Take a look at the complaint as filed. The lies in the plaintiffs' press release are evident from the very caption at the start of the complaint. They claim to be suing "to clarify the legal status of the parishes and missions whose leaders left the Episcopal Church in 2008," yet have they named those parishes? No, they have not: instead, in typical blunderbuss fashion, they are going after the individual rectors of those parishes, as well as Bishop Morales and the members of the Diocese's standing committee and corporate board (whom they personally sued in the case they already lost).
Another lie in the press release (emphasis added): "Among the assets are the properties of St. George's Episcopal Church in Macomb, Grace Episcopal Church in Galesburg, Trinity Episcopal Church in Rock Island and Christ Episcopal Church in Moline." That last church, however, is not mentioned in the complaint; nor is its its rector (whom, again, they sued in the suit they lost, but in his capacity as a trustee and member of the Standing Committee).
Confused? I cannot blame you -- this newest lawsuit is simply a mess: a mishmash of mostly old allegations from the earlier lawsuit, and some new ones thrown in just to see if they can get away with it.
No one appears to have actually read the complaint before filing it. Otherwise, how could they have let this contradiction pass? In paragraph 2, they allege (my emphasis added):
In 2013, this plaintiff [Diocese of Chicago] became the successor by merger to the Diocese of Quincy of the Episcopal Church, which until that time was a separate subordinate and constituent unit of the Church and an unincorporated association with its principal office in Peoria, Illinois. Unless otherwise specified, the term "Episcopal Diocese" used herein shall refer to the Diocese of Quincy before it merged with plaintiff Episcopal Diocese of Chicago.Then, in paragraphs 74 and 75 they allege(again, my bold):
... that the Episcopal Diocese and its Parishes and Missions remain subordinate and constituent parts of the Church and the Episcopal Diocese for all purposes ...
... that the defendants take the position that they are properly in control of the governance of the Episcopal Diocese ...So, which is it? Is the Episcopal Diocese of Quincy defunct, or not? Did it merge into the Diocese of Chicago in September 2013 as alleged, or does it continue to "remain [a] subordinate and constituent part of the Church for all purposes"?
And how can the plaintiffs allege with a straight face (paragraph 3) that "Defendant Alberto Morales ... holds himself out as Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese"??
He most certainly does not; Bishop Morales is the diocesan of the Anglican Diocese of Quincy, which is as far from the Episcopal Church as one can get and still stay sane. (And please note, once more, how they refuse to name the entity they want to take over -- the Anglican Diocese. Instead, they sue the people who hold office in it.)
Are you beginning to perceive just how ridiculous is the picture presented by this pleading? You have a current Diocese of ECUSA, into which a former ECUSA Diocese (well, not really -- just a Potemkin one, hastily erected for purposes of litigation) merged, suing the people they claim are still operating that former entity.
Question: Then who agreed to the merger?
And what was the entity that merged with the Diocese of Chicago? Was the merger just a sham?
There are no logical answers to those questions, and that is just one problem with this complaint.
Here is another. In its prayer for relief (at the very end), the complaint seeks (among other declarations by the court):
( c) declare that the defendants do not hold any offices or positions of authority of the Episcopal Diocese or any of its Parishes and Missions and are not the directors or officers of the Illinois not-for-profit corporations called The Diocese of Quincy and The Trustees of Funds and Property of the Diocese of Quincy;
( d) declare that the directors and officers of the Illinois not-for-profit corporations called The Diocese of Quincy and The Trustees of Funds and Property of the Diocese of Quincy are those persons elected by the Synod of the Episcopal Diocese and recognized as such by the Church and the Episcopal Diocese;
(e) declare that the clergy and lay officers and other leaders of the Parishes and Missions of the Episcopal Diocese are those elected or appointed pursuant to the Constitutions and Canons of the Church and the Episcopal Diocese and are recognized as such by the Church and the Episcopal Diocese.And here is a portion of Judge Ortbal's ruling handed down just over a month ago:
Based upon the response and counterclaim, TEC asserts that the actions of the DOQ through their respective Directors and Trustees were contrary to the Constitution, Canons and Prayer Book ofTEC and have sought a declaration by this court that the counterdefendant Directors and Trustees of DOQ are not in fact the directors of those entities. It further sought a declaration that those directors elected by the Synod of the EDQ remaining loyal to TEC were in fact the directors of those corporate entities. Those are inherently ecclesiastical questions which this court has no authority to determine.Undeterred by Judge Ortbal, they are asking a different judge in a different county of Illinois to decide what he held a civil court cannot decide, without becoming too entangled in First Amendment matters of how people exercise their religion. Good luck with that.
Finally, the lawsuit ignores that the individual parishes and missions did not just leave ECUSA; the Diocese did. Those parishes and missions were members of that Diocese, and necessarily went with it. And Judge Ortbal found that the Diocese had acted properly in leaving, so as to retain control over its assets and property. So if the Diocese left properly, and if the parishes and missions were simply its members who went along with it, how can it be said that the propriety of their having left has not already been decided?
That last observation should dictate that this new lawsuit should be stayed in its entirety, pending the outcome of the current appeal from Judge Ortbal's decision.
The problem, however, is that to deal with this new lawsuit as it ought to be dealt with will cost money. To prepare and file a proper challenge to it will take thousands of dollars that the Diocese (with its funds just re-frozen by the appellate court) does not currently have at its disposal. And this, no doubt, is what Bishop Lee must be counting on when he writes in his press release:
... ultimately we still hope that God will use even these legal proceedings to bring us to a place of reconciliation and mutual respect in Christ.You might start, Bishop, by having "mutual respect" for what the Anglican Diocese already won in court.