Br. Bede Parry from Conception Abbey in Missouri attended the St. John’s University School of Theology between 1979 and 1982. During his second year, Br. Parry pursued a college freshman, twenty years his junior, who was interested in music and the priesthood. The first sexual misconduct included oral sex in a St. John’s University music room in the spring of 1981. The misconduct continued into the fall of 1981 when another student, also being pursued by Br. Parry, reported the misconduct to Fr. Rene McGraw.
Fr. Rene McGraw and Fr. Roman Paur met with the student and Br. Parry. Br. Parry admitted to, and apologized for, the misconduct. Br. Parry then called the abbot of Conception Abbey, Abbot Jerome Hanus. Finally, Br. Parry met with St. John’s Abbot Jerome Theisen.
Br. Parry was allowed to stay on campus until he graduated from the School of Theology in 1982, but with conditions. 1) Br. Parry could have no further contact with the students and 2) Br. Parry was required to participate in counseling. His first counselor was Fr. Finian McDonald.
The victim was told that Br. Parry’s ordination would be delayed one year.
Three men, including Father Rene McGraw who was not a licensed therapist, counseled the student on campus. Fr. Roman Paur reportedly declined the suicidal student’s request to be evaluated off campus. The student had considered suicide by hanging and by drinking fertilizer.
Fr. Rene McGraw, Fr. Roman Paur, Fr. Finian McDonald, Mr. John Boyle, and Abbot Jerome Theisen from St. John’s, along with Abbot Jerome Hanus from Conception Abbey all knew about and were successful in keeping Br. Parry’s misconduct quiet and contained on campus.
Many of the monks at St. John’s abbey knew about Br. Parry’s misconduct. On one occasion, Fr. Bob Koopmann make a joke about “blowing a student” that was clearly directed at Br. Parry.
Following his graduation from the Saint John’s University School of Theology in 1982, Br. Parry returned to Conception Abbey. He was put in charge of the Conception Abbey Boy Choir that same year.
Despite St. John’s knowledge of his misconduct, Bede Parry was allowed to bring the Conception Abbey Boy Choir to Collegeville during the summer of 1986 or 1987. In 1987, the Saint John’s Boys’ Choir, under the direction of Br. Paul Richards, was hosted by Fr. Bede Parry and Conception Abbey.
The Saint John’s Boys’ Choir, usually silent during the summer months, has had a busy June and July. The choir performed during the Abbey retreat in early June and then left for an eleven- day tour of the midwest. Highlights of that trip included concerts and over-night stays at Conception Abbey (Missouri), Saint Louis Priory, and Mount Michael Abbey (Elkhorn, Nebraska). The Boys’ Choir sang the national anthem at a Kansas City Royals game and received a standing ovation from some 40,000 people. – Abbey Quarterly / July, 1987
Br. Parry was ordained in 1983 and stayed at Conception Abbey until 1987 when, after another incident of misconduct, he was sent to New Mexico for receive counseling with the Paracletes.
In 1989, the St. John’s victim was quite vocal about his frustration with the way that St. John’s handled the situation — and the effect that the abuse had on his life. At one point, he considered taking legal action against St. John’s.
When the victim died in 1995, his family (who had no knowledge of the abuse or the coverup) donated what was left of his estate to St. John’s. They accepted the money.
Interestingly, Fr. Bede Parry received a copy of the victim’s obituary from Fr. Anthony “Cyril” Gorman, a monk at St. John’s Abbey.
Monks and others at Saint Johns Abbey in Collegeville, MN who were aware of Bede Parry’s 1981 misconduct with a teenager:
– Father Rene McGraw
– Father Roman Paur
– Abbot Jerome Theisen
– Fr. Finian McDonald
– Fr. Robert “Bob” Koopmann
– Mr. John P Boyle
– Abbot John Klassen
After leaving St. John’s in 1982, Bede Parry would go on to abuse at least seven more individuals.
Originally published June 23, 2011
Updated December 15, 2013