Saturday, July 30, 2016

Still an Anglican, but Barely

I have to wonder, in light of the recent stories highlighted below, whether it's still worth any reader's time to generate posts about the Anglican Communion.

First of all, the Episcopal Congregations in the United States of America (what used to call themselves ECUSA) are no longer a church, let alone a bona fide member of the Anglican Communion. In wrecking themselves, they have done their level best to drag the rest of the Communion down with them.

So I decline to cover any more news items about ECUSA. Apostasy is neither uplifting nor fulfilling. Writing about its continuing descent into irrelevance, and its internecine disputes over canons that no one respects or obeys anyway, is too dispiriting to your faithful Curmudgeon.

The Anglican Communion, thanks to ECUSA (and now the Anglican Church of Canada as well), is a train wreck in slow motion.

Following the farce that took place at Lusaka in the wake of the Primates' Meeting last January, the Archbishop of Canterbury promoted his former advisor on reconciliation to be his Chief of Staff and Strategy -- good luck with that, and to the woman who has succeeded him in an impossible role.

Meanwhile, the independent inquiry into a massive scandal and coverup of child sexual abuse in the Anglican churches of England and Wales is underway.

And the Archbishop of Canterbury has asked the Primates to reserve a week in October for another meeting, at which they will hear about the (non-) results of the sanctions they supposedly imposed on ECUSA.

Given the current course of the Churches of England, Scotland and Wales, it is beginning to look as though Pope Leo XIII was correct when he stated his view in Apostolicae Curae that Anglican orders were invalid. But they go on ordaining persons professing and practicing views contrary to Scripture all the same, as though "reconciliation" with Roman Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy were no longer important.

In short, the definition of what is "Anglican" is by no means even a consensus any more. The Communion itself is broken and disjointed. For what is perhaps the best view of the matter I have come across, please read Fr. Van McCalister's observations in this post. I think he is correct in saying that we are wrong to try to understand Anglicanism through observation (still less imitation) of the Church of England. It never was meant to be that way, and should not be so now.

So the question is: what is left for this Curmudgeon to write about? What, over the past years, have you found rewarding here, and what not worth your time? I welcome your insights and reflections (be polite, please) in the comments.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

San Joaquin Appeal Rebuffed by California Supreme Court

I have held off writing about the case of the Episcopal Church (USA)'s lawsuit against the Anglican Diocese of San Joaquin as it was going through its final stages in the California courts. Today I can do so no longer, because today the California Supreme Court slammed the door shut by denying review of the abysmally egregious decision by the Fifth District Court of Appeal that I wrote about in this post, and this one. Naturally, it wrote no opinion justifying its refusal to grant review, but just issued a one-sentence order. [UPDATE 07/18/2016: To read the legal arguments and details of why we believed the Supreme Court should review the decision by the Fifth District Court. click on this link to access and/or download a .pdf of the Reply Brief we filed, which summarizes the issues pretty well.]

The result is that the Episcopal Church (USA)'s Machiavellian strategy of organizing a minority group that pretends to be the only diocese in the region after one of its former dioceses votes (by an overwhelming majority of laity and clergy) to realign with a more orthodox denomination has succeeded in California, much the same as it did in Pittsburgh. (But not -- Deo gratias -- in Illinois (Quincy), or [yet] in Fort Worth or in South Carolina [whose highest court has yet to issue its decision, ten months after the oral argument].) So the lawyers for 815 Second Avenue managed to hoodwink the highest judges in both Pennsylvania and California, but not everywhere.

