Dear Friends of the Diocese of Washington and Beyond,
I write today in light of the announcement that the Rt. Rev. Heather Cook of the Diocese of Maryland has been charged with manslaughter, leaving the scene of the accident, driving under the influence of alcohol, and texting while driving in the death of Thomas Palermo.
Everything about this story is tragic beyond words: A loving husband and father of two is dead due to the actions of a leader in our church.
First and foremost, I express on behalf of all in the Episcopal Diocese of Washington our deep sorrow for Thomas Palermo’s family, friends, and all who grieve his sudden, senseless death. Each of them is in our prayers. We also pray for Bishop Cook and her family, and for our friends in the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland; for Bishop Sutton and all diocesan leaders who are doing all they can to respond to this terrible situation. Our friends in the Diocese of Easton, where Bishop Cook served for many years, are also in need of our prayers.
As we gather in our churches for prayer this month, I urge all congregations in the Diocese of Washington to take up a special offering for the Palermo Children’s Educational Trust.
In addition, I ask the bicyclists of our diocese to help me organize a community ride in the spring to benefit the Palermo family in solidarity with the cycling community in our region.
Moreover, I will soon call the clergy of the Diocese of Washington together for a day of reflection, prayer, and serious conversation about substance abuse, and the other serious issues raised for us as religious leaders by this tragedy.
May God be merciful to the Palermo family in their grief.
May God be merciful to Heather Cook as she bears the burden of her actions.
Mariann Edgar Budde
Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Washington