"The [title insurance] problem appears to be with our [so-called] Dennis Canon," said a Church spokesperson at the national headquarters in New York City. After a full review of the more than 90 cases in which the title to church property has been disputed in the last sixteen years, the national association of title insurance companies recommended last month that no further title policies be given to any parish, diocese or other entity affiliated with ECUSA, or to any person purchasing property from any Church unit.
"All we have been told," the spokesperson continued, "is that multiple uncertainties over the meaning, application and effect of the Dennis Canon, as demonstrated by the extremely variegated reception it has had in State courts across the country, make it impossible for title companies reasonably to assess the risks of insuring such properties. And without being able to assess the risks, they are unable to set any premiums for such coverage. So, if a property was ever at any time arguably under the strictures of the Dennis Canon, they just won't issue a policy for it any more."
Asked whether it was a problem that the Dennis Canon purports to create a nationwide trust in favor of ECUSA that is unrecorded in any State, the spokesperson admitted: "We understand that is a significant part of the problem, yes."
And why can't the Church simply proceed to record trust documents in every State, to get around that problem?
"Well, that's why we resorted to the Canon in the first place," the spokesperson responded. "We simply could never count on the over 7,000 individual parishes across the country agreeing to sign such documents. So we just created the trust on our own -- and it worked very well for the first twenty years, because no one ever noticed what we had done. But ever since that case in South Carolina -- the Wiccam case, or whatever its name was -- there have been nearly a hundred cases brought either to enforce or to nullify Dennis Canon trusts."
"And we've reached a decision, just like the title companies, that we can't continue in this fashion. So we're forming our own Title Insurance Company of The Episcopal Church for Terrae Omni Ecclesiae -- that Latin part means 'all Church properties'. That abbreviates as TICTECTOE, which we think is rather a handy mnemonic for our clergy and vestries."
In a separate announcement today, ECUSA gave a nod to its burgeoning litigation activity on all fronts, which to date has included: (1) filing suit against its own Church Insurance Company; (2) being sued by its own former employees; and (3) bringing suit against the donor of one of its most valuable properties, to say nothing of (4) suing over 90 of its former parishes, dioceses, bishops, and clergy. The statement released from its 815 Second Avenue headquarters reads as follows:
The Episcopal Church (USA) is pleased to announce its acquisition of the national law firm of Dewey Sooem and Howe, in order to bring the handling of all civil and ecclesiastical litigation under one roof. "We see this as a natural continuation of our policy to serve Jesus by having all our legal matters handled in house," said Presiding Bishop Michael Curry.
In order to avoid violating legal professional norms, all partners in the famed firm have agreed to accept priestly orders in the Church; associates will be ordained as deacons. While the salaries they will be paid will not even approach what they had earned in their own firm, a partner said off the record that they were handsomely compensated by the buyout, and further that, as clergy, they could now look forward to the extremely generous benefits paid by the Church Pension Fund.
Presiding Bishop Michael Curry stated that the $160 million expense of the acquisition will be offset by future savings in fees paid to outside law firms in the various States, which Curry said had cost the Church and its 110 dioceses over $60 million to date. "We will make up the cost in just five to eight years," he said. "From that point forward, litigation for the Church will be an addition to our bottom line, instead of the constant subtraction it has been till now. Moreover, when not busy with litigation, the firm's members will be available for us as supply priests for all the new missions we are hoping to establish in the coming years. So from our point of view, it's all win-win."