In Pennsylvania, the appellate decisions were unpublished, so no lasting precedent was (thankfully) created. But in California, the Court of Appeal decided to publish its decision, so it will now stand forever in the California Reports as a monument to the inability of secular judges to figure out even the most rudimentary aspects of church canon law and corporations sole. (Haven't I always said on this blog that St. Paul already warned Christians of such ignorance centuries ago?) Unfortunately, when ECUSA sues its fellow Christians, it is the one responsible for dragging the canons into the civil courts -- and violating its very own canon in so doing:
Sec. 2. No member of the Church, whether lay or ordained, may seek to have the Constitution and Canons of the Church interpreted by a secular court, or resort to a secular court to address a dispute arising under the Constitution and Canons, or for any purpose of delay, hindrance, review or otherwise affecting any proceeding under this Title.
As this blog has repeatedly and exhaustively shown, however, ECUSA's leaders and parishioners just don't care about such things. All they appear to care about, given their litigation strategy, is money and property.

Just as I am done with ECUSA, so I am done with judges in California. In their collective inability to apply neutral principles to religious entities, and in order to allow 815 to lord it over local parishes and dioceses, they have made mincemeat of the Statute of Frauds, have misread a key statute to favor just the Church, have ruled that the trust imposed on all parish properties by the Dennis Canon can be lifted only by General Convention (and not by any single bishop), and now have let stand a decision that makes hash of the concept of a corporation sole -- and that rewards parties who resort to self-help by filing fraudulent papers with the Secretary of State rather than seek the aid of the courts in the first instance. They are so incompetent in these matters that it does no good whatsoever to write about their rulings anymore. Moreover, ECUSA is welcome to live and operate here under the skewed doctrines it has so brought into being -- along with its blasphemous rites of same-sex unions, its unwavering support for abortion, and all its other manifold apostasies.

There will be those, I well know, who will just say that the Curmudgeon is giving vent to sour grapes. They are just the ones, however, who have not followed the eight years of church litigation -- and the constant fight for right decision-making -- to which this blog has been dedicated, as an unflinching witness to the unvarnished truth. There is absolutely no sense of feeling a victim here; only regret that some very fine people who relied upon their attorneys to do their level best have been let down in the final analysis by their elected judges. May ECUSA, its bishops, clergy and laity get everything they deserve.

Homine sit turpitudo, Deo sit gloria.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

A Uniquely American Conundrum

When it comes to evaluating prosecutorial discretion, count me out -- my career for 45 years has been in the civil law. (Although I was fortunate to learn criminal law from a new and then very young Professor Alan Dershowitz.)

So I am reluctant to enter the prosecutorial debate between FBI Director James Comey and a former colleague of his, Andrew McCarthy, over just what kind of charges each would recommend be brought (or, in Comey's case, not be brought) against former First Lady, U.S. Senator, and Secretary of State -- and prospective Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Rodham Clinton. There are strong arguments on both sides. That said, it might have been better for someone further up in the chain to make the decision -- such as a federal grand jury.

I do believe that Director Comey is being truthful when he swore that this was his (and his senior FBI investigators') decision alone, with absolutely no input from the Department of Justice or the White House. Had there been some dissent in the FBI's ranks from Comey's recommendation, there would have been some publicly announced resignations by now. And there has been none.

So Director Comey and his senior staff gave Attorney General Lynch and President Obama -- to say nothing of Hillary Clinton -- a huge gift, all wrapped up in the ostensible independence which they had promised to extend to him. But the FBI's decision, and the unseemly haste with which AG Lynch accepted it and closed down the investigation, still leaves unresolved a major conundrum.

A uniquely American conundrum.

The conundrum is just this:

1. Director Comey's press conference, which he self-organized to announce his decision, eviscerated Hillary Clinton's credibility (if indeed she had any shreds remaining). Just have a quick look at this expertly prepared video from the folks at Reason TV:

2. And as he admitted during his appearance before the House Government Oversight Committee this morning, any employee of his at the FBI who treated classified material the way that Hillary Clinton did through her unsecured private email server in her basement would face (among other sanctions) a loss of his or her security clearance. (Would you like to read the emails that went through Hillary's unsecured server? Just click here.)

3. Indeed, as the article just linked mentions, the State Department has now resumed its disciplinary inquiry into the handling of emails by Secretary Clinton and her staff (which was suspended to allow the FBI to complete its probe).

