Monday, October 31, 2011

The Bede Parry Case in a Nutshell

Since there is such a raft of material on the Web about the Bede Parry case (for an introduction and links, see my earlier posts here and here), I thought I would boil the concerns down into an easily readable form. At the end of this post is a link to my straight-line chronology of the affair, which puts all of the various sources together into a single timeline. (Make sure you download the latest version, updated and corrected with more information as of 10:28 a.m. on 1 November 2011.) By perusing that chronology, a reader should be able to see that the following account sums up the matter in a nutshell (the account assumes you are familiar with the facts in the chronology):

Father Parry told the Kansas City Star on June 23, 2011: "I told [Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori] at the time [I applied to her for reception into ECUSA] that there was an incident of sexual misconduct at Conception Abbey in '87. The Episcopal Church doesn't have a 'one strike and you're out' policy, so it didn't seem like I was any particular threat [emphasis added]. She said she'd have to check the canons, and she did."

But Father Parry had been suspended, and then barred from returning to his monastery, not just for that single offense (or "one strike"), but because it was repeated conduct (i.e., multiple strikes), after his Abbot had warned him and required he undergo psychological treatment for his propensities.

When he applied to be received as an Episcopal priest, however, Fr. Parry admits he told Bishop Jefferts Schori only about the single incident in 1987 which got him suspended, and not any of the earlier ones. He said, again to the reporter from the Star, "that he did not tell her about the incidents of abuse before 1987 at Conception Abbey." (Emphasis added; he also did not tell her about the earlier molestation incident at St. John's in Minnesota, which led to his warning and subsequent treatment.)

The Abbot of Conception Monastery, however, did speak to Bishop Jefferts Schori on at least one occasion while she was considering the priest for reception into the Episcopal Church. (The canonical procedure required that she check with his prior superior; and Abbot Polan says that he talked to her.) From the simple fact that neither the Diocese of Nevada nor Abbot Polan denies that there was any contact between them at the time, we may conclude that they spoke. And that makes all the difference.

There would be absolutely no reason for Abbot Polan to have withheld from Bishop Jefferts Schori all he knew about Father Parry: that because of his "proclivity to reoffend" (as found in a written evaluation in 2000 which resulted in his being rejected for membership in another monastery), he was not employable wherever there would be access to boys or young men -- such as in monasteries, or with church choirs.

This, then, is the nub of the matter: Fr. Parry now admits that he lied about his background to Bishop Jefferts Schori. She spoke to his former employer, and either must have learned about his lie then, or must have been so careless as to discount what she learned and/or read. But she went ahead and received him into her Diocese as a priest anyway, so that he could preach and continue assisting with the music and choir at All Saints, Las Vegas. So the simple question for the Presiding Bishop to answer is: Why?

And why, as Episcopalians on both sides of the aisle are asking, will she make no public response to these valid -- and genuine -- concerns? If one is maintaining impartiality, one does not presume that she is trying to hide anything. But the longer she maintains her silence on a crucial subject which only she can fully explain, the more it looks as though she is the one who is trying to hide something.

[UPDATE 11/03/2011: The new edition of Anglican Unsctripted (Week 16) is now published, having been delayed by the massive snowstorm that cut power to much of Connecticut, and in it, Kevin Kallsen interviews (toward the end) your Curmudgeon about the Parry affair. At the time of the interview, I was under the misimpression that the Diocese of Nevada had not obtained an updated psychological profile in 2003 on Fr. Parry, and my chronology above also stated as much. An alert reader kindly pointed out that in his July 6 statement, Bishop Edwards affirms that the Diocese did indeed conduct an "independent psychological evaluation" of Parry, but claims, with regard to the 2000 report on Fr. Parry done by the Catholic Church, that "[n]o such report was sent" to them. (How he can know this to be a fact he does not say.) I was able to correct the chronology, but not the Anglican TV interview, so I am publishing this correction here.]

Thursday, October 27, 2011

New Charges of Cover-up against Presiding Bishop

Disturbing new charges have surfaced about a cover-up concerning just how much Episcopal Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori, when she was the diocesan of Nevada, knew about the past sexual abuses committed by Father Bede Parry, a former Catholic priest whom she canonically received into her diocese as a priest in 2004.

The allegations stem from telephone conversations and emails exchanged between Abbot Gregory Polan, the current ordinary of Conception Abbey in Missouri, where Father Parry was only a novice when his sexual abuses of young men originally came to light in the 1970s, and a certain Patrick J. Marker. Until recently, Mr. Marker had remained anonymous as another victim of sexual abuse, who had been molested by a different Catholic priest, while a student at a preparatory school operated by a different Catholic abbey in Minnesota (St. John's).

Bede Parry, before being ordained at Conception Abbey, had taken courses from 1979-1982 at the School of Theology also run by St. John's in Minnesota, and had admitted to his then Abbot in Missouri that he had engaged in sexual misconduct with a teen-aged student there. The Abbot required him to undergo "psychological treatment", but kept him on as a priest. Notwithstanding his treatment, Fr. Parry continued to molest young men in contact with him at the Abbey, and who had been enlisted to sing in its choir. It was during a summer camp for that choir in 1987 that Fr. Parry made the sexual advances which resulted in the current lawsuit on file in Missouri, and which the Circuit Court just ruled could proceed, over objections by the Abbey that the offenses alleged were outside the statute of limitations.

Patrick Marker, as a victim with ties to St. John's, where there were already a number of lawsuits pending on account of apparently widespread sexual abuse of minors there, became aware of the allegations concerning the molestations which Fr. Parry now admits he committed while at St. John's. As a result, Mr. Marker began investigating alleged abuses by the monks of Conception Abbey, and found credible charges concerning at least three of its members -- including Father Parry. He contacted Abbot Polan, as noted, and attempted to persuade him to approach the prior choristers and students at the Abbey who could still be found, in an effort to allow the ones who were willing to come forward to reach closure with regard to sexual abuses which they had suffered there so long ago.

After Abbot Polan, on his attorneys' advice, declined to try to make contact between the Abbey and other potential victims of its predator monks, Mr. Marker opened up a Website for the purpose of creating a point of contact for other victims of abuse at Conception Abbey. Frustrated by his inability to get anywhere with Abbot Polan, Mr. Marker put up a post on his Website last month which reproduced detailed contemporary notes of his conversations with the Abbot, both singly and in the presence of others, in order to document his efforts.

This post remained unnoticed in the world of ECUSA until earlier today, when VirtueOnline linked to it and reproduced it in its entirety. What should disturb Episcopalians in particular are the following extracts from Mr. Marker's contacts with Abbot Polan which concern the case of Father Parry and his subsequent reception into the Episcopal Church. Please note especially the remarks which Mr. Marker recorded the Abbot as having made last April 28 concerning Bishop Jefferts Schori's knowledge of Father Parry's prior sexual abuses before she agreed to receive him -- remarks made in the presence of two other priests taking part in the conversation:

July 19, 2011
Abbot Gregory Polan
Conception Abbey
[Address omitted]
Abbot Gregory,

Attached please find an exchange of emails with a subject line of “Being Proactive” that we exchanged in April and May of this year. The exchange begins with my email to you on Wednesday, April 27, 2011 wherein I reference to our telephone conversation of Monday, April 25, 2011, and ends on May 3, 2011 with an email relating your telephone conversation with Bishop Dan Edwards.

In addition to the emails we exchanged, below please find notes from four of our phone conversations.

*** During our first telephone conversation, on Monday, April 25, 2011, you shared the following information:

1) You heard something about Bede’s 1981 misconduct at St. John’s “at the time of the incident”.

2) You were aware of an incident involving Bede Parry with a member of the abbey’s choir in the summer of 1987.

3) Bede Parry was sent to New Mexico soon after the 1987 incident.

4) When Bede Parry tried to enter another monastery, he took psychological tests that showed a “proclivity toward sexual misconduct with minors.”

5) You called Parry’s boss at an ambulance company and a woman bishop with the Episcopal Church with the information.

6) You identified the woman bishop as Katharine Jefferts Schori.

7) You told Katharine Jefferts Schori not only about the allegations [plural] against Bede, but also of Bede’s attempt to join another monastery, the psychological testing and his “proclivity”.

8 ) That Katharine Jefferts Schori, despite your revelations, “allowed him to continue to work.”
. . .

*** During an April 28, 2011, telephone conversation you shared or confirmed (with Fr. Patrick Caveglia and Fr.Daniel Petsche in your office and all on speakerphone) the following information:

1) You agreed that Katherine Jefferts Schori had known about Bede’s “propensity to reoffend” for nine years.

2) Bede Parry is a sick man.

3) No one is monitoring Bede Parry.

. . .

6) Bede’s return to Conception Abbey would never be possible.

7) You will call the new Episcopal bishop in Nevada, Dan Edwards.

. . .

In our last conversation, you said that you had to trust your conscience. I find it hard to believe that your conscience is telling you to stonewall.

My conscience has led me toward numerous phone conversations and email exchanges with parents, choir members, former monks, and seminary students. I have learned a great deal about the history of misconduct at Conception Abbey.

I respectfully request that you make a public statement regarding misconduct by the members of your community. Those who offended must be held accountable — and publicly named. Those who protected the offenders must also be held accountable.

I know of at least twelve victims who would have benefitted from such accountability years ago. . . .

