Presiding Bishop further restricts ministry of Heather Cook

Posted Feb 10, 2015

[Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs press release] Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori Feb. 10 issued a formal canonical Restriction on Ordained Ministry directed to the Rt. Rev. Heather Cook, Bishop Suffragan of Maryland.

This Restriction was issued as part of the Episcopal Church’s Title IV disciplinary process.  The Restriction provides:

Pursuant to Canons IV.7(3), (4) and IV.17(2) of this church, I hereby place the following restrictions on your ordained ministry:

You shall not exercise or engage in the ordained ministry of this Church in any respect, shall not participate in any functions of the House of Bishops, and shall not hold yourself out as an ordained person of this Church in good standing, until such time as all matters relating to you that are pending before a panel of the Disciplinary Board of Bishops shall have been finally resolved.

In her notice, the Presiding Bishop indicates, “This restriction is being placed upon your ordained ministry because information has been received by the Intake Officer that indicates that you may have committed one or more offenses under Canon IV.4 as a result of your alleged criminal conduct in connection with an automobile accident on December 27, 2014 and misrepresentations you allegedly made to persons in the Diocese of Easton and in connection to your candidacy for the episcopate in the Diocese of Maryland regarding your experience with alcohol.

The Restriction takes effect immediately.


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Comments (30)

  1. J. Briton Hamilton says:

    This is just sad all around. I pray she gets the help she needs.

    1. Mark Merrill says:

      How about praying for Tom Palermo, and his family? You know, the more deserving people…

      1. Liz Mauro says:

        Dear Mark, I say AMEN to your comment on praying for Tom’s little children. Tom Palermo was a personal friend to all people in the bicycling world. We all experienced joy knowing him and his family. Every Episcopal function has wine and I do say, every function has wine.

  2. Thomas Hofer says:

    The Presiding Bishop is entirely correct.

  3. Phil Reinheiner says:

    Unfortunately the victim doesn’t get another chance….this seems to be just a start to an incredibly dishonest and dangerous person’s actions.

  4. Martha Knight says:

    As someone who has reaped the benefits of AA sober for almost 20 years my heart goes out to the former bishop suffragan of the Diocese of Easton praying that she finds joy and peace.

    1. Mark Fish says:

      As another fellow AA , and an Episcopalian, my heart goes out to the victim , and the alcoholic who should never have been driving.

  5. I am a licensed, clinical, social worker in private practice. I treat a variety of psychiatric disorders. Trust is the key component in the process of helping. From the information provided to me, those responsible in the church for insuring that competent stable people are elevated to the position of trust,made critical errors in this process. In assessing Heather Cook’s competency, did they consider obtaining objective professional assistance in determining Ms Cook’s recovery process. I hope that they recognized that they DID not have the expertise to do so. If they did not, then it is imperative that this process and the guidelines surrounding decision making be ruthlessly reexamined. Heather Cook has a psychiatric disorder. To participate in the elevation of Heather Cook to the position of suffragan bishop without the assistance of experts in her disease is egregious.

  6. Dan Lester says:

    As a recovering alcoholic (25 years) I hope that Ms. Cook can reach the point where she can sit in an AA meeting every day for at least a year, and at least weekly forever after, and say “Hello, I’m Heather, and I’m an alcoholic”. And the same in other fellowship meetings if necessary for related addiction problems.

  7. Anne Folan says:

    It would have been nice had the Presiding Bishop’s Notice of Restriction included any tone of remorse for the Church’s, and the PB’s own, actions in having ordained and consecrated Ms. Cook in the first place. They knew about her 2010 arrest. They chose not to share it with the electors (even though it was a matter of public record). The Presiding Bishop knew, because Sutton told her, that Ms. Cook was drunk at her own installation festivities. The PB consecrated Ms. Cook anyway. So it’s a little rich to read now the Presiding Bishop’s righteous denunciations of Ms. Cook’s “misrepresentations.”

  8. LaRae Rutenbar says:

    We can never go back and undo what has been done. Very few priests can claim that they haven’t overlooked a parishioner who has had too much to drink and they have done nothing about it. This is the first of many actions the PB will take–but no action will ever be enough for those who grieve the loss of this young man. Like Bishop Sutton and like Bishop Jefferts Schori we can look back at events and say to ourselves ‘we should have known’ or ‘we should have acted differently.’ But it is difficult to always make the right call.

