I couldn't face. I don't want to leave this world taking someone with me.

As I said, I'm a Catholic from Boston, so I know what it's like to be angry at a bishop. That said, I agree with the priest who authors this blog: we need to examine our own consciences not Bishop Cook's.I can't believe there is a driver or cyclist out there who hasn't had a moment of relief after realizing that their carelessness might have endangered themselves or another.

For myself, praying to St. Christopher or St. Raphael before I get on my bike keeps me more mindful when I'm on the road.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

William - check the Code of Conduct. Then, look at the mote in your own eye.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thank you, Anne. You are one of the few cyclists who has been generous of spirit to put into writing what a lot of cyclists are saying privately. What I keep hearing them say is: "I'm invisible. The minute I forget this, I'm dead."

Clearly, we need more education for drivers and cyclists, both of whom are human and subject to distraction.

Still no word from the Baltimore police. I can't imagine the psychological torture for all involved.

Catherine Cheek said...

Anne, I am terrified of driving because of the fact that I am afraid I would kill someone or many. I know I would be dangerous. I have ADHD, and am constantly distracted, and now I am legally blind. I know that if I took another person's life, I would would not be able to take the guilt.

You know, it isn't our place to say she has or hasn't apologized. She will do so when she feels strong enough to face the Palermo family. She is probably very distraught. But that is between she, God, and the Palermo family. Instead of us analyzing this to death, we should pray for all concerned. We should ask God for compassion, and forgiveness. Maybe we can also pray for the Diocese Of Maryland. They are pondering a tough decision. God loves everyone, especially those who make mistakes.

In 1987 my husband was shot and killed by his brother. It was accidental. The brother was hurting so much, I feared for his safety. The guilt almost destroyed him. He locked himself in a room and would not come out because he thought I would hate him. I was the only one who could reach him. He was so afraid. I let him know that I forgave him, which I did right after the incident. To see this big macho guy crying so made me heart ache. When I read about this sad incident, I picture Bishop Cook and know she is heartbroken. Hopefully, the Palermo family will one day forgive her. Forgiveness is a step in healing. Hate is a one-way road to self-desruction.

Thank you, Mother Keaton, for allowing this discussion. It is a great venue for healing.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thank you, Catherine. There are plenty of places online for venting one's spleen or saying whatever you feel you want to say, no matter who it hurts, because, well, you want to speak "the truth" or believe in "freedom of speech".

This is not that space.

Sorry. (Not)

Martie Collins said...

Thank you Anne and Catherine. It makes me feel better about myself to know that I am not the only person in the world who is afraid to drive for fear of killing or hurting someone. I used to drive, in spite of having two accidents (in which no one was hurt), but since I live in a city with good public transportation, I gradually stopped. I think a lot of people would call me over-imaginative and a drama queen, so I just say, "I hate to drive."

(I must say I get a lot of reading done on the bus and the el.)

Thank you again.
And thank you Elizabeth for giving us this caring space.

George Rudgers Sr said...

Elizabeth, thank you.
I believe the period of time between a traumatic event and its "factual and legal resolution is a spiritual time where the Grace of God is available to fill the vaccuum. Without that Grace the human soul is unguided. We can expect almost any response from anyone, like the knee jerk, and other unintended reflexes. Social media would do well to think about this.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Thank you, Martie. Whenever I am driving and I see a cyclist, I can feel my shoulders tense and my hands sweat - especially when they weave within the bike lane. I never drive in NY City. Watching cyclists weave in and out of traffic - especially delivery boys - makes my head explode. If there were a good public transportation in DE, I would definitely use it rather than drive. But, I would never be a cyclist. Too many cyclists have said to me that you get on the bike every time and remind yourself that you are invisible. Gosh, that's worse than driving a car.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

George - As you note, not all the information on this case is in. That said, this is beginning to feel like a root canal. I want due process for everyone involved, and I understand that tox screens and blood reports and autopsy results take a while to process, but the longer this drags on the worse it gets for everyone.

Julie - I am not posting your comment because, whenever someone makes inflammatory statements and asks presumptive, inflammatory questions, and ends with "For a denomination that prides itself on social justice . . . .", you have really told me two things:

1. You have either not read the Comment Code of Conduct above or you have read it and don't care. You just need to vent your spleen - which, I note, you also did, word for word, on the ENS news article.

2. You are not an Episcopalian. You don't know how The Episcopal Church works. You don't care about the Episcopal Church. You just want to poke a hot knife into a gaping, painful wound. Not gonna let that happen. Sorry. (not)

Catherine Cheek said...