I also request that you end all speculation regarding your conversations with Katharine Jefferts Schori and Dan Edwards. They ignored your warnings and are rewriting history to serve their own agendas. Please do not fall victim to that trap.

The entire Conception Abbey community deserves the truth. The victims deserve no less.
Bishop Jefferts Schori, it is time for you to come out of your cocoon of silence on this topic, as well. The entire Episcopal Church (USA) deserves the truth as to why you regarded a Catholic priest with such a prior record -- known to you after being "warned" by his Abbot -- as morally fit for reception as a priest into your own Diocese.

Particularly, your Church deserves to know how you reconciled the version of the facts which Father Parry admits he gave you, which was incomplete and admitted only one prior offense in 1987, with the version you heard from his Abbot -- and then decided to receive him despite his lies to you.

More particularly, we need to have your own word on the record as to whether or not you received and read the psychological report on Father Parry which Abbot Polan had in his possession and which ended, as Abbot Polan apparently admitted he told you, with a conclusion to the effect that Bede Parry had a propensity to offend again. (This is the same report which the lawsuit filed by one of Fr. Parry's adolescent victims alleges was sent to you for your information, even though Bishop Edwards of Nevada now denies that it is in the files he has on Fr. Parry.)

More particularly still, given that Bishop Edwards claims that you gave instructions, following his reception, that Fr. Parry be kept from all contact with minors, we need to hear from you as to why his employers at All Saints Las Vegas stated in 2011 that they had never been aware of any such instructions.

Finally -- and not least of all, but far more serious -- one would like to know just what evidence you had before you in 2004 of Fr. Parry's moral and godly character (to quote Canon III.11 as then in effect [and continued unchanged today as Canon III.10.3 (a) (3)]), which was substantial enough and sufficient, in your view, to override all the testimony you then had to the contrary, so that he qualified for reception into your Diocese as one of your priests.

Failing your open, full and honest response on all these weighty matters, one waits to see whether you will self-report your offenses against the Canons in this case to your own Intake Officer, Bishop Matthews, for investigation by the same Disciplinary Board for Bishops whose report you are awaiting in the case against Bishop Lawrence of South Carolina. And the longer the period during which you refuse to speak openly to this matter, then perhaps the more might you subject yourself, mutatis mutandis, to charges that you have likewise "abandoned the communion of the Episcopal Church."

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

And Now for Something Different

Note: A friend recently forwarded to me the following travelogue and pictures. A brief search on the Internet shows that they have been around since at least 2005; I can find no challenge to their authenticity. Even if the signature at the end is not valid, the pictures of San Francisco in 1940, about 18 months before we joined World War II, are wonderful. Take a breather and enjoy them.

Dear Friend,

Arrived in Oakland a few hours ago and finally we're on our way to San Francisco.

We paid 25 cents at the Toll Plaza to enter this wonderful bridge that was opened four years ago. It took me awhile to get used to the traffic.

The Oakland Bay Bridge

The bridge has two decks. The top deck is for automobiles and the bottom deck for trucks and electric trains. You can see the tracks at left. The trains are run by the Key System and Southern Pacific. They can take you all over the East Bay to wonderful places like Neptune Beach in Alameda.

The Yerba Buena Tunnel

We have just passed through the Yerba Buena Tunnel and can finally see San Francisco in the distance. Notice that the traffic has thinned out. Many of the cars got off the bridge at the island to go to the Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island . The fair opened last year and will close for good later in 1940. I'm going to try and go there. Right now we're heading for the Mark Hopkins Hotel on Nob Hill for cocktails. It's a great place to see San Francisco.

Top Of The Mark

Isn't this a great view of San Francisco ? We're at the lounge called the Top of the Mark. The Mark Hopkins Hotel is one of the city's great hotels. The Russ Building , by the bridge tower, is the biggest office building on the Pacific Coast . It's 31stories high. Near the Ferry Building is the Produce District made up of small beautiful, old brick buildings. You can go there early in the morning and watch the grocers come in to pick out all kinds of vegetables.


After leaving the Mark we walked down California to Grant Avenue . Here is San Francisco 's world famous Chinatown. There are wonderful shops and the best Chinese food anywhere... and so reasonable. You can get a large bowl of pork noodles for 35 cents. Do you see the Shriner’s Flags at the top of the picture? They are having a convention in San Francisco . There is a Shriner’s Hospitals for Crippled Children on Nineteenth Avenue . It provides treatment for many children ever year without charge. Every New Years Day the famous Shrine East West football game is held in Kezar Stadium.

Flower Stands on Powell

After leaving Chinatown we walked down to Powell Street . Around Geary Street there are wonderful flower stands. San Francisco is sure a different place.

The Cable Cars

We're at Powell and Market where the cable cars get turned around to go to Fisherman's Wharf. There is a great cafeteria just a few feet from the turntable. It's called Clinton 's and I hear the food is great! but we plan to have dinner at Fisherman's Wharf and that's where we are heading.

Fisherman's Wharf

We walked along the docks to look at hundreds of fishing boats. The one coming in here is a crab-fisher. They are all painted wonderful colors and the fishermen are all Italian. They are very friendly, and we watched them sitting on the docks mending their nets and singing.

Dinner at Fisherman's Wharf

Fisherman's Wharf has to be one of my favorite places in San Francisco . The men who do the fishing bring them back to the restaurants and outdoor stalls. People can pick out a crab and it's cooked right there for you to take home. One night we went to a great restaurant a man told me about. It's called San Remo 's, near Fisherman's Wharf. You can get a wonderful Italian dinner for $1.00 from soup to dessert. Another dollar gets a bottle of house wine. You go into the bar to pick it up. Our waiter was very friendly. I think he had been sampling the house wine.

Playland at the Beach

San Franciscans love the beach. The water is too cold to swim in but Playland at the Beach has everything else; a wonderful roller coaster, the Fun House, Shoot the Chutes, and great food. A favorite is Topsy's Roost for delicious fried chicken and dancing. If you're eating on the balcony you go down to the dance floor on a slide! My favorite was the Pie Shop... the best chicken and beef turnovers imaginable… fantastic crust and wonderful gravy. San Franciscans take them home for dinner.

The Golden Gate Bridge

We left Playland and drove through the Presidio to the Golden Gate Bridge . The Presidio is still an important Army Base and has been on active duty since Spain built a fort there in 1776.

The Golden Gate is my favorite bridge. We parked the car near the Toll Plaza and walked across the bridge for 25 cents. You can't walk on the Bay Bridge. Our trip to San Francisco is over too soon. I hate to say goodbye to this beautiful city. The people who live here are sure lucky.

Hope you enjoyed my letter and the photographs.
Say hello to everybody.

~ Henry Ford

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Paranoid Episcopal Church: Afraid to Covenant

The only thing remarkable about the reports from the latest meeting of ECUSA's Executive Council in Salt Lake City is that they managed to put out a narrative which discloses what they failed to accomplish: they do not represent the whole Episcopal Church (USA), but they act as if they do.

Thus, the Executive Council had called for submissions from each of the Church's supposed 110 Dioceses (actually, only 106 -- but then, who's counting?) regarding their positions on the proposed Anglican Covenant. The report which they published shows that they received responses from a grand total of just twenty-nine of its claimed 110 dioceses.

And even of that pitiful total, they have to reject all the Dioceses which voted in favor of the Covenant. The reason? "None of the dioceses who were reported in the press to have approved the covenant communicated this action to Executive Council." Oh, really? Perhaps these Dioceses recognized that the Executive Council would have taken their positive responses amiss, and so communicated them directly to the Anglican Communion Secretariat? At any rate, the Council -- predictably -- could not even be troubled to list these approving Dioceses, according to the "press reports" which they acknowledge reading.

And based on that resounding "response" from a little over 25% of its Dioceses, the Executive Council recommends to General Convention a Resolution that "The Episcopal Church [sic] is unable to adopt the AnglicanCovenant in its present form."

"The Episcopal Church"? Give me a break. The body which made this announcement is neither "Episcopal" ("bishop-led"), nor a Church. Instead, as can be seen from the conclusions of its "Executive Council" based on submissions by just over a quarter of the dioceses claiming to "belong" to this "Church", what we have is rule by the privileged few, or what Aristotle termed an oligarchy. It should be renamed "The Exclusive Church."

The defining characteristic of an oligarchy is that it rejects the views of the many as having any significance whatsoever. Indeed, it believes that the many, or what Aristotle calls the hoi polloi, are the equivalent of those who currently are "occupying" some parks in various cities across the land: they are unwashed, illiterate, wholly ignorant, and unworthy of serious attention.

Now the Executive Council of "the Exclusive Church" thinks that it, of course, is "Inclusive", and thus actually embraces the hoi polloi whom it in reality despises. The proof of this is that it can rely on the conclusion of a "Task Force" -- acting on the responses from just 29 dioceses -- to make its recommendation to the General Convention in 2012 that they vote to reject the Anglican Covenant.

Of course, this is no surprise; it is a typical "dog bites man" story. Rarely, however, is one given such clear documentation of the proof that those who govern "The Episcopal Church" could care less for what those believe who occupy its pews every Sunday.