  9. William A. Flint, PhD says:

    At this point (what difference does it make) “until such time as all matters relating to you that are pending before a panel of the Disciplinary Board of Bishops shall have been finally resolved” (and should add) or until a civil court renders a verdict in this case. If she pleads guilty or is found guilty by a jury, then it should be clearly understood she no longer has standing (period).

  10. What can one say” The church was well aware of her previous history as well her father’s and yet they
    decided to allow her to “move on” without proper monitoring, My question is why? We need to
    treat the clergy as we would anybody else, this is sad. Previously a professional Psychologist/Social
    Worker asked the same question. Someone needs to not only address this very important issue
    and actually do something about changing the general attitude when it comes to clergy. My
    priest always says that it is necessary to “hold clergy to a higher standard.” So what happened here?
    Also let’s start helping the family who is now without husband and father, and by help I mean more
    then money.

    1. Anne McLain says:

      ” The church was well aware of her previous history as well her father’s and yet they
      decided to allow her to “move on” without proper monitoring”

      Regardless of the tragic final outcome I don’t think her father’s same history of alcohol problems should have any bearing on the decision regarding whether or not to elect Heather as future Bishop. And the social worker is right on. Experts should have been consulted to provide guidance on evaluating sobriety, recovery, and likelihood of relapse.

    2. Selena Smith says:

      As one who has suffered the loss of a spouse by the actions of a drunk driver, the driver and those from his family or workplace are the least from whom I would have wanted help. The money is appreciated by survivors who can decide how that replacement of power will help us, and yes, it is not the same as replacing the person who was killed.

      Instead of Bishops tsk-tsk-tsking and saying “Isn’t that awful and tragic,” those bishops responsible for consenting to Bishop Cook’s election and those bishops who consecrated her should be asked to contribute to a fund for the Palermo family which could begin to show signs beyond band-aid charity & justice to compassionate sacrificial giving.

  11. Hugh Hansen, Ph.D. says:

    I am writing the following as a public confession that Heather Cook’s demise as a bishop has challenged me in my thinking and actions as a Christian and a member of this society to ask for forgiveness and to reach out in love. None of us who have followed this case can remain the same after knowing the facts. It is a disaster of epic proportions in so many sectors of society. Perhaps, we are seeing a biblical sagas like Abraham, King David, or St. Paul being played out right before our eyes.

    After hearing about the awful tragedy befalling Bishop Heather Cook, I almost despaired to the point of fainting. To think that this person who had received the highest holy orders of our church and had performed the Holy Eucharist, perhaps, for thousands is beset by such alienation from society, from her exalted role in the church, and from her service to humanity who needs her. And most of all, knowing the deplorable loss experienced by Tom Palermo’s family. It leave you empty, breathless, and wishing you could say, “this isn’t so!” But it is so, and it did happen, now what?

    How I wanted to feel such contempt and loathing for her, knowing that there must be scores of committed candidates who would’ve taken these orders and perform them in such loyalty and devotion throughout their life. Yet, I am forbidden by the Holy Spirit to judge, hate, or despise this gifted child of God. I only find release from this bitterness by truly loving her as my sister whom God has forgiven. I only found myself loving her, when I realized that my attitudes were manifestly unchristian and, in the light of the passion of our Christ, there is no justification for the contempt in my soul.

    In the light of Calvary and the teaching of Jesus Christ, we have been SHOWN the Father in His mercy and love. To put it in Barthian language, He exists exists neither next to us nor merely above us but rather by us and most important of all, FOR US! (Evangelical theology, page 11) A parallel universe of darkness, chaos, and loneliness is not our destiny. As God’s children we are in the the universe of light, and we are completely forgiven–without reservations–all of us. In the Holy Eucharist there is a challenge for all of us to pray for forgiveness and to except the grace given to us so freely by the death of our Lord Jesus Christ. Our sister, Heather Cook, is no exception. Somehow, all things will work together for the good to them that love God. And that includes the precious family of Tom Palermo. God is for Heather Cook and God is for Tom Palermo’s family, and God is for the rest of us!

