Wednesday, April 30, 2008

HOB Memo: Schori violated 11 counts of the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church

BB NOTE: Thanks to the tip from CJ, we may have more understanding on what caused Bishop Schori to write her letter to the House of Bishops today. According to The Living Church in their article "Memo: Presiding Bishop Subverting Constitution and Canons," "Sufficient legal grounds exist for presenting Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori for ecclesiastical trial on 11 counts of violating the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church" with information concerning those violations now circulating through the Episcopal House of Bishops.

One thing to keep in mind. The five bishops that are appointed to the Title IV Committee are appointed by - you guessed it - the Presiding Bishop. There is no separation of powers. How could the same committee look at this report now being reviewed in the House and do anything but use it as kindling at the next Guy Fox Bonfire? Perhaps it's time to review this.

Is trust is dissolving within the House of Bishops itself? The deposition of the retired 87 year old Bishop Cox was nothing less than draconian. The numbers of bishops who were absent at the last meeting was extraordinary - especially with an item on the agenda such as an historic deposition of a sitting bishop with jurisdiction. You'd think they'd show up for that - but they didn't and so the majority of the House (the whole number) were not present to depose the two bishops on the docket. Was their absence a de-facto no-confidence vote? The Episcopal Church Litigates You? And if they don't have a canon to do it, they'll just "read them" their own way to suit their needs. Which is what this memorandum is all about.

From The Living Church:
Sufficient legal grounds exist for presenting Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori for ecclesiastical trial on 11 counts of violating the Constitution and Canons of The Episcopal Church, according to a legal memorandum that has begun circulating among members of the House of Bishops.

A copy of the April 21 document seen by a reporter representing The Living Church states Bishop Jefferts Schori demonstrated a “willful violation of the canons, an intention to repeat the violations, and a pattern of concealment and lack of candor” in her handling of the cases of bishops Robert W. Duncan, John-David Schofield and William Cox, and that she “subverted” the “fundamental polity” of The Episcopal Church in the matter of the Diocese of San Joaquin.

Prepared by an attorney on behalf of a consortium of bishops and church leaders seeking legal counsel over the canonical implications of the Presiding Bishop’s recent actions, it is unclear whether a critical mass of support will form behind the report’s recommendations for any action to be taken, persumably as a violation of the Presiding Bishop’s ordination vows. Title IV, Canon 3, Section 23a requires the consent of three bishops, or 10 or more priests, deacons and communicants “of whom at least two shall be priests. One priest and not less than six lay persons shall be of the diocese of which the respondent is canonically resident.” Victims of sexual misconduct and the Presiding Bishop also may bring charges before the Title IV [disciplinary] Review Committee. Title IV, Canon 3, Section 27 specifies that the Presiding Bishop appoints the five bishops to the Review Committee and the president of the House of Deputies appoints the two members of the clergy and two lay members. A spokeswoman said the Presiding Bishop was unable to respond to the charges as she had not yet seen the memorandum.

The Rev. Ephraim Radner, a member of the Anglican Covenant Design Group, said he found the matters addressed by the brief troubling. The lack of a common understanding of the church’s constitution and canons was “tearing apart our very episcopate and the credibility of our church’s ability to make formal decisions,” he said.

The 7,000-word memorandum states it does not address issues of doctrine under Title 4, Canon 1, Section 1c, but limits its review to the “recent actions she has taken against bishops Cox, Schofield and Duncan and the Diocese of San Joaquin.”
The paper argues the Presiding Bishop “failed to seek the inhibition of Bishop Cox as required by [Title IV, Canon 9].” This failure was not a “technical issue that could be waived,” but was an “important procedural protection that is integral” to the use of the canon. Nor did she comply with the requirement that the bishop be given timely notice of the legal proceedings, as the Presiding Bishop withheld notice for seven months.

By not inhibiting Bishop Cox during the two-month period she gave him for denying the charges, the Presiding Bishop was also creating “new procedures” for deposing bishops. The 60-day notice to deny the charges applies only to an “inhibited bishop,” according to the memorandum. Bishop Jefferts Schori had made the same error in her treatment of Bishop Duncan, the document noted.

Bringing Bishop Cox before the House of Bishops without securing his inhibition first also violated Title IV, Canon 9, Section 2, the memorandum said, as “a bishop who has not been inhibited is not ‘liable to deposition’ under this canon.”
To suggest that the provision of Section 2 of the Canon: “Otherwise, it shall be the duty of the Presiding Bishop to present the matter to the House of Bishops at the next regular, or special meeting of the House,” was “nonsensical,” the paper argued for “if the ‘Otherwise’ sentence deals with uninhibited bishops such as Bishop Cox (and Duncan), there is no provision under which the Presiding Bishop is authorized to depose an inhibited bishop such as Bishop Schofield. No rule of legal interpretation permits such a nonsensical result.”

The Presiding Bishop’s deposition of Bishops Cox and Schofield was done without the “necessary consent” of the House of Bishops. “The conclusion that the requisite consent was not given is irrefutable” as the “plain meaning” of the words of the canon, as well as voting procedures detailed in other parts of the Constitution and Canons do not permit the interpretation interposed by the Presiding Bishop’s chancellor, the paper said.

Concerning the Diocese of San Joaquin, the Presiding Bishop’s announcement that she did not recognize the “duly elected” diocesan standing committee violated Articles IV and II.3 of the church’s constitution and repudiated her duties under [Title I, Canon 2, Section 4(a)(3)] which permits her only to “consult” with the diocesan ecclesiastical authority in the event of an episcopal vacancy.

The appointment of “representatives and vicars” to act in San Joaquin violated Article II.3 of the church’s constitution, the document stated, while the convening of a special convention in San Joaquin and installation of Bishop Jerry Lamb as the provisional bishop violated Article II.3 and Title III, Canon 13.

“The violations with respect to Bishops Cox and Duncan, although willful and repeated, pertained primarily to individual bishops. The violations with respect to [San Joaquin] however, subvert the governance of an entire diocese and go to the heart of TEC’s polity as a ‘fellowship of duly constituted dioceses’ governed under Article II.3 by bishops who are not under a metropolitan or archbishop,” the legal memorandum concluded.

The procedural difficulties in bringing this matter to adjudication were formidable, the paper argued, as the “ability of the complainants to hold accountable the Presiding Bishop or another bishop thus ends at the [Title IV] Review Committee.”
Read the whole thing here.

5 comments:

John said...

Does CafePress have "The Episcopal Church Litigates You" t-shirts yet?

Steven in Falls Church said...

This is a good development for the property litigation here in Northern Virginia. If the trial were to get to an examination of the trust issue (which I doubt as I think the Division Statute will be upheld as constitutional), the eleven parishes can argue that the Dennis Canon should be disregarded because numerous other canonical rules have been flouted and ignored by the Presiding Litigator. In short, in a trial where an organization is requesting a court to uphold one of the organization's rules (which is what the Dennis Canon is), the court can disregard the applicability of that rule if evidence shows that the organization serially ignores its other rules, especially in the case here where TEC has ignored rules consistently to the detriment of the orthodox. It would of course help if the arguments in this memo were reified and a charge against the P.L. actually made.

Rolin said...

Reify: To regard or treat (an abstraction) as if it had concrete or material existence.
I learn something every day.
Br_er Rabbit

Mike said...

“ability of the complainants to hold accountable the Presiding Bishop or another bishop thus ends at the [Title IV] Review Committee.”

Then the current Title IV RC should immediately be called upon to resign due to distinct conflicts of interest...

Anonymous said...

Guy Fawkes, I assume you mean.