A more honest Resolution would have stated:
Despite our best efforts, we have received responses from only 29 of 110 Dioceses. The Executive Council, therefore, recommends that General Convention redouble the efforts in this Church to give the proposed Covenant a full and fair consideration in each and every one of its Dioceses.
But welcome to "The Episcopal Church" -- which "welcomes" you, by the way -- but only if you are interested in placidly allowing them to continue as they always have, and do not rock their boat. This is a group so paranoid about their current disagreements with the rest of the Anglican Communion that they conclude that even the Introduction to the Covenant might obligate them to do things which they simply could not agree to do, under any circumstances:
Paragraph 1 of the Introduction speaks of the biblical treatment of the “communion in Jesus Christ.” It includes the “Communion of the life of the Church,” as the basis for the existence and “ordering of the Church.” A fair interpretation of this text is that our “Communion in Jesus Christ” coexists with our Communion as constituent members of the Anglican Communion. The implication may be that the continuation of our communion in Jesus Christ requires accession to the particular ordering of the church described in the draft Covenant . . .
No, we cannot let any crazy notion of a "communion in Jesus Christ" govern what it is to which we are committing ourselves if we were to sign this Covenant. Far better to retain our "autonomy", while mouthing platitudes about how we "respect" the Communion, and wish to remain "in dialogue" with it.

This is what your tithes are paying for: "The Episcopal Church" at work. Much like the famous old sign:

Friday, October 21, 2011

Conflicts Galore on the Kangaroo Court

In a series of five posts earlier this month (links to the first, second, third, fourth and fifth), I have examined the patent procedural irregularities and bias which attend the deliberations of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops as it looks into vague and vacuous claims that Bishop Mark Lawrence of the Diocese of South Carolina has "abandoned the Episcopal Church" -- by refusing to go along with the latter's theological and canonical excursions into a metaphysical Wonderland. In particular, we saw first how the Board's original "Church Attorney", and then its Chair and one other member, were hopelessly conflicted by the public stances they had taken earlier on issues which are in total disagreement with -- indeed, are the exact opposite of -- the stances of Bishop Lawrence and his Diocese on those issues.

This is not a recipe for impartiality, or for cool and calm judgments at the highest level. Like the Queen of Hearts in Alice's Wonderland, the people who are sitting in judgment on Mark Lawrence have already announced their predilections well beforehand. That they have not yet voluntarily recused themselves from these proceedings is a scandal. Indeed: their failure to do so is what allows the resulting proceedings to be dubbed, in the provincial vernacular, "a kangaroo court." (A tip o' the Rumpolean bowler to Robin G. Jordan of Anglicans Ablaze for finding the wonderful image with which to illustrate this post.)

In this post, I want to lay out for all to see the conflicts (in addition to those I have already made manifest) which should disqualify still other members of the Board from proceeding any further in examining the claims made against Bishop Lawrence. Let us start with his colleagues -- the bishops who sit on the Board besides its President, the Rt. Rev. Dorsey Henderson.

The Rt. Rev. Ian Douglas, Bishop of Connecticut, is presuming to judge whether, by leading his Diocese to remove its accession to the Canons of General Convention, Bishop Lawrence has thereby "abandoned" communion with ECUSA. Bishop Douglas should accuse himself of that charge, because he now leads a Diocese which has never acceded to the Canons of General Convention, but only to the Church's Constitution.

The Rt. Rev. Herman Hollerith, Bishop of the Diocese of Southern Virginia, should be brought before the Board before they take up the case of Bishop Lawrence. In the proud and autonomous tradition of his parent Diocese of Virginia, which (like South Carolina) was one of the founding Dioceses of the Church, the Constitution of Bishop Hollerith's Diocese contains no accession clause of any kind whatsoever -- either to ECUSA's Constitution or to its Canons.

The Rt. Rev. M. Thomas Shaw, Bishop of Massachusetts, interpreted Resolution C056 ("Liturgies for Blessings") adopted by General Convention in 2009 to allow him to authorize clergy in his Diocese to perform same-sex marriages, and indeed performed such a ceremony himself. These acts violated not just the Canons on Marriage, but also the rubrics of the Book of Common Prayer. According to Bishop Shaw, he and his suffragan bishops are the final authority on what the Canons mean in their Diocese. So why is not Bishop Lawrence just as final an authority on the meaning of the Canons in his Diocese, as well?

Indeed, Bishop Shaw's very words to his own Diocese now ring spectacularly hollow, as applied to Bishop Lawrence (emphasis added):
Your bishops understand this to mean for us here in the Diocese of Massachusetts that the clergy of this diocese may, at their discretion, solemnize marriages for all eligible couples, beginning Advent I. . . .

We have not arrived at this place in our common life easily or quickly. We have not done it alone. This decision comes after a long process of listening, prayer and discernment leading up to and continuing after General Convention’s action this past summer. Our Diocesan Convention recently adopted a resolution of its own expressing its collective hope for the very determination that your bishops have made. Even so, we know that not all are of one mind and that some in good faith will disagree with this decision. Our Anglican tradition makes space for this disagreement and calls us to respect and engage one another in our differences. It is through that tension that we find God’s ultimate will.
All of the other Bishops on the Disciplinary Review Board are just as disqualified as the above three individual Bishops. The reason for their disqualification is that the vote to enact the new Title IV Canons passed the House of Bishops at Anaheim in 2009 (see page 227 of the previous link) without any recorded votes of dissent by any of the bishops currently on the Board. Unless they can show that they opposed the new Title IV, or at the minimum abstained from its adoption, they are hopelessly prejudiced against the stand now being taken by Bishop Lawrence and his Diocese. The latter claim in unison that the adoption of Title IV was not in accord with ECUSA's Constitution; but the former demonstrated by their votes at GC 2009 that they already disagreed with him -- even before the charges against him were brought to their attention.

In fact, this entire procedure under the "Abandonment Canon" points up just what is the abuse of that Canon by ECUSA's current leadership -- including, it must now be said, Bishop Dorsey Henderson. We have the case of a Bishop of an Episcopal Diocese who rejects the addition of new Canons for the Church, on the ground of their unconstitutionality. But if that very fact of opposition, for constitutional reasons, can be allowed to constitute grounds for deposition due to "abandonment" of the Church, then what is to become of any good-faith opposition to the passage of Church canons? If the Church now makes any such opposition deposable, then the only bishops who will remain with it will be the spineless toadies who never object to its canonical excesses under a leadership bent on arrogating ever more power to itself.

And what of the lay and clergy members of the Disciplinary Board? These, it must be remembered, were all appointed by House of Deputies President Bonnie Anderson, just as all of the Bishop members were appointed by Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori. (Such are the truly "democratic" processes of the Episcopal Church (USA).) Exactly as in the case of the Bishop members, those whom Ms. Anderson appointed, such as the Rev. Canon Angela Shepherd, and who served as Deputies to the General Convention in 2009, need to step down if they voted for the new Title IV. (Canon Shepherd was in the deputation from Maryland, which was chaired by the Rev. Canon Mary Glasspool, soon to be elected suffragan bishop of Los Angeles.)

Member Christopher Hayes is disqualified as well. He serves as the Chancellor for the Diocese of California, which under his guidance and support recently enacted its own disciplinary canons (see Canon XV) to give effect in that Diocese to the new Title IV. How can he judge someone from a diocese which refused to do the very thing he advised his Diocese to do? Other Board members who served as deputies to their own Diocese's annual convention, such as Ms. Josephine Powell, and the Rev. Canon Jésus Reyes, are disqualified if they recently voted to amend their diocesan Canons to bring them into conformity with the new Title IV.

The Rev. Marjorie Menaul, the rector of St. Paul's in Bloomsburg, and a member of the Board from Central Pennsylvania, should be very careful of how she proceeds in this matter, along with Bishop Catherine Waynick of the Diocese of Indianapolis. The two of them served on the Court for the Trial of a Bishop in the case which resulted in a sentence of deposition (subsequently overturned on appeal) for the Rt. Rev. Charles E. Bennison, Jr. In the course of that proceeding, the Court requested that the Diocese of Los Angeles supply it with copies of letters in its files and stemming from the time that Bishop Bennison served as a priest at a parish in Upland there, working with his brother, a (now) confessed child molester. In its final order, the Court wrote this about its requests to the Diocese (pp. 14-15 of the Order, with emphases added):
Additionally, the Respondent argues that the Sentence should be modified because the Diocese of Los Angeles refused to produce its files regarding John Bennison. The parties, a representative of the Presiding Bishop, and the Court each asked the Diocese to produce those records. Unfortunately, the Diocese refused all of those requests and the Court had no ability to obtain those documents. . . . In this case, however, no party to this action refused to produce the documents in question. Rather, the Diocese of Los Angeles, a wholly autonomous entity which is not a party to these proceedings, chose not to produce the documents notwithstanding entreaties from the Court.
Thus, Bishop Waynick and the Rev. Menaul both acknowledged in their order that the Diocese of Los Angeles was "autonomous", and neither the Court for the Trial of a Bishop, nor the Presiding Bishop herself, could order it to produce its records. No presentment was ever brought against Bishop J. Jon Bruno for refusing to comply in that matter -- but these Board members are considering whether a similar refusal to comply here would constitute "abandonment" on the part of Bishop Lawrence? Having already ruled that way in the Bennison case, why have these two members not insisted that the Board has to drop all further consideration of the charges against the Bishop of a similarly autonomous Diocese, for acting autonomously?

