Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Good Clergy, Part 3: "...Reckless and Careless Indifference to Life."

More information surfaced yesterday about the case against Heather Elizabeth Cook. Judge Nicole Pastore Klein found a nice balance between the prosecution's request to deny Ms. Cook bail and the defense's request that it be lowered: She kept it at $2.5 million. Her reasoning: That the alleged crimes show a "reckless and careless indifference to life", and that Klein "cannot trust her [Cook's] judgment if released."

I am thrilled to see that Heather Elizabeth Cook will not be seeing the light of day before her trial. Her defense attorney wasn't pleased that his client will be staying in jail, but I'm sure that the family of Thomas Palermo and Maryland drivers are pleased with that at least.

Ms. Cook is most assuredly an addict. She spent six months in an alcohol abuse program after her 2010 arrest. The National Institutes of Health states that there is a high rate of relapse for those suffering from alcoholism. She went into another program after the accident, before her recent arrest. At least she sought treatment the first time.

Now I'm even more angry that Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton, the head of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland and Cook's boss, continues to defend not disclosing Ms. Cook's condition to the council that chose Ms. Cook as the suffragan bishop. I know people make mistakes, and I know that her treatment for alcoholism is medical information, which should be handled sensitively. But she was in line for a very high post, one that likely has a higher level of stress and public scrutiny. I think that was not the right call. Aware of the initial arrest, Bishop Sutton could have said to Ms. Cook, "I have some serious concerns about you for this position, and if you're interested, you can apply. But I want you to disclose your arrest and subsequent treatment to the council."

One other not-so-nice scenario comes to mind. I'm no conspiracy theorist, but my Scorpio Machiavellian brain went in this direction. Ms. Cook, as the suffragan bishop, would be working directly for Bishop Sutton. With the understanding that I have no idea how much influence, if any, Bishop Sutton had over the process of selecting Ms. Cook, it would be easy to throw out the "forgiveness" argument so the Bishop could rationalize not mentioning Ms. Cook's addiction. Think about it: If the Bishop wanted Cook working for him, he could have easily made this argument to ensure that his preferred candidate didn't have any black marks on her record for the rest of the voting members to consider. As I've stated earlier, if Cook's addiction had been disclosed and I was voting, I'd pick someone else without an addiction because this person would be under a lot more stress and in a public position in the church. What easier way to make sure that didn't happen than to convince himself, and others around him, that they were acting as the Lord says they should and doing this candidate a major favor at the same time.

I hope they'll consider all four other candidates for the job now; if I had been one, I'd be really pissed off. Why do I think the council picking the next suffragan will give some thought to asking more pointed about other candidates? I certainly hope so.

Bishop Sutton made the wrong call on this one. Did he cause this accident to happen? Of course not. But is it possible that his choice of Heather Cook made her relapse more likely due to the additional pressure of being the #2 bishop, which may have caused this accident. We'll never know the answer to that, and we don't know how long ago Cook's relapse began. It might have happened in any case, but that's not going to give any comfort to Thomas Palermo's widow and children who are looking for answers.

No one who shows a "reckless and careless indifference to life" should be a member of clergy.

What is sadly incredibly ironic is that the video on the Baltimore Sun story shows Ms. Cook presiding over a service where at least 10 carafes of liquid--presumably wine, but that's not confirmed--are sitting on the altar. Well done, Baltimore Sun. Oh vino veritas, right?

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