    Sent from my iPad

    1. William A. Flint, PhD says:

      I think expecting personal responsibility for one’s actions is not contrary to Christian teaching, but is a fundamental to its understanding. While is is true God can forgive all sins, it is not the case for Humanity. Civil Law exists to enforce standards set for the Common Good. Heather Cook willing and on her on volition drove a vehicle while intoxicated and did cause the death of Tom Palermo. God can forgive Heather for that, but the State has a responsibility to hold her accountable for the death of Tom Palermo. The Church has a responsibility to remove her from the high office to which it elected her based on her actions resulting in the death of Tom Palermo.
      All of us in this Common Life struggle with this sad situation. Personal accountability and responsibility for one’s own actions are primary to the well being of this Common Life together.

    2. Mark Merrill says:

      No tragedy befell Heather Cook. She visited tragedy upon others. Her actions were 100% her choice. She should spend a long, long time in jail. What she did was akin to blindly firing a gun into a crowd.

  12. Melanie Barbarito says:

    Thank you to those who acknowledged being in recovery and participating in AA. I have had several clergy friends who were very open about the same thing. They were/are remarkable priests and ministers. Our church and our culture needs to hear your stories of recovery. It seems to me that it only needs to be anonymous in that no one else is allowed to tell your story.

  13. Hugh Hansen, Ph.D. says:

    Thanks to William Flint for providing balance to my discussion about the free grace of God to forgive our sins. Indeed, I would feel that civil law would be remiss in not having lawyers who are seeking the truth, a fair jury, and a judge with the quality of intellect and temperament to meet out the measures that are required for justice in our society. Also, the measures the Church has taken, up to this point, seem abundantly fair and reasonable.

    1. Liz Mauro says:

      Dear Dr. Hansen, GOD HELPS THOSE THAT HELP THEMSELVES. GOD WILL FORGIVE HER, NO ONE ELSE WILL.
      Instead of Bishops tsk-tsk-tsking and saying “Isn’t that awful and tragic,” those bishops responsible for consenting to Bishop Cook’s election and those bishops who consecrated her should be asked to contribute to a fund for the Palermo family which could begin to show signs beyond band-aid charity & justice to compassionate sacrificial giving. ALL OF THESE DRINKING PEOPLE SHOULD BE CHARGED NOW!

  14. Anne Bay says:

    I have just read current articles stating both Pb Schori and Bishop Sutton not only saw first-hand Heather Cook drunk at the pre-consecration dinner, but they also talked about it, and nothing was done. On top of that, at the Consecration the question is asked “if there is anyone here,etc.” and no one said a thing, including PB Schori and Bishop Sutton! And also, apparently Heather Cook’s partner, Mark Hansen was also at that dinner, so he is also guilty of not speaking up. I am absolutely shocked by what Bishop Sutton has been quoted as saying if he stopped the Consecration that there would be =to paraphrase-an uproar! So what! That’s the main requirement of being in a trusted position-to be able to stand up for what is right! I had an eighth grade church school teacher who I learned a great deal from and still remember. One of the most important things I learned in that church school class from a wonderful teacher, was in life you can be “liked” or respected-choose one. That has helped me in so many situations for more years than I care to say! I realise Schori and Sutton apparently have no knowledge of the Disease of Alcoholism and its dynamics and its physiological progression, which is too bad since they are in high up positions, but it doesn’t take an expert to know that if a candidate for bishop is drunk two days before they are to be consecrated something is beyond serious and steps to stop it need to happen-simple as that. To let Heather be made a bishop and then afterward send someone to her to discuss her being drunk is just absurd. Just absolutely negates all the requirements to be made a bishop. i have been in Recovery for 27 years and have always been active in the program and have been privileged to attend conferences, seminars, treatment programs, lectures, etc. through the years. Big strides in those years have been made with regard as to the importance of everyone affected by the Disease to get help: Al-anon, Alateen, A.A. . Children of Alcoholics as young as 6 years of age can attend pre-alateen and also attend special children’s programs at the Betty Ford Clinic and others. It’s a Family Disease. So, the people involved in this fiasco need to contact treatment centers, Alcoholics Anonymous, Al-anon , and the Alateen program for literature, information, speakers, and attend meetings. No excuses not to learn and experience what Recovery constitutes. What a mistake it was, in hindsight, not to halt the consecration. As far as Heather Cook getting sober, etc. and being of help in prison with other alcoholics, that is a pipe dream. She is in so much denial and has so much enabling from all of her family andfriends it takes years to be able to be of service in that regard. The focus just needs to be her doing the program. She’ll be lucky to do that. There are Hospital and Institution A.A. and Al-anon panels that have long timers that can help the prisoners.