Under the provisions of the current Title IV, it will be the duty of the Board's newly appointed Church Attorney, Mr. Jack W. "J.B." Burtch, Jr. to challenge all the members of the Board who are disqualified because their "impartiality may reasonably be questioned" (Canon IV.19.14[b], discussed and quoted in the updates to this previous post). However, the drafters of the new Title IV do not appear to have envisioned such a massive host of conflicts which would disqualify nearly every member of the Board under that standard. Why do I say that? Take a look at paragraph (c) of Canon IV.19.14 just cited, and see how it provides for the handling of any charges of disqualification which Mr. Burtch may bring against the Board's members:
(c) Any member of any Panel provided for in this Title who has not disqualified himself or herself as provided in this section may be subject to challenge by the Church Attorney . . . . The challenge shall be investigated by the remaining members of the Panel who shall determine whether the challenged member of the Panel should be disqualified and replaced according to the procedures of this Title for filling vacancies.
Let us see now . . . In this post and the one previous to it on this topic, I have set forth the basis for why it would not be reasonable to think that seventeen of the Board's eighteen sitting members could act impartially in the matter of Bishop Lawrence. Who is left to judge the rest? It may all come down to the member from Puerto Rico, Mr. Victor Feliberty-Ruberte. But wait! I just remembered that the Diocese of Puerto Rico does not have an accession clause in its Constitution, either! So, sorry, Mr. Feliberty-Ruberte: unless you can explain why your Diocese can get away with it while you believe that South Carolina should not, then you, too, could not reasonably be expected to be impartial in this matter.

As I said earlier: the entire kangaroo court should resign en masse -- and Bishop Jefferts Schori and President Bonnie Anderson, because of their continued behind-the-scenes involvement via the Executive Council which they head, should disqualify themselves from naming the people who can sit impartially in judgment on this matter. In sum: there is no one currently involved with the governance of the Episcopal Church (USA) who is impartial enough to judge Bishop Lawrence, or to appoint his judges. All charges should be dismissed without further delay. The longer this kangaroo court drags things out, the more apparent will it be that its procedures have been rigged from the outset.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Judge Chupp Sets $100,000 Bond for Ft. Worth Appeal

Today, after months and months of fruitless negotiations between the opposing sides, Judge Chupp of the 141st District Court in Tarrant County, Texas used his sword to cut through the Gordian knot (h/t: Reader and commenter DDR). At issue was the appropriate amount of bond to fix to guard the plaintiffs (the Potemkin Diocese of Ft. Worth) against any loss or damage to the property of Bishop Jack L. Iker's Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth, pending the current appeal to the Texas Supreme Court. The Iker Diocese has posted a good summary of how things went at the hearing:
There is progress to report today in the matter of the supersedeas bond* designed to protect property in the Diocese while the judgment against us is on appeal. After five months of negotiation without reaching agreement on the terms of the bond, attorneys returned to the 141st district court, where the Hon. John Chupp heard arguments and signed an order for a supersedeas bond and certain other injunctions and directives.

In advance of the hearing this morning, lawyers representing each side filed a motion and a new proposed order. The attorneys representing Episcopal Church interests also brought the judge three exhibits and a thick binder of material re-copied from previously-filed documents. As before, their request was for a bond of nearly $1 million.

The existing judgment in the case, if carried out, would give all assets to the local TEC parties. Therefore none of the property can be sold or mortgaged by the diocesan Corporation. Pressing the attorneys for TEC and referring to the Diocese and Corporation, Judge Chupp asked, “What assets do they have [to use for a bond]? ... I'm serious.”

After hearing from each side and noting that the 14-page proposed order submitted to him today “is a lot thicker than the one was back in May,” the judge returned to the original three-page document presented on May 19, 2011, which he said had been “sitting in my drawer since then.” He announced that he already had struck out a paragraph requesting “additional security” for the TEC parties and had entered a figure of $5 million as a benchmark of “fair market rental value” of a select dozen churches in the Diocese – a value presented in May by the TEC attorneys. Lead diocesan attorney Shelby Sharpe explained that no rent ever is paid by churches for use of property owned by the Corporation. Nevertheless, said the judge, the property “does have some value.”

Judge Chupp then set the bond at two percent of $5 million, or $100,000, to be paid by Nov. 20, 2011. In addition to the cash amount, the order requires each of the 48 parishes and missions involved in the judgment to present a “monthly summary of the sources, amounts and payees of any and all expenditures ...”

Bishop Iker wishes to thank the members of our legal team for their continued service. He also thanks all those who have prayed for an equitable resolution to this question. He added, “It is a shame that this money will not be used for ministry by either group, but only sit in a bank account for months or years.”

The terms of today's order will be in effect as long as our appeal is pending before the Texas courts.
*A supersedeas bond is a deposit made during an appeal process when the case involves property and the party making the appeal wishes to delay full payment until the process concludes.

The text of the Order which Judge Chupp signed today may be seen at this link. There is also an account of the earlier impasse at the hearing last May 19 on the Diocese's legal news page, below the account of today's hearing.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Pittsburgh Appeal

Sad news yesterday for Pittsburgh Anglicans; no doubt the Episcopalians there will be chanting in the streets for joy: "Ours! Forty-five properties and all the bank accounts! They're all OURS!"

But then, the last church property case which the courts in Pennsylvania got right was more than twenty-five years ago: Presbytery of Beaver-Butler v. Middlesex Presbyterian Church, 489 A.2d 1317, 1318 (Pa. 1985), cert. denied, 474 U.S. 887 (1985). Since then it's all been downhill for parishes (and now Dioceses). The result has been monuments to the ego and folly of bishops, such as the still-empty Church of St. James the Less. No doubt more will now come into being.

There is nothing more to be said -- see this page for links to posts describing how everything got to this point.

Monday, October 17, 2011

The Kangaroo Court Should Resign in Toto

In the wake of the resignation of Ms. Josephine Hicks as Church Attorney on the +Mark Lawrence matter, Bishop Dorsey Henderson, President of the new Title IV's Disciplinary Board for Bishops, has sent the following announcement to his members (H/T: Doug LeBlanc, Living Church):
Sisters and Brothers,

This message comes with the prayer that you are all well and joyful.

Because I believe that time is of an essence, I have made a command decision and today requested that J.B. Bur[t]ch assume the work of the Church Attorney in the matter of Bishop Mark Lawrence only; Josephine Hicks continues to work with the other allegations on our “docket.” Mr. Bur[t]ch has accepted.

J.B. held the equivalent position with the Review Committee under the previous version of Title IV. As “Lay Assessor” to the Review Committee, he did the same work that the “Church Attorney” now does for the Disciplinary Board. While in that position, he did preliminary work on the Bishop Lawrence information, so he is already more than familiar with that information and the task which is now ours.

I have informed Ms. Hicks and she will be in communication with Mr. Burch to arrange for an orderly transfer of that labor and ministry.

Faithfully yours in our Lord,

+Dorsey Henderson
Thus Bishop Henderson previously worked with Mr. Jack W. "J. B." Burtch, Jr. (h/t to Milton Finch for correcting the Bishop's misspelling of Mr. Burtch's name) when Bishop Henderson served on the former "Title IV Review Committee" (of which Bishop Waggoner was the chair). And in that capacity, Bishop Henderson tells us, "he did preliminary work on the Bishop Lawrence information . . .". [UPDATE 10/17/2011: On page 801 of the "Blue Book" for the 2009 General Convention, one may read the following: "The Title IV Review Committee, with the assistance and advice of its Lay Assessor, J. B. Burtch, Jr., Esq. (Virginia III), meets as necessary to discharge its responsibilities under Title IV of the Canons of the General Convention with regard to the ecclesiastical discipline of bishops."]

What are we to make of this? It indicates that the so-called allegations of "abandonment" against Bishop Lawrence were on the docket of the former Title IV Review Committee until that body ceased to operate as of July 1, 2011. But if that is the case, they must have been presented with the allegations in June 2011 or earlier -- possibly (as I indicated in an earlier post) as long ago as last September.

One wonders why it took so long for Bishop Lawrence to be informed of the allegations made against him, if that chronology is true. Bishop Henderson did not write to him about them until mid- to late-September of this year -- but now we find out that they had a "Lay Assessor" working on them in the first half of 2011, or possibly earlier? And it is only now -- after the charges have become public -- that Bishop Henderson "believe[s] that time is of the essence"??

Another curious fact, mentioned in my earlier post, was that the old Title IV Review Committee held its last full meeting on November 5, 2010, by teleconference. I suggested that the Committee might have considered the allegations against Bishop Lawrence at that meeting, since their review would have required the full Committee to participate. And if so, I posited that there might be a kind of "double jeopardy" operating here, since the Committee obviously did not certify any charges of abandonment against Bishop Lawrence as a result of its last meeting.

If the charges against Bishop Lawrence were not at that time deemed adequate to constitute "abandonment", then what has happened since November 2010 that could make them more worthy of consideration now? Let us look more closely at what we know of the charges, as detailed in the appendix to the letter from Bishop Henderson received by Bishop Lawrence only a few weeks ago, and published on the Website of the Diocese of South Carolina. (They may actually be viewed in a more concise format in this post at the StandFirm site.)

If one reviews the Appendix thoroughly, the one thing that fairly leaps out, and which happened subsequent to November 5, 2010, was the convocation of the special Diocesan Convention of South Carolina on February 19, 2011. At that convention, two resolutions critical to the current dispute passed on second reading (required for the amendments to South Carolina's diocesan constitution).

