How The Washington Post Should Report The Episcopal Church Scandal

Will The Washington Post investigate how a woman with a drinking problem and a steady male companion got to be an Episcopal bishop?

By Daniel Oliver

TheFederalist.com

March 19th 2015

In a quite unbelievably awful piece that has to be read not to be believed, Washington Post reporter Michelle Boorstein wrote about Heather Cook, the suffragan bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, a woman who, while driving drunk last December, hit and killed a bicyclist then fled from the scene of the crime. Cook has now been indicted on 13 counts, including vehicular manslaughter. Clearly, she should not have been a cleric of any kind.

The basic facts, or at least some of them, were covered when the homicide occurred, and Boorstein’s piece is what might be called, loosely— as loose as an intensely grungy nomad big-pockets trench coat or a quirky slouchy oversized baggy Parisian boho chiffon sack dress—a “think piece.” She begins: “With a history of sherries at church coffee hour and wine during Holy Communion, Episcopalians have long endured — and shared — jokes about their drinking. (For example: ‘Wherever two or three are gathered, there’s a fifth.’)”

After you stop laughing, or crying, you can break that sentence down into some of its constituent parts, and get: “With a history of [drinking] wine during Holy Communion, Episcopalians have long shared jokes about their drinking.” Wow, Nellie!

The clear implication of Boorstein’s piece is that many Episcopalians drink lots of wine when they receive Holy Communion, and that they drink even to excess. Then at the coffee hour following they joke about it—always assuming they are not too drunk to stand up. That is a truly breathtaking implication, which anyone who has ever been to a Mass and seen one chalice administered to 50 people would know.

Clearly Boorstein is not a Catholic, not even of any kind. But surely there must be one person at The Washington Post who knows something about the sacraments of the Episcopal Church—or of the Roman Catholic Church (whose U.S. branch is about 38 times as big as the Episcopal Church): someone who knows that the amount of wine consumed by communicants is only a sip.

Boorstein goes on to quote, uncritically, “a top [but unnamed] church leader” who said “the case of Heather Cook … revealed Episcopalians’ ‘systemic denial about alcohol and other drug abuse.’”

Systemic? I.e., pertaining to or affecting the body as a whole? Which is to say, all Episcopalians? As in: All Episcopalians deny there is such a condition as alcohol and other drug abuse?

What kind of person would say that? And what kind of person would report the quote uncritically?

The answer to the first question is, sadly, a “top” leader of the Episcopal Church, though we have only Boorstein’s word for his altitude—and, don’t we have to assume, his sobriety. The answer to the second question is: a top reporter at The Washington Post.

The real story is probably one Boorstein approaches but doesn’t recognize, or isn’t willing to address: Why was Cook allowed to become a bishop?

Boorstein paraphrases Byron Rushing, the vice president of the House of Deputies of the Episcopal Church:

The church needs to dig more deeply into how church leaders and culture may have contributed to the Cook case, he said, and that may include both insufficient attention to drinking as well as other factors—namely the transparency of the bishop-picking process.

Heather Cook—who in her bio states, “Supporting me in my vocation is my steady companion, Mark”—was elected the first female bishop of Maryland last May. It’s a good guess that the powers that be in the Episcopal Church were willing to move heaven and hell (assuming they believe heaven and hell exist) to get this woman installed, even though—you can’t make this stuff up—all the other nominees were women, too (perhaps they didn’t have steady companions). This is part of the feminist, culture-bashing agenda of the power players in the Episcopal Church.

The real questions are: What did the powers in the Episcopal Church know about Cook’s drinking, and when did they know it? Apparently, that Cook had been convicted of drunk driving four years prior to the fatal hit-and-run accident—and therefore prior to her election and installation as bishop—was known. But was the extent of her drinking problem not known? And if not, why not?

And what was done with whatever knowledge the “authorities” did have? That remains to be determined, and reported. The true scandal here may be a cover-up. But for that story we’ll have to await, with sherried breath, Boorstein’s next installment.