4. So as a former employee of the State Department who is still subject to its discipline, Hillary Clinton could lose her top-secret security clearance (along with her closest colleagues -- whom she might, if she is elected President, have liked to appoint to the National Security Agency, or similar jobs where top security clearance is a must).

Thus we come to the conundrum. Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton could (and by all rights should) lose her security clearance. (President Obama, however, could order it reinstated.)

Indeed, due to the ultimate power of the office, if elected President of the United States and commander-in-chief, Hillary Clinton could through executive order reinstate her own revoked security clearance, as well as that of any of her colleagues whose clearances had also been revoked.

The irony -- and heart of the ultimate conundrum -- is thus this. Despite the fact that the President of the United States can by executive fiat bestow and restore security clearances, it is the voters of the United States who will decide who will be the next US President.

So by deciding whether or not to make her the next President, the voters will at the same time be resolving the conundrum of whether or not, in their judgment, Hillary Clinton is qualified to be entrusted with top-secret data and information.

In other words, the ultimate decision as to Hillary Clinton's future ability to work in a meaningful capacity for the government is exactly in the hands of those who should have it. May they exercise their judgment wisely.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Curmudgeonly Remarks as America Turns 240

The America of 2016 is as unlike the America that declared its independence from Britain in 1776 as Bernie Sanders is unlike Thomas Jefferson.

Just as Mr. Sanders has no clue to the importance of the freedoms which Jefferson and his compatriots proclaimed were the essence of this country's founding, so the majority of Americans today have no clue to what the Fourth of July is all about. My generation has failed abysmally to transmit to our successors an appreciation of those freedoms -- and of their inextricable intertwining with America's prosperity and exceptional character.

Benjamin Franklin, once asked by a woman what the founding fathers had given to America after the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia had adjourned in September 1787, replied succinctly: "A republic, madam -- if you can keep it."

We have not managed to keep the republic our fathers handed down to us.

Instead of a government of laws, we have a government of lawlessness -- at all levels.

Instead of a government led by citizens who instinctively put their country's interests first, we have a government led by those who cannot see past their own noses -- or their next election campaign.

Instead of an electorate driven by debates of the issues that matter, we have an electorate that is passionate only for bread and circuses, and who is less and less likely even to bother to vote.

Instead of supporting an economy that fosters a rising tide to lift all boats, Americans look only for short-term gain regardless of the cost to others -- especially if that gain comes in the form of "free" government benefits, or special-interest legislation drafted and paid for by professional lobbyists.

Instead of teaching our children how this country overcame oppression and hardship to become a land of unparalleled opportunity, we teach them sexual confusion, gender prolixity and the virtues of demanding open access to any bathroom they care to use.

Instead of having an independent press to keep politicians in check, we have reporters doing their utmost to stay one-sided while nonetheless protesting to be "unbiased."

Instead of honoring a tradition of speaking truth to power, we are increasingly a country where blatant lies are told to the ignorant, who happily swallow whatever they are told.

Instead of being a country of local communities that met in taverns, at holiday fairs and on front porches, we have become a country of special enclaves united only by their Facebook pages and chat rooms, where few deal face-to-face, and no one has to be accountable for what they say -- unless, God forbid, it should be seen by some as politically incorrect.

And as regards political correctness, we have degenerated from a nation of self-reliant individuals into a mewling cacophony of mostly imaginary victimhood.

Instead of being a Christian "beacon on a hill", we have devolved into an amorphous blob of multiculturalism and dull venality.

We are, in short, largely the opposite in 2016 of everything our forefathers fought for -- and for which they risked their lives and sacred honor -- in 1776.

Those values are no longer important, because few remember -- let alone honor -- them today, or can even describe what the Revolutionary War was about.

My prayer to God on this, our 240th birthday, is that we may recover our lost values, and live to be a Christian beacon to the world once again. And may God have mercy on us if we fail.