Since these Resolutions were not final as of November 2010, the Review Committee may have held off any further proceedings to consider the allegations against Bishop Lawrence until after the amendments became final, when passed on their second reading. But that just makes even more apparent the kangaroo court nature of these proceedings: the Review Committee, and now the new Disciplinary Board which picked up its baton, is seeking to hold a sitting bishop responsible for the corporate acts of the Diocese as a whole.

If the amendments finally adopted in February 2011 (of which those embodied in the first Resolution ["R-1"] are the critical ones) are the gist of ECUSA's "case" against Bishop Lawrence -- and the foregoing observations based on the public record suggest that this may well be accurate -- then we truly are now in the midst of that Constitutional Crisis about which I have for so long been warning. Here is its essence:

1. General Convention adopts on minimal debate an entire new set of disciplinary Canons. These purport to confer upon the Presiding Bishop metropolitical (pastoral and disciplinary) authority over other Bishops, without any warrant for doing so in ECUSA's Constitution.

2. The Diocese of South Carolina objects to this unconstitutional act by General Convention, and takes the requisite steps to ensure that it cannot be legally bound by whatever passes General Convention -- including especially the new Title IV.

3. This corporate act of self-protection by an autonomous member Diocese then becomes the basis for "abandonment" charges against the Diocese's Bishop -- under the new and unconstitutional Canons!

4. Not only that, but the person heading up the inquiry into "abandonment" charges against Bishop Lawrence is the very Bishop who led the "Title IV Task Force II" which drafted and then presented the revisions to Title IV for General Convention to adopt!

Bishop Henderson still heads the Title IV Task Force II, which is now charged with the duty of educating everyone in the Church about the new disciplinary Canons. In that capacity, he supervised the publication, in its name, of a written memorandum defending the new Canons against the charges of unconstitutionality! (Is it any wonder that the Presiding Bishop wanted him to be on the new Disciplinary Board?)

Are we getting "kangaroo" enough for you here? Also serving on both the Title IV Task Force II and on the new Disciplinary Board is Ms. Diane Sammons, a lay member from the Diocese of Newark. (Both appointments were made by the current President of the House of Deputies, Bonnie Anderson.)

There are still further revelations to come about the conflicts of interest of those currently serving on the Disciplinary Board for Bishops in the matter of Bishop Lawrence. They will take more time and research to lay out in detail, with appropriate links, and will be fully described in a follow-up to this post. What has been shown here, however, should be enough to taint the entire process of this Board from its inception.

(Note: there are also more observations which you can view as part of the latest Anglican Unscripted episode. And, not to detract in any way from the seriousness of the above, but in a remarkable coincidence, evidence is emerging that the Obama Administration is seriously conflicted on the issue of climate change, as well. The more they try to hide things, the worse it is when they come to light, as eventually they must -- in a democracy under the rule of law, at least.)

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Absurdities in the Midst of a Crisis

Now that ECUSA's Constitutional Crisis is out in the open for all to see, the left is piling absurdity upon absurdity in an attempt to assure everyone that things are normal: "Nothing to see here," they say, " -- move along, move along." They see themselves as the calm and clear ones, while those who defend South Carolina and its bishop are being melodramatic and overwrought. In doing so, they delude themselves and their readers with multiple misreadings of ECUSA's Constitution and Canons.

Let's capture and stuff a few more specimens for our collection of Canonical Absurdities, shall we? Here's the first, from Mr. Andrew Gerns, writing for "The Lead" at Episcopal Café:
As we noted last week, here and here, a complaint has been made that Bishop Lawrence by both direct action and inaction, has abandoned the "doctrine, discipline and worship" of the Episcopal Church. These were described as "charges" (including by us, at first) and much has been written describing the persecution of the Diocese of South Carolina by the Episcopal Church.

But, as Bishop Henderson has noted, there are no charges. There is only a complaint.

We say it again: there are no charges. Only a complaint. The complaint is begin [sic] investigated.
Stuff and nonsense, Mr. Gerns. A complaint is made up of allegations. Allegations are charges -- claims that what is stated is true. Bishop Lawrence has been charged by persons undisclosed with "abandonment of communion" under Canon IV.16. Had he not been so charged, the Disciplinary Board for Bishops would never have gotten involved. (And by the way, Mr. Gerns: just how does a Bishop go about abandoning his Church by "inaction"? Wouldn't that happen only if the Church in question first abandoned that particular Bishop, and he did "not act" so as to follow them?)

Here's the next one -- another beauty from Mr. Gerns:
1. Someone made a complaint from within the Diocese.
2. The committee is investigating. (This is where the process is right now.)
3. If the investigation warrants, charges will be filed. If the investigation does not find anything actionable, the process stops.
4. If charges are made, then probably another investigation will follow. Advocates for the various parties will be selected. Attempts will be made to reconcile the aggrieved parties. If resolution is found, the process ends.
5. If no resolution is found, and if there are actionable charges, there will be a hearing where both sides will be heard. If the panel finds that no canons were broken, then the process stops. If the panel finds that canons were broken then a pastoral directive is issued. An appeal may be made.
6. Rinse. Repeat.
More stuff and nonsense. The charges have already been filed -- that is how the Board gets to investigate them. (What? -- you thought they acted only on rumors, and not charges? Well, actually, the Canon lets them act on anything that comes to their attention. But in this instance, as Bishop Henderson stated, they are acting on complaints brought by persons unknown -- to us, but not to the Disciplinary Board -- within Bishop Lawrence's Diocese.)

And the charges will not get "filed" again. Instead, by a simple majority vote of its members, the Board will either certify that "abandonment" has occurred, or it will not. There will be no further investigation. There will be no "attempts at reconciliation." And there will certainly be no hearing, because the Canon (IV.16) does not provide for one.

Instead, what the Canon says is this, Mr. Gerns:
[Upon finding that a Bishop has "abandoned the communion of this Church",] it shall be the duty of the Disciplinary Board for Bishops, by a majority vote of all of its members, to certify the fact to the Presiding Bishop and with the certificate to send a statement of the acts or declarations which show such abandonment, which certificate and statement shall be recorded by the Presiding Bishop. The Presiding Bishop shall then place a restriction on the exercise of ministry of said Bishop until such time as the House of Bishops shall investigate the matter and act thereon. . . .
And as we saw in the case of Bishop Duncan, the House of Bishops does not investigate the matter any further, because its Presiding Bishop does not give them any opportunity to do that. She simply presents them with a resolution of deposition, and they vote as she wishes. Even though they are a minority of all the bishops entitled to vote, she declares that the ones who voted her way prevail, and then signs a certificate that the Bishop has been deposed by the House of Bishops. That's the way it happens, Mr. Gerns. Were you not paying attention when Bishop Duncan got that treatment?

Since Mr. Gerns is batting so strongly for the left, let's capture another of his absurdities for stuffing and mounting:
Of course, the Disciplinary Board operates under the terms of the current Title IV. How can they do otherwise? The whole Episcopal Church--that's all the dioceses--operate under the same rules. Except in South least in the minds of their leaders...where the convention voted to only abide by Episcopal Church canon through 2006.

If this were 19th century baseball, one could argue whether Knickerbocker or Massachusetts Rules might apply on this field for this game, but not in this case. The question reveals both the direction of the upcoming dispute and how it will play out: Can the Diocese of South Carolina pick and choose which elements of the constitution and canons of the Episcopal Church it will adhere to? Can they selectively opt out of what everyone else in Episcopal Church adheres to and still claim that they are upholding the "discipline" of the Church?
Welcome to the Constitutional Crisis within the Episcopal Church (USA), Mr. Gerns. If General Convention chooses to act unconstitutionally, what is a Diocese supposed to do? If it says "No, we refuse to adopt your unconstitutional new canons -- we will continue to follow the old ones," do you then depose its Bishop for that act by his Diocese? Those may be the rules in your book, but then -- that is just the problem, isn't it?

And is it really true, Mr. Gerns, that all of the dioceses "operate under the same rules"? How many Dioceses strictly adhere to the Canon that prohibits offering holy communion to the unbaptized? How many Dioceses are adhering even to the current Book of Common Prayer, which defines marriage as "between a man and a woman"? Face it, Mr. Gerns -- each Diocese picks and chooses what canons or rules it will follow, and they have been doing so since the very beginning of the Church. But only the unlucky ones are charged with "abandonment" for doing so.

Mr. Gerns's parting shot is another doozy (bold emphasis added):
Ironically, they [South Carolina] have the space to do this because they are playing an adversarial game in a process designed to be restorative.
You might want to take that up with Bishop Henderson and his Board, Mr. Gerns. Initially many of us (including some eminent canon lawyers) thought that was the case. But then Bishop Henderson published a statement which made it clear that the Board was not following the new procedures prescribed in the new Title IV (the ones you call "restorative", with possibilities for pastoral counseling, conciliation, and compromise).

No, they have decided (contrary to what Canon IV.17 says) to use the specially expedited procedure in Canon IV.16, which provides for no hearing, no conciliation or mediation, and no pastoral response. The Board takes up the charges, and if they find them to constitute "abandonment", they certify the fact, and that's it. Bishop Lawrence will have sixty days to deny the charges, but even if he does, the Presiding Bishop can (and will) bring a resolution to depose him to the House of Bishops. (Remember how it went in Bishop Duncan's case?)

