Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Good Clergy, Part 4: Heather Elizabeth Cook Posts Bail; Episcopal Church Considers Punishment and Election Process

I'm disappointed to report that Ms. Cook was released from jail on Thursday the 15th. Somehow she actually posted the $2.5 million bond and is on her way to a treatment facility. Luckily for all of us, part of the court's order was that she not drive while she is free, assuming she choose to abide by it. She'll be at a treatment facility and hopefully won't need to drive anywhere.

I disagree with the judge's decision...if it had been her 1st DUI maybe I could see letting her post bail. But for a second involving a fatality? She was also in a position of trust, and to me that merits a stronger punishment.

The Baltimore Sun also reports that the Episcopal Church is considering what punishment to hand down to Ms. Cook. To me this is a no-brainer: She should be defrocked. She killed an innocent person, for fuck's sake. She gave up her right to perform her duties as a member of clergy when she ran into a cyclist and left him at the scene to die. 

To me there's no "deliberation" required. I don't care if she was somehow found innocent of this crime in court, which isn't going to happen anyway; she's done enough damage to her own reputation and that of the Episcopal Church that she can no longer carry out her duties. She's unfit for the clergy. At least 7 people, half of them priests or deacons, will make a recommendation to a board of review, who will hand down the punishment. But honestly, any punishment less than "get the fuck out" is a slap on the wrist for me.

Finally, it appears that the Episcopal Church is looking into the election process. According to the Baltimore Sun, "Church officials say Cook disclosed the charges to a search committee. But they say delegates who voted in the election knew nothing of the charges." The same group that is investigating Cook's case will also be undertaking the review of her election. They will be doing interviews with those who took part in the election, and establish what they knew, as well as with people who worked with Ms. Cook during her time as a priest.

There needs to be complete transparency for there to be healing in this case. I wouldn't be surprised to hear the Episcopal Church put new standards in place to ensure that elections are not only done fairly, but that everyone involved has full knowledge of the facts, especially about the candidates.

Positive thoughts and prayers to them. This is going to be ugly no matter how you slice it. As long as they're open about what they find, and as long as they don't allow Heather Elizabeth Cook to minister to anyone ever again, I think they can be successful.

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