  15. Rev. Carl Byrd says:

    I pray for Healing,Forgiveness, and our Episcopal Church.
    Shalom

  16. JAMES R. ADAMS says:

    Ann Bay has it right. We failed to call her to take responsibility for her conduct before she was ordained which in my mind represents an absence of understanding of the very nature of this addiction. Given the dates in the timeline, it would have been preferable to cancel the ceremony and “get to the bottom” of the situation. It isn’t surprising that she was apparently drunk at that time … relapse is a trait of the disease and those skilled in dealing with alcoholics understand this. Instead we denied and enabled … also sad sad traits of the disease of alcoholism… enabling her to continue what was her charade, leaving her free to continue her habit … now she and the Church pay the consequences.

  17. Bruce May says:

    Tom Palermo, a much beloved father, husband, son, friend, cyclist is dead because of Heather Cook. Yes, she suffers from alcoholism, but has not admitted it to it and in my book, that makes her a drunk. The committee, Bishop Sutton and the PB knew her issues and they also must have blood on their hands. Who is going to punish them? Heather Cook can attend AA meetings in prison where I hope she stays for a long time. Disease or not, she drank to excess, killed a man and left the scene of the accident. I really don’t have any sympathy for her.

  18. Harold Koenig says:

    IMHO, the gravest moral failing was the decision of the search committee and others who knew about Bishop Cook’s past. On the very weak grounds of “privacy” they withheld information the electors needed to know if they were to exercise their responsibility.

    Before I became a Catholic, when I was a seminarian and Episcopal priest, I had clinical training in chemical dependency, worked with treatment programs in my communities, and regularly attended Al-Anon and open AA meetings. It was pretty clear that even when I was considered a resource, my interest and concern in this problem was also considered evidence of being a little bit of a crank.

    It’s a matter of grave concern that, decades later, the leaders of the Episcopal Church have made denial (followed by vindictiveness) an acceptable part of their management style.

    The Search Committee exhibited the denial, manipulation, enabling, and rationalization characteristic — indeed, almost defining — of co-dependents. They preen themselves on their sensitivity, compassion, tolerance, inclusiveness, and sophistication, and then destroy their credibility and throw innocent people under the bus (almost literally!) as they shy from creating the disturbance which might have saved lives, possibly even souls.

    Bishop Cook is very ill. The PB, Bishop Sutton, and the leaders of the Diocese of Maryland are in grave moral and spiritual peril.

    1. JAMES R. ADAMS says:

      Mr. Koenig speaks of his of the scope of the issues surrounding an abuser of substances. Complicated? Yes. Known paths of the disease? Yes. Education of our clergy fails if it does not educate its clergy and take this issuer as seriously as it does the teaching of Greek. Lets hope that from this crisis emerges a renewed dedication to education of our clergy on issues of substance abuse … after all, clergy frequently are the first responders to parishioners bringing issues of abuse and enabling to their parish spiritual leader. … and in those cases, clergy need to know what they are talking about and doing!

  19. Ted Martin says:

    Cook still has not resigned? Incredible. That in itself, shows she is not fit to be a Bishop, in an already ailing church. Selfish.

  20. Anne Bay says:

    As an active person in recovery for going on 28 years, Bishop Cook’s case is one of the most complex and devastating I have read about. I am guessing that her lawyer has taken over her case and is telling her what and what not to do. She has multiple charges against her and an upcoming court appearance. I am guessing that some “deal” will be put forth at her and at that time it will be announced if she is going to resign or not. If she resigns, she loses her income and benefits. so I’m sure the lawyer is trying to salvage these. Unfortunately no amount of legal consequences will bring Tom Palermo back.

  21. Anne Bay says:

    As an active person in recovery for going on 28 years, Bishop Cook’s case is one of the most complex and devastating I have read about. I am guessing that her lawyer has taken over her case and is telling her what and what not to do. She has multiple charges against her and an upcoming court appearance. I am guessing that some “deal” will be put forth to her and at that time it will be announced if she is going to resign or not. If she resigns, she loses her income and benefits. so I’m sure the lawyer is trying to salvage these. Unfortunately no amount of legal consequences will bring Tom Palermo back.

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