You delude yourself (and your readers) when you refer to such a process as "restorative", and charge that it is Bishop Lawrence who is making this process "adversarial." It has been adversarial (designed to get rid of Bishop Lawrence) ever since the charges were first sent to the Executive Council a year ago, and it moved into high gear when Bishop Henderson pronounced them "serious" -- instead of dismissing them out of hand.

You may want to feed reassurances to your readers, Mr. Gerns, that "all is well within ECUSA" -- even if your reassurances proceed from ignorance of the canon law that is being claimed as operative by your own Church. For those in South Carolina, however, this is not a trivial matter. The Episcopal Church (USA) is threatening the very heart and lifeblood of the Diocese, and will leave it with no alternative but costly and prolonged litigation -- to prove what point? That a bishop who referred to Church heterodoxy as "kudzu" has abandoned communion with it? Really, Mr. Gerns?

Let's move on to some other people's specimens. How about one from a real live Bishop? That ought to do the trick (for some reason, Episcopal Café manages to publish most of these absurdities):
To fully understand this situation, it is important to grasp the canonical (i.e. legal) structure of The Episcopal Church. Parishes are creations of the diocese in which they are situated, in some cases deriving their tax exempt status because they are an irrevocable part of the diocese. As a condition of ordination, clergy vow obedience to their bishop. Congregations begin as mission churches under the direct supervision and financial support of the bishop with property held by the diocese. When such a church becomes a parish, by vote of diocesan legislature, the congregation pledges to be subordinate to the constitution and canons of the Episcopal Church as well as the constitution and canons of the diocese. After becoming a parish, they may incorporate under the religious incorporation statutes of the state in which the congregation is situated. The diocese will usually transfer title to real property to the parish at that time to be held in trust for The Episcopal Church.
Let's break these outlandish claims down, and look at them individually to understand just how absurd they are.

"Parishes are creations of the diocese in which they are situated." No, they are emphatically not. This is a common canonical mistake committed by those on the left, because of their warped views of the Church's polity. An incorporated parish may have begun as a "plant" from another organized parish, and may have started with resources from the Diocese, but only that much is true of Bishop Mathes' statement. The parish corporation is a creation of the State which accepts its articles for filing, and not of the Diocese. (Bishop Mathes shows an uncomprehending awareness of this fact when he later writes: "After becoming a parish, they may incorporate under the religious incorporation statutes of the state in which the congregation is situated.") After it has become a legitimate corporation -- i.e., a legal entity all on its own under its State's laws -- the Diocese then receives it into ecclesiastical union with itself and the other member parishes. Because the Diocese is nothing more than a collection of individual parishes and their clergy, it is the parishes that create the Diocese, and not the other way around.

But what does Bishop Mathes know of such things? After all, he is only a bishop. Let's take his next outlandish claim: "As a condition of ordination, clergy vow obedience to their bishop." What they pledge, Bishop Mathes, is to "respect and be guided by the pastoral direction and leadership of [their] bishop." And implied in that pledge is a restriction that any such "pastoral direction and leadership" be canonical, that is, lawful under the Constitution and Canons of both the Diocese and of ECUSA. Only an autocrat such as Bishop Mathes would describe this as a "vow of obedience."

The rest of his paragraph simply repeats his earlier absurdities. Let's move on to another one of his howlers:
When individuals purported to alienate property which had be given to The Episcopal Church, I was bound by my fiduciary role as a bishop to prevent that from happening. Because The Episcopal Church, like so many others, follows state laws of incorporation [sic -- I agree, it makes no sense whatsoever], I had no alternative but to file suit in civil court to remedy the matter. This is analogous to a landlord finally going to civil court to gain relief from a non-paying renter or an owner using legal means to deal with a squatter. Thus, those leaving The Episcopal Church were catalysts of these law suits by breaking their solemn vows and by attempting to seize property they had no right to possess.
In this bishop's view, the Diocese "owned" the parishes' property all along, and simply rented it out to them. I am certain this came as news to the parishes that paid for their own land and buildings. And what a success you made of matters, Bishop Mathes, by following your quaint notions of "fiduciary duty"! Those minorities for whose sake you "rescued" their properties in court are now mostly too small to maintain them -- so they will once again be dependent on the Diocese for financial support. Brilliant, Bishop Mathes -- simply brilliant. With acumen such as that, they should elect you as the next Presiding Bishop.

And -- "breaking their solemn vows", Bishop Mathes? So now you have entire congregations vowing obedience to you, as well? (The priests subject to your direction do not own the real property of the parish, Bishop.)

With his next assertion, Bishop Mathes really jumps the shark:
Ms. Hemingway [the author of the WSJ article which Mathes is excoriating] suggests that The Episcopal Church is depriving these departing Episcopalians of a relationship to Anglican bishops and foreign dioceses. Oddly, these individuals claim to desire a relationship with a bishop of their own choosing.
Oh, please, Bishop. The subject of Ms. Hemingway's article was the requirement by the so-called Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh (not a real diocese) that two settling parishes -- which had withdrawn from the Episcopal Church (USA) when their Diocese withdrew, with its Bishop -- not associate further with that Diocese and its Bishop (Duncan). In other words, they already had a Bishop, but the Episcopalians in Pittsburgh would not let them stay with him. Only an egotistical autocrat like yourself, Bishop Mathes, could go on to write such drivel as this:
But bishops are those who by definition maintain order and oversight over the church. To put it in historical terms, this is rather like choosing to secede from the nation when the current leadership is not to your liking. Thus, when the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church urges her colleagues not to provide aid and comfort to those who would undermine our church, she has history on her side.
Bishop Mathes? Are you even aware of the nine dioceses that withdrew from the Church -- with their bishops -- during the Civil War? Is your reference to "secession" so ignorant that you do not see how you are contradicting yourself? And since when does allowing a congregation the right to associate with its own Bishop constitute "provid[ing] aid and comfort to those who would undermine our church"? When you illegally deprive them of that right, Bishop Mathes, you are not withholding "aid and comfort" which would otherwise be within your competence to give; you are taking away from them that which is not yours to take.

The good Bishop suffers from a delusion of what is his, and also of just who is under his thumb. This is a common delusion that eventually overtakes all petty tyrants and dictators. Enough of absurd specimens, and enough of absurd bishops. The Episcopal Church (USA) is welcome to them, since it seems bent on gratefully applauding the very people who are misleading it.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Why Would Any Disciplinary Board Choose Ms. Hicks? (UPDATED -- See End of Post)

Your Curmudgeon takes pride in his attention to details -- and he does not like being misled. He is always happy to correct his mistakes, once they are pointed out to him, because no one should have a vested interest in spreading untruth. Thus when somebody feeds him wrong information, he cannot refrain from asking why they would have done so.

Consider the latest snafu over the "mistaken" listing of Ms. Josephine Hicks, the Church Attorney to the Disciplinary Board of Bishops, on the Official Roster of that Board as published on ECUSA's Website. She was still shown as a "Member" (i.e., a participant with a vote) as late as October 12, and yet on the previous September 30, she authored a letter to the President of South Carolina's Standing Committee, which she signed as "Church Attorney to the Board".

Now the Rt. Rev. Dorsey Henderson, former (resigned) Bishop of Upper South Carolina, is a canon lawyer. He has served on the predecessor to the Disciplinary Board (the former "Title IV Review Committee"). As such, he participated in the proceedings against Bishops Schofield and Duncan for so-called "abandonment of communion", which resulted in their faux "deposition" by a tiny minority of the full membership of the House of Bishops who are actually entitled to vote under ECUSA's Constitution, notwithstanding what the vindictive Presiding Bishop or her financially very interested Chancellor chooses to opine. So he is no stranger to the canonical process, especially in so-called cases of "abandonment."

On July 1, 2011 Bishop Henderson -- despite having his term on the Title IV Review Committee shown as continuing until GC 2012 -- transferred directly from his former position on that Committee to the new Disciplinary Board for Bishops, having been appointed to the Board by the Presiding Bishop under the purported authority of the new (but unconstitutional) Title IV Canons which "took effect"* on that date.
*Constitutional scholars of the Episcopal Church (USA) might well want to ask themselves: what, exactly, went "into [canonical] effect" on July 1, 2011? The major part of the new "Title IV" has to do with proceedings at the diocesan level. But not a single one of those provisions could actually "take effect" within a Diocese unless that Diocese enacted them into law at its own earlier Convention -- so the far greater part of the new Title IV had no canonical effect whatsoever. General Convention, no matter what the revisionists may think, has absolutely no power to enact legislation for dioceses; it depends on them to take up the baton and follow its suit (which, to be sure, the vast majority of unthinking sheep did). The current crisis is all over one particular Diocese which chose, under its own careful reading of ECUSA's Constitution and the authority it grants to General Convention, not to adopt holus bolus every single "Canon" pushed through that body at the last minute, and with zero opportunity for meaningful debate.
To return to the chronology: we know that on that same day -- July 1, 2011 -- the Board held its first meeting, since it was now officially in business. The minutes are not yet published (why? because this is ECUSA, of course), but we may hazard a guess that the meeting was largely organizational. The Board needed to elect a President, and it elected the Rt. Rev. Dorsey Henderson. It also needed a Clerk, and it elected the Rt. Rev. Robert Fitzpatrick to that position.