Yes, Elizabeth, there are people posting on this online that are openly hostile. I was insulted by an atheist who chose to insult my character. It is amazing how an atheist could make it to a diocese Facebook page just to do so. I don't understand why people have to be rude to complete strangers. You can state your views without being hateful.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Catherine - Well, I think an atheist can certainly comment on ethical behavior. I object to those who no nothing about how a particular denomination works asking questions which assume an answer which, of course, is really just a slam on that particular denomination.

I'm not sure what is more annoying - that, or the fact that they think I'm too stupid to figure it out.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

To be clear - because it is very clear to me that some people are reading what is posted here, anxious to find something to interpret in their own way and put words in my mouth:

What I wrote in a comment above was this: "I never drive in NY City. Watching cyclists weave in and out of traffic - especially delivery boys - makes my head explode."

I don't know how you can get from that statement that I thought Tom Palermo was weaving in and out of traffic. Unless, of course, that's what you wanted to read.

That said, I do appreciate your calmer tone, Robert. I know you haven't changed your Very Low opinion of me. Which is fine. You have that right. You just don't have the right post it on my FB page or blog. You are a guest here. I expect better of my guests. Although, I must say, you seem to be going out of your way to specifically vent your spleen with me. I am beginning to feel stalked.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

Julie - there are lots of places where you might be able to find an answer to your questions about who is funding the legal costs of Ms. Cook's case. This is not one of them. As the waitresses at Ms. Shirley's Brunch in the Roland Park Section of Charm City are apt to say, "Give it a rest, hon."

Jay Anthony said...

The Baltimore Sun is now reporting that Bsp. Cook will be charged with manslaughter, DUI (.22), texting while driving and leaving the scene.

This is a very sad day for the victim's family, Bsp. Cook and the Christian community.

Elizabeth Kaeton said...

JayAnthony - Yes, that was one hell of a fall from grace. It's all so tragic. She has probably lost everything she has worked for most of her adult life.

Except, of course, for the unconditional love of God.

I just hope we can also avoid sanctimonious pontificating and judgemental"shoulding" now that the facts are known. That didn't serve us well before the charges were made. They won't serve us well now.

Anne Welch said...

Again, I do not want to comment on Bishop Cook, but on the social sins we can let ourselves be drawn into. We've all been lectured by our mothers about not getting into the car with someone who is drunk. But that is not the end of our responsibility. We need to try to get the driver to give up her keys and help her find a way home. If she insists on driving, we need to drop a dime and call the cops with the license plate and location of the car.
It's a tough situation to be in but, the only moral choice..

Catherine Cheek said...

When I think about this now, I still feel sad because of Bishop Cook's future. She is going to lose everything. It appears she has an issue with alcohol, which also affected her reasoning. The light at the end of the tunnel is that she can get help, therapy, and treatment for her alcohol problem. And hopefully Bishop Cook can eventually be forgiven by the Palermo family, and hopefully she can forgive herself. God, in His infinite mercy has already forgiven her.

Linda Hurley said...

Unconditional love of God. Unconditional. It's gonna get uglier out there. Heartbreaking. Unconditional love of God. Tragic. Unconditional.... Thank you for the reminder that all is never lost. I pray the the Palermo's and Heather and all affected can ultimately find peace in that life sustaining love.
Linda Hurley
Salisbury

pathawkins said...

Another thank you Elizabeth. I've also been appalled by the social media comments I've been seeing by "christians" that have a surreal sound of "Crucify her! Crucify her!" And I was further angered to read a statement by a retired bishop who had pre-judged Bishop Cook prior to any public release of evidence that led to charges, has presumed her guilt and has predetermined the outcome of a Title IV investigation (apparently he has no accountability as regards presumption of innocence from a Universal Declaration of Human Rights).

While the evidence that has now been presented in the media adds to a presumption of guilt (although texting can be denied, I don't believe the alcohol level can be denied), we still are not a jury that has been presented with all of the evidence. I have to honestly say that while I believe it is morally reprehensible to leave the scene of such an accident, I can't be certain that the shock of it might not impair my judgement as well. I've learned that even without alcohol, the brain is not always reliable.

I don't drink or text and drive, and I like to think I would have stopped and rendered any aid possible. But I cannot take the moral high ground without having lived in another's skin. All I can do is seek justice, require accountability, pray and care for all who have been harmed, and leave the rest to God.

Vincent Vizachero said...

I hope that the Palermo family finds peace.

I hope that Heather Cook triumphs over her apparent illness.

I hope that Baltimore sees justice done.