Thursday, June 29, 2017

Now 815 Steps In: +Bruno Has Gone Too Far

The Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry, Presiding Bishop of ECUSA, has now interposed his pastoral authority in the Title IV disciplinary proceedings against Bishop J. Jon Bruno, diocesan of Los Angeles, about which I wrote most recently here.

He has issued, effective immediately today, the following "Partial Restriction" on the ministry of Bishop Bruno:
Partial Restriction on the Ministry of a Bishop

In recent days, I have learned of actions that, in my view, may threaten the good order and welfare of the Church. I have learned that, earlier this year, the Rt. Rev. Jon Bruno, Bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles, entered into a contract for sale of property (the “St. James property”) that is central to a disciplinary matter now pending under Title IV of the Canons of The Episcopal Church, in which Bishop Bruno is the Respondent. According to Bishop Bruno’s submissions in that disciplinary matter, the contract for sale of the St. James property sets the closing date as July 3, 2017.

Bishop Bruno’s actions and intentions regarding an earlier attempted sale of the St. James property are currently under review in the pending disciplinary matter. I am deeply concerned that his act of entering into a new contract for sale of the same property, while his approach to the earlier sale is still under review, has the potential to undermine the integrity of the Church’s disciplinary process. The secrecy with which the recent sales contract was undertaken adds to the potential for undermining the integrity of the Church’s disciplinary process.

Accordingly, in order to protect the integrity of the Church’s disciplinary process and, thereby, the good order and welfare of the Church, and pursuant to Canons IV.7(3), (4), and IV.17(2), I hereby place the following partial restriction on the exercise of his ministry until the pending Title IV matter has been finally resolved:
During the period of the restriction, the Bishop, acting individually, or as Bishop Diocesan, or as Corporate Sole, or in any other capacity, is forbidden from closing on the sale of the St. James property, or otherwise selling or conveying the property or contracting to sell the property, or, in any way assisting in the sale or conveyance of the property.
This restriction is effective immediately. Nothing in this restriction is intended to express any opinion about the merits of the pending Title IV proceeding.

This document shall be served upon Bishop Bruno today and shall inform him of his right to have any objections to this restriction heard pursuant to Canon IV.7.

(The Most Rev.) Michael Bruce Curry

XXVII Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church
It would appear that this restriction moots +Bruno's rather cheeky appeal of the Hearing Panel's sanctions order of June 17 (see the update to this earlier post), because now it does not matter whether his appeal is upheld or denied by the full Disciplinary Board: +Bruno cannot close escrow on the St. James the Great property in Newport Beach without subjecting himself to new disciplinary proceedings and sanctions instituted by the Presiding Bishop.

At the same time, knowing +Bruno's stubbornness and refusals to yield to authority (he was a former policeman), I would not be surprised if he goes ahead and closes escrow anyway (assuming the buyer does not back out in light of these developments). His corporation sole is in law the record owner of the property (thanks to the fecklessness of the diocesan Board and Standing Committee). Therefore in the eyes of California civil law, +Bruno is on paper, at least, capable of conveying good title to the property, whether his doing so violates an ecclesiastical order or not.

Caveat: While he may be able to sign a deed conveying title, the holding of the California Court of Appeals in the first Bishop Schofield case may give ECUSA the right to sue for the return of the property, since by now the proposed developer in Newport Beach is fully aware of the proceedings against +Bruno, and could not be treated as an innocent, bona fide purchaser without notice. That is why any sensible title attorney knowing that case would urge extreme caution on the buyer's part.

Bishop Bruno also has, reportedly, a further $25 million or so of property in escrow which is not affected by either the sanctions order or the Partial Restriction. (See the earlier post linked above for details.) There is no telling at this point just what he may stand to realize personally if one or more of these escrows closes, because he has refused to disclose (in violation of his duties as a fiduciary to his Diocese and its governing bodies) any particulars of any pending deal.

Which is why ECUSA's attorney leading the prosecution of disciplinary charges against +Bruno, Jerry Coughlan, has called for a "forensic audit" of +Bruno's corporation sole in his 16-page response to +Bruno's appeal of the sanctions order (link downloads a .pdf). The response makes for very colorful and interesting reading. It outlines the same primary case for protecting ECUSA's disciplinary jurisdiction over +Bruno that the Partial Restriction does, and in the process characterizes +Bruno as a "rogue bishop", the role of which he certainly has acted until now.

[UPDATE 06/29/2017: Church Attorney Coughlan has now filed an amendment to his earlier response in which he calls for the Panel to apply its extreme sanction, and depose +Bruno from his see outright. If the Panel were to do so, it should probably exercise its prerogative to make the deposition effective retroactively, as of the date it noticed the public hearing on the complaint against +Bruno, since it was after that date that +Bruno entered into his secretive contract for sale. Removing +Bruno from his office as of that date would cancel and render invalid any contract he entered into subsequently.]

So, as foreseen long ago on this blog, we may be coming to the ultimate showdown -- a contest of authority between an ostensibly autonomous diocesan bishop and the national body's presiding bishop, who in 2009 was given pastoral authority for the first time ever over other ECUSA bishops by the changes adopted in that year to Title IV at General Convention. (Those changes to the disciplinary rules were one of the reasons Bishop Mark Lawrence and his Diocese of South Carolina cited for their decision to withdraw from ECUSA.)

It is too early to say how this matter will play itself out, because there are now very strong forces gathering on both sides. I will update further as I believe appropriate.


  1. Bishop Bruno's sordid behavior made more sense to me, after reading UPs comment on your previous post of the same subject. UP's comments outlined +Bruno's previous positions and training. Bishop Bruno has calculated getting away with deception.

    It's also reasonable to say that ECUSA has done similar things.

  2. I have little sympathy for either +Bruno or for TEC. However, from the point of view of TEC's LA Diocese, the call for a forensic audit seems like an urgent necessity. The audit should include Bruno's personal finances as well, if possible. Something about this whole mess sounds very fishy.

  3. I would wager that if a "conservative" bishop was acting in this manner, he would be deposed immediately.

  4. Unfit men of the cloth and Constitutional law, I've jotted down these thoughts on the topic.

    The quote below was taken from the article, "What was the Archbishop of Canterbury thinking? A layman responds" - Jun 14, 2017, By Daniel Leafe, Anglican Mainstream

    "Finally, we may ask, “if the Archbishop does not believe in truth then what does he believe in?” Again the answer is to be found in the text of this letter. He believes in “concepts”- “a shout of victory”, “a prophetic voice”, “empowering”, inclusion/”exclusion”, “flourishing”, “mutual respect” and, of course, above all “unity”. No one would dislike that litany of attractive words but all this is rather like listening to Tony Blair’s “verbless sentences”- superficially uplifting but without enduring meaning or value."


    I had first seen this sad video with a song on Dinesh D'Souza's YouTube channel. Though it points to the politically motivated trashing of the Constitution, it could also apply to ECUSA's swift changes.

    New Voices: What's A Constitution Among Friends?

    Finally, when we give power to people who implement bad ideas then their chaos permeates society until righteous men stand up to them.

  5. It's like the current debate in Sacramento over single-payer health insurance: when they get rid of their conservative opponents, all they have left to do is to turn on each other.

    As Bruno told the LA Times thirty years ago, he's no angel. We were forewarned.

  6. So the July 3rd closing date has come and gone. Did the Newport Beach church property title transfer?

    Northwest Bob

  7. It appears not to have closed, NW Bob -- otherwise there would be a recorded deed for all to see.

  8. According to a report at Anglican Ink, it may be that Bruno is retiring immediately. He is reported to have given his crosier to his successor in a ritual over the past weekend.