But did it have any other business before it at that first meeting? Only the minutes will let us know for certain -- and the Board, being an official body of ECUSA, has not seen fit to publish them yet. But we can note from its Website that it met again, just six weeks later -- on August 17, 2011. And I find this simple fact most interesting.

Why? Do you remember the famous Sherlock Holmes mystery in which the most significant fact, in Holmes's view after explaining how he solved the case, was the dog that did not bark? That is rather what we have to observe in this case, as well. For (again according to the Board's official Web page) it has not met again ("barked") after August 17.

This observation, my dear Watson, raises at once the following question: Why did the dog in question "bark" on August 17 -- two full months ago -- but not once since? We know that the Board's President sent Bishop Lawrence a copy of the allegations of abandonment which it was considering during the month of September. But there was no official meeting of the Board during September; therefore, I conclude that the matter of the allegations against Bishop Lawrence was first presented at, and was indeed the very reason for, the unusually quick second meeting of the Board on August 17.

July 1 was a Friday; August 17 was a Wednesday. On both dates, a teleconference of the full Board needed to be arranged. It takes time to set up an acceptable date in advance for a Board consisting of eighteen members. Obviously the organizational meeting on July 1 could have been scheduled well in advance, as soon as it was known who would be serving on the Board.

But the meeting on August 17, just six weeks later, suggests that something had come to the attention of the Board in the interim. And it is only logical to infer that the "something" which had come up in the interim was the arrival of the letter(s) from South Carolina with allegations of "abandonment" on the part of Bishop Lawrence. Otherwise, there was absolutely no reason for the full Board to meet again so urgently.

Consider: at some point in the last few weeks, the Presiding Bishop was presented with a question of whether she should restrict ("inhibit") the resigned bishop of the Diocese of Olympia. Now he was not charged with "abandonment" (requiring the full Board to deliberate), but with adultery during his former marriage. The charges were found credible after they were taken up by the Intake Officer and an investigator, under the procedures I outlined in this post. And so they resulted in the bishop's inhibition (restriction from performing episcopal acts, such as ordination, confirmation, etc.).

But such a decision to inhibit pending further proceedings, I emphasize, did not require a meeting of the full Disciplinary Board. The Presiding Bishop, acting under metropolitical authority purported to be granted to her by these unconstitutional new canons, may "at any time" she pleases impose restrictions (inhibit) a Bishop against whom charges have been brought. She does not need the consent of the full Board, or indeed of any of its members, to exercise that power -- that is one of the significant changes between the old disciplinary Canons and the new.

The clincher, however, is that the current Bishop of Olympia stated on September 30 that he had become aware of the adultery allegations "several weeks ago", i.e., most likely still within the month of September, and most certainly after the Disciplinary Board's full meeting on August 17.

I conclude that the charges against the resigned Bishop of Olympia could not have been on the agenda for the full Disciplinary Board at its meeting on August 17. Then what matter was then before the full Board, which required all of its members to meet on that date? We have the answer, whether wittingly or not, from Bishop Henderson's statements: it was the "serious" charges of abandonment by then brought to the Board by unknown (and unforthcoming) persons in the geographical territory of the Diocese of South Carolina, whether communicants of that Diocese or not. (The new Title IV allows literally anyone to bring charges -- not just members "known to the Treasurer" of a parish.)

For the charges to have been delivered to the Board, and for its newly elected President to have scheduled a teleconference among all of its members on August 17, means that the charges would have come to the Clerk of the Board in sufficient time to arrange the August 17 meeting -- that is, probably in mid-July, or shortly after the Board itself was organized and "open" to do business.

Now please note this one additional fact: as of July 1, the date of the organizational meeting of the Board, there most probably was no occasion to hire a "Church Attorney" for the Board. Why not? Because there was not even a President elected as of that meeting. Unless there was in place a complete and foreordained program (which would emphatically not redound to the supposed "impartiality" of these proceedings), the Board needed to organize itself before it could begin to hire investigators and a Church Attorney. Moreover, if (as I have hypothesized) the charges against Bishop Lawrence were not submitted until after July 1's change in the national Canons, then there would have been absolutely no reason to engage a "Church Attorney" when there were no matters before the Board requiring such an official's attention. (As explained in this earlier post, the "Church Attorney" gets involved only after all the preliminaries before the Reference Panel, and an initial determination by its investigator, have been completed.)

So -- is the largely inescapable logic all clear now?

1. The Disciplinary Board could not legally have organized itself, and elected a President and a Clerk, before July 1, 2011.

2. At that meeting, the allegations against Bishop Lawrence were either already on the agenda, or they were not.

3. But if they were already on the agenda, the Board could not have proceeded to deal with them until after it had organized. It needed both a President to direct the proceedings, and a "Church Attorney" to investigate the charges under Canon IV.16, and to report to the full Board before it voted on their sufficiency, as provided in that Canon.

4. So in either event, the charges could not have begun to have been addressed until after the Board met again six weeks later, on August 17.

5. Unless the Church Attorney had been authorized to be hired at its July 1 meeting, then the Board either (a) voted to hire Josephine Hicks on August 17, or else (b) authorized the President to hire a Church Attorney of his choosing after that meeting, to make a full report to the Board.

6. Ms. Hicks wrote her letter to the DSC Standing Committee on September 30, 2011, as the Board's "Church Attorney", asking for information to assist her in her investigation for the Board.

7. It is thus logical to infer that the Board hired Ms. Hicks sometime after its August 17 meeting -- otherwise why would she wait until September 30 to open her investigation?

8. Also, please note that as of September 24, 2011, Google made a cache of the Board's Roster page, which showed Ms. Hicks as a "Member" as of that date.

It is inescapable from the foregoing facts that (a) the Board met to discuss what to do about allegations from South Carolina on August 17, 2011, and that sometime between that date and mid-September, it hired Ms. Josephine Hicks as its "Church Attorney" to investigate the allegations. And in that one logical conclusion from the available facts lies all that we need to know about the kangaroo character of these trumped-up proceedings against Bishop Lawrence.

Why? Ask yourself this question: Of all the available and qualified church attorneys to investigate Bishop Lawrence, why would anyone pick Ms. Hicks?

Of course, without an open and complete confession by Bishop Dorsey Henderson and the other members of his "impartial" Board, we will never know the absolute answer to that question. Nevertheless, just the asking of it, when combined with the following evidence, gives a clue to its answer -- because actions speak louder than words.

In July 2007, four bishops of the Church released the text of an inquiry which they had sent to the Executive Council, following the latter body's publication of a "Resolution" it had adopted at its June 2007 meeting which supposedly declared "null and void" all attempts by dioceses in the Church to amend their governing documents so as to qualify, in various ways, their "accession" to the Constitution and Canons of ECUSA. They also inquired as to the amounts which the Church was devoting to litigation, and followed their inquiry up with a formal letter signed by five bishops, dated August 27.

Their inquiries were answered in a letter sent November 29, 2007 from two members of the Executive Council: the chairs, respectively, of its Administration and Finance Committee, and of its Committee on National Concerns. The former was none other than Ms. Josephine Hicks, and you can read the full letter she sent at this link. Let us fisk relevant portions of it below, and then see why the author of this letter was considered as not just a suitable "candidate" for the position of Church Attorney to investigate Bishop Lawrence, but indeed, as the candidate to be preferred over all other applicants (if indeed there were any) for the post in question.

The first part of the letter in question addresses the Executive Council's recent enactment of "Resolution NAC 023", whose text was as follows (I have left unchanged the Council's sycophantic references to ECUSA as "The Episcopal Church" [sic] -- as if there were no other church led by bishops):
Resolved, That the Executive Council, meeting in Parsippany, New Jersey from June 11-14, 2007, reminds the dioceses of The Episcopal Church that Article V, Section 1 of the Constitution of The Episcopal Church requires each Diocese to have a Constitution which shall include ‘an unqualified accession to the Constitution and Canons of this Church’; and be it further

Resolved, That any amendment to a diocesan Constitution that purports in any way to limit or lessen an unqualified accession to the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church is null and void; and be it further

Resolved, That the amendments passed to the Constitutions of the Dioceses of Pittsburgh, Ft. Worth, Quincy, and San Joaquin, which purport to limit or lessen the unqualified accession to the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church, are accordingly null and void and the Constitutions of those dioceses shall be as they were as if such amendments had not been passed.”
The letter then quotes the “Explanation” given at the meeting for passing the Resolution, as follows:
“Some dioceses of The Episcopal Church have purported to pass amendments to their diocesan Constitutions that repeal or limit the extent to which those dioceses are subject to the Constitutions and Canons of The Episcopal Church. The Dioceses of Pittsburgh, Ft. Worth, Quincy, and San Joaquin have done so, and other dioceses have taken initial steps to do so. Because such actions violate the Constitution of The Episcopal Church as a whole, they can have no force or effect and must accordingly be considered as completely ineffective.”
So here we have members of the Executive Council -- a body which has no authority under ECUSA's Constitution, and which was invented by General Convention on its own to allow certain actions to be "authorized" in between its triennial gatherings -- taking it on their own (actually, at the instigation of the Presiding Bishop's Chancellor, who was figuratively rubbing his hands in anticipation of the litigation which in 2007 he could foresee would ensue) to "pronounce" certain legislative acts by sovereign member dioceses (just like the sovereign States under the Articles of Confederation) to be "null and void", and "completely ineffective."

