Top Episcopal Bishop Offers Ash Wednesday Apology for Handling of Heather Cook Case

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Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton (
Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton (

Episcopal Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton began Lent with an apology on behalf of Heather Cook. Sutton began a message posted on Ash Wednesday simply with the words, “I’m Sorry.”

Sutton, the diocese’s top official, apologizes to the family of Thomas Palermo, who was allegedly killed by Cook in a hit-and-run crash as he biked in a bike lane on Roland Ave. He also apologizes for not knowing enough about alcoholism, for which Cook is currently being treated. And he acknowledges failing to fully look into Cook’s 2010 DUI before she was elected as the diocese’s number 2 bishop in 2014. In that case, she was caught driving with a BAC that was nearly three times the legal limit.

Cook has been charged by a grand jury in connection with the crash.

Below is part of the apology letter. The full text is available here.

For me personally and as your bishop, the process of repentance must begin with the Palermo family who suffered the unbearable loss of Thomas Palermo on December 27. I’m sorry for their loss and regret his death was by all accounts caused by the extreme impairment of my recently-installed bishop colleague Heather Cook.

I regret that my sister in faith, Heather apparently caused so much damage and suffering due to her disease of alcoholism, and sorry I was unable to recognize warning signs of her illness. I humbly repent not learning more about the “cunning, baffling and powerful” nature of alcoholism. I pledge to do everything I can to educate myself and churches of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland about the insidious nature of addiction.

I regret not knowing all the details of Heather’s September 2010 DUI. I humbly repent relying on the information we were given rather than insisting on getting more detailed information about her earlier arrest. I pledge to do everything I can within the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland to reexamine and revise a process that failed us at some crucial points.

Stephen Babcock

Stephen Babcock is the editor of Baltimore and an editor-at-large of Baltimore Fishbowl.

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