Heather Cook, an Episcopalian suffragan bishop in Maryland, has been in the news lately. A few weeks ago, she was involved in a vehicular homicide, and currently faces charges including vehicular manslaughter, driving while intoxicated, texting while driving, and leaving the scene of an accident.
This has sparked a lot of outrage, and I would have almost forgotten the situation but for a large front-page in the Sunday, February 1 Baltimore Sun. I am moved for concern over what reactions that article may invite. I haven’t read it.
Those who would respond to these events with judgmentalism seem to me to not understand three things. They don’t understand the nature of alcoholism; they don’t understand human nature; and they don’t understand the nature of the church.
Speaking as an alcoholic in recovery myself, we alcoholics are well aware that this is a disease, and anyone can relapse anytime. Any day. Any night. This is why we live by the slogan, “One day at a time.” A relapse, while regrettable, cannot be allowed to be the end of one’s life. We also speak, in Alcoholics Anonymous one of our slogans is, “Keep coming back.” One needs to keep coming back into recovery after each incident of relapse: get back up, get back to work, and seek sobriety again.
Those who would respond to the incident with judgmentalism seem to me not to understand human nature, either. Nobody’s perfect. Some people do have this disease. We all fall down. We all fail. And though it was certainly a tremendous, monumental lapse of judgment that induced Ms. Cook to drink as much as she did on this occasion, one can ask oneself what one would have done in the like circumstances.
The third misunderstanding is of the nature of the church. Some may want to hold the clergy to a higher standard of morality than normal people. I must know fifty ordained clergy personally, and I can testify that these are all very normal people. There is no pretense among any of them of superiority over anyone else. They just don’t act that way.
What do you think?
Originally posted 2015-02-07.