Oh, really? Is the Executive Council a "Supreme Court" of the Episcopal Church (USA)? No. Does it have any kind of Constitutionally granted jurisdiction or power over the member dioceses of the Church? Again, no. Pray tell, then: what is the source of its claimed authority to make such pronouncements as it did in "Resolution NAC 023"? Answer: None whatsoever.

But those constitutional facts do not stop our Ms. Hicks. For she then goes on to write (with her co-signer -- I have added the bold, for emphasis):
. . . [T]he Resolution simply reminds people of something we believe is obvious, namely, that the very essence of a Diocese of this Church is that it has stated its “unqualified accession” to the Constitution and Canons of this Church: Article V, Section 1, of the Constitution of The Episcopal Church states very plainly that when a new Diocese is formed, “after consent of the General Convention,” the new Diocese must file with the Secretary of the General Convention “a certified copy of the duly adopted Constitution of the new Diocese,” which must “include an unqualified accession to the Constitution and Canons of this Church . . . .” Upon approval of the Diocesan Constitution by the Executive Council, “such new Diocese shall thereupon be in union with the General Convention.” See also Canon I.10.4.
In enacting Resolution NAC 023, as the Explanation states, Council was motivated by the actions of several Diocesan Conventions that purported to qualify their previously stated accessions to the Constitution and Canons of this Church. These are alarming actions.
The "very essence" of a Diocese, Ms. Hicks? And for that "very essence" to be rejected by its actions in Convention is to you "alarming"? Having so expressed yourself in public in November 2007, Ms. Hicks, do you not consider that you might not be the most "impartial" of investigators to make recommendations to the Disciplinary Board concerning the similar actions of the Diocese of South Carolina in 2010 and 2011? (Forget, of course, that the actions were those of the South Carolina Diocesan Convention, and not of its Bishop individually. We know that you and your Board will have no difficulty in imputing the acts of the former to the latter, when it comes to judging "abandonment" -- by citing the case of Bishop Duncan as "precedent".)

But Ms. Hicks was not done with her legal asseverations in her response to the bishops. No: she had to add for them these words of precaution (bold again added):
Although this Resolution, contrary to the language in your “open letter,” does not contain “threats of litigation,” it is the case that Canon I.17.8 provides that
“Any person accepting any office in this Church shall well and faithfully perform the duties of that office in accordance with Constitution and Canons of this Church and of the Diocese in which the office is being exercised.”
Moreover, any violation of the Constitution or Canons of the General Convention by a “Bishop, Priest, or Deacon of this Church” is a presentable offense. Canon IV.1.1(e).

We very much hope and pray that there will be no further occasion to refer to these provisions.
Oh, that is couching it so nicely and gently, Ms. Hicks -- rather like an iron fist inside a velvet glove. To translate, for the layperson, what you just said: "You dare to disobey our Constitution / Canons and you are outta here, Bub -- Bishop or no Bishop." And now we see: no wonder the Disciplinary Board chose you, of all candidates, to investigate the charges against Bishop Lawrence.

Oh, I'm sorry -- but you were not done yet, were you Ms. Hicks? You decided that you needed to put in a plug for the Church's infamous Dennis Canon (bold again added):
We are quite frankly stunned to learn of the actions of priests and lay leaders who undertake to leave The Episcopal Church [sic] and yet to maintain control and ownership of church buildings and other assets that belong to the Church and have been held by them only in trust.

As you know, that Canons of the Church are very plain on this subject. The first sentence of Canon I.7.4 states unequivocally that
“All real and personal property held by or for the benefit of any Parish, Mission or Congregation is held in trust for this Church and the Diocese thereof in which such Parish, Mission, or Congregation is located.” See also Canons I.7.5 and II.6.4.
Canon I.7.4 goes on to state
“The existence of this trust, however, shall in no way limit the power and authority of the Parish, Mission or Congregation otherwise existing over such property so long as the particular Parish, Mission or Congregation remains a part of, and subject to, this Church and its Constitution and Canons.” (Emphasis added.)
In case after case, state and federal courts have ruled that, inasmuch as The Episcopal Church [sic] is a “hierarchical church,” its decisions must be respected by the courts. This means that the Canons quoted above must be honored by church leaders, and if they are not so honored the courts will enforce them. We do not understand how, in the face of this clear canonical language and the long line of precedent, priests and lay leaders, and the lawyers who advise them, insist on retaining title to the property of a Parish even as the individuals decide to leave The Episcopal Church [sic]. If they leave, they leave as individuals, and the property remains part of the Church they have left.
Wow, Ms.Hicks -- and that was your view of matters before the South Carolina Supreme Court ruled the Dennis Canon itself void and of no effect whatsoever in that State? It's a good thing, I guess, that the Diocese did not hire you back then to represent them in the Supreme Court -- otherwise, you most definitely would have been disqualified from participating in any investigation into the charges against Bishop Lawrence today.

But thank goodness for ECUSA: they know a good attorney when they see one, and they (Bishop Henderson and his fellow Board members) saw how useful a perspective you could bring to their job of weighing the charges against Bishop Lawrence for -- among other things -- refusing to go back to court after the All Saints decision to waste yet more of the Diocese's precious money in trying to enforce the Dennis Canon against St. Andrew's in Mt. Pleasant. Oh, yes -- you certainly could be "impartial" in any such inquiry, given the views you expressed three years earlier, in public, and as an official of the Executive Council of the national Church. That is of the essence of what the Church calls "unbiased and impartial."

Let's see -- you weren't quite done yet, were you, Ms. Hicks? You tossed in this "friendly advice" to clergy who, like Bishop Lawrence, might be dissuaded -- even by their State's Supreme Court -- from claiming that the Dennis Canon created any kind of operative legal trust within their borders:
If these persons would acknowledge the undisputed provisions of the Canons, and the court cases enforcing them, there would be no need for litigation, and there would be no need for The Episcopal Church or its Dioceses or its Parishes to expend on litigation funds that should be devoted to the mission of the Church.
"[A]cknowledge the undisputed provisions of the Canons," Ms. Hicks? "Undisputed," as in the 2009 case of All Saints Waccamaw vs. Diocese of South Carolina? Oh, certainly -- certainly anyone in authority in the Diocese of South Carolina, after that decision came down, should see the necessity of "expend[ing] on litigation funds that should be devoted to the mission of the Church" in a futile attempt to get the Supreme Court of South Carolina to reverse its opinion. Oh, yes -- that would make perfect sense, and once again, we see just why the Disciplinary Board wanted you as its "Church Attorney" to look into Bishop Lawrence's alleged failure to follow the law as laid down by his State's Supreme Court.

But you just couldn't let matters rest there, could you, Ms. Hicks? You just had to dig your claws into the poor bishops who asked for your opinion. And so, as a parting shot, you signed your name to these unforgettable words (with bold and italics added, lest anyone miss your main point):
But we and the Presiding Officers have a responsibility to protect the assets of The Episcopal Church [sic] and to preserve its structure. That structure, as set forth in the Constitution and Canons, confers on the General Convention the sole authority to make changes in the identity and responsibilities of Dioceses. Unilateral actions by Diocesan leadership that are contrary to the Constitution and Canons should not be tolerated by any active or retired Bishop.
Thus we see that you claim not only to speak for the Executive Council, Ms. Hicks, but also for the Church's "Presiding Officers" -- that is, we must assume, for the Presiding Bishop who has to act on your Board's recommendations. So that must mean you have a direct ear to what she thinks, since you told us what it is.

Well -- if we had the least doubts about your impartiality before, Ms. Hicks, you have certainly set our minds at rest with these concluding observations you expressed in 2007. No, you made up your mind on all these issues two years before Mark Lawrence took a stand against General Convention as bishop of his Diocese. And that, of course, is the principal reason why Bishop Dorsey Henderson and his full Board wanted you, and only you, to be their impartial and independent "Church Attorney" for their kangaroo proceedings against Bishop Lawrence.

There are none so blind as those who will not see. ECUSA, its leadership, and its entire disciplinary machinery, are so incapable of seeing their bias that they should require all further proceedings in this kangaroo court to be conducted in Braille.

[UPDATE 10/14/2011: The Living Church Website is carrying an announcement from Bishop Henderson that he has accepted the resignation of Josephine Hicks as the "Church Attorney" to the Disciplinary Board for Bishops in its investigation into the charges that Bishop Mark Lawrence has "abandoned the communion of this Church." He gives these reasons for her recusal:
Ms. Hicks has withdrawn from all involvement in the Board’s investigation and/or consideration of the Bishop Lawrence matter because unanticipated circumstances have created the possibility of a conflict arising regarding fiduciary responsibilities for members of her law firm as matters develop. For reasons of professional responsibility, she is not at liberty to disclose any details concerning that possibility.
The recusal, therefore, was not for any reasons of bias and prejudging of the issues, as indicated in my main post above. Indeed, Bishop Henderson keeps his blinders on:
Any apprehension, implication or suggestion that Ms. Hicks’ work would not be impartial is unfounded, just as the claim that she served as a member of the Board is unfounded.
Of course, Bishop Henderson has not yet seen the "work" that he claims would be so impartial, but it is now an academic point. We traditional Episcopalians wait with bated breath to see whom the Disciplinary Board will hire next. (Hint: it won't be your Curmudgeon, for the same reasons it never should have been Ms. Hicks.)]