By Mary Ann Mueller
VOL Special Correspondent
Jan. 4, 2015
Bishop Heather Cook (Maryland suffragan) is not the only Episcopal bishop, or Catholic for that matter, to be involved in a fatal automobile accident or accused of drunk driving. Recently, however, she is the only bishop who has hidden behind her miter, withdrawn into a gated community, or been protected by her diocese, an attorney and even the investigating police department, thereby shielding her from not only media scrutiny but also from facing the legal consequences of her actions.
On June 3, 2007, Bishop James Kelsey (X Northern Michigan) was killed in a three-car crash while returning from an episcopal visit to the Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd in St. Ignace, Michigan. The Michigan State Police theorized that following a rain storm, the Episcopal bishop lost control of his SUV and broadsided another vehicle killing himself and the other driver, Michael Wiita. Following the initial accident, a third vehicle rear-ended one of the damaged cars; that driver was not killed.
As of Jan. 2, 2015, six days after Bishop Cook's Sunday hit & run accident which left bicyclist Thomas Palermo dead, the Episcopal News Service had yet to publish a story. Top ENS stories include the posting of the Archbishop of Canterbury's Christmas Sermon; a story about Canon Paul-Gordon Chandler's desire to foster better understanding between East and West through his film "Ports of Call;" the fact that Christmas celebrations were cancelled in Peshawar following the school attack and Bishop Andrew Dietsche's (XVI New York) reaction to the killings of two New York City police officers following the death of Eric Garner. However, there is not one word about Bishop Heather Cook's newest legal difficulties and traffic problems, nor has the Presiding Bishop weighed in on the matter.
Catholic bishops also have had their traffic problems. In August 2012, then Roman Catholic Bishop of Oakland, who at the time was also the Archbishop-designate of San Francisco, Salvatore Cordileone got snagged in a DUI stop. After dinner with his elderly mother, he was stopped near San Diego State University for drunk driving. He failed the field sobriety test and was arrested on the spot, booked into jail, and posted a $2,500 to get out.
Following Archbishop Cordileone's brush with the law, he quickly held a news conference and publically admitted his failure. He did not hide behind his miter nor allow an attorney to speak for him; he took responsibility for his actions. Since he was involved in a traffic violation which did not end in an accident or vehicular death, he did not resign his episcopal office.
"I will repay my debt to society, and I ask forgiveness from my family and my friends and co-workers at the Diocese of Oakland and the Archdiocese of San Francisco," the archbishop said. "I pray that God, in His inscrutable wisdom, will bring some good out of this."
In October 2004, Archbishop Cordileone, following a plea bargain, pled guilty to a misdemeanor charge of reckless driving and, as a result, was sentenced to three years' probation, ordered to pay a $1,120 fine, and was also required to attend a panel discussion sponsored by Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
Nearly a decade earlier, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Phoenix, Thomas O'Brien, was involved in a fatal hit & run accident. Reports show that on Saturday, June 14, 2003, the Arizona bishop was involved in a pedestrian accident where Jim Reed was killed. Witnesses, who saw the bishop flee the scene, turned his license plate number into police who tracked the bishop to his rectory. He was arrested two days later and booked with a felony charge. He was then released on $45,000 bond. However, before his arraignment took place Bishop O'Brien resigned his diocese.
Then in February 2004, the resigned Catholic Bishop of Phoenix was found guilty in a jury trial of a felony charge of hit & run. He was eventually sentenced to four years' probation and 1,000 hours of community service for his crime. He could have faced 45 months prison time for his offense.
Now almost a week after Bishop Cook left the scene of a fatal accident, she has yet to be arrested or booked while headlines are made around the world depicting her as a "female bishop" while she is described as "Number Two in the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland." There is still not a word posted by the Episcopal News Service and the police are stonewalling, claiming that the incident is "under investigation." The national secular and religious media are scrambling for information and have uncovered an earlier 2010 drunk driving incident which involved Bishop Cook which, at the same time, also involved the alleged possession of marijuana.
Again, The Episcopal Church is being humiliated by the actions of an Episcopal bishop.
It is time for Bishop Heather Cook to take legal responsibility for her traffic mishap and subsequent actions. She should turn herself in and allow herself to be arrested and booked and post bail, which is needed to jumpstart the legal process. As a penance, following the lead of Catholic Bishop O'Brien, she needs to resign her bishopric and allow the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland to move forward without her legal entanglements.
She may be of the "fairer sex", but that should not shield her from admitting to and assuming her responsibility in the death of another human being. The "female bishop" needs to do what is right, not only in the eyes of God, but also in the eyes of the law. There are spiritual and legal ramifications which need to fully be played out. As an Episcopal bishop, she is not above traffic laws and her miter should not shield her from wrong doing, but energize her to do the right thing and make amends not only to God but to the wider community.
Mary Ann Mueller is a journalist living in Texas. She is a regular contributor to VirtueOnline
|Or - Ichabod.|
GJ - Which WELS District President had a DUI and simply transferred to another district?
Which WELS missionary, famous for being a drunk, drove his car up a utility pole and became a missionary thanks to Marvin Schwan money?
Which Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary professor was convicted of driving under the influence, used a powerful law firm, and had the evidence dropped and the conviction erased?
WELS is justly famous for its alcoholic pastors, an addiction begun at a WELS college and fueled by Mequon partying.
Mequon gatherings have to serve alcohol, or many leaders could not last through the festivities.
|Bad teeth are better than a bad liver -|
ask your local WELS pastor - better yet - the DP.