Thursday, August 19, 2010

Is +Bennison Disqualified from Serving Further?

The following correspondence was emailed to me anonymously. I cannot vouch for its authenticity, but it makes for highly interesting reading:

Memorandum to: Mary Kostel, Esq., Special Assistant to the Presiding Bishop for Litigation
From: Xxxxxxx Xxxxxxxx
Date: August 13, 2010
Re: Problem with Inconsistent Positions in Pennsylvania, San Joaquin and Fort Worth

Attached please find a copy of the Second Amended Original Petition and Third-Party Defendants' Counterclaims we are filing today in the Fort Worth litigation in Tarrant County District Court. One of our summer associates pointed out a potentially harmful inconsistency between the position we are taking in this pleading, and the position the Presiding Bishop is taking with regard to Bishop Bennison in Pennsylvania.

ENS has announced that the judgment of the Court of Review operated to dissolve the inhibition placed upon Bishop Bennison by the Presiding Bishop, and to allow him to resume the duties of his office. (You will recall that the Court of Review, although finding Bishop Bennison guilty of "conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy", found that the statute of limitations had run on that offense.) The Presiding Bishop did not try to keep Bishop Bennison from taking up the duties of his office as of August 16, and there has been considerable outcry from the Standing Committee and individual members of the Diocese of Pennsylvania.

The amended petition to be filed later today in Fort Worth contains the following paragraph (para. 53 with bold added; there are allegations to the same effect in the complaints in Fresno and Pittsburgh):
Those individuals comprising the former leadership of the Diocese, including each of the individual defendants who now claim leadership roles and who supported the purported withdrawal of the Diocese from the Church and the purported affiliation of the Diocese with a different denomination, by those acts left the Church, violated their obligations under the Church's Declaration of Conformity and/or Church Canon 1.17(8), and ceased to be eligible to hold any office in the Church, the Diocese, or any of the Church's or the Diocese's other subordinate units, including but not limited to the Standing Committee, the Diocesan Corporation and the Endowment Fund; and their offices became vacant. On December 15, 2009 the Presiding Bishop informed the members of the Diocesan Standing Committee that in these circumstances she could no longer recognize them as members of the Standing Committee in carrying out her canonical duties with respect to a diocese that no longer had a bishop.
Note the reference to the Church's Declaration of Conformity, which every member of the clergy signs upon ordination, pursuant to Article VIII of the Church's Constitution (Bishop Bennison will have signed it three separate times):
I do believe the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments to be the Word of God, and to contain all things necessary to salvation; and I do solemnly engage to conform to the Doctrine, Discipline, and Worship of the Episcopal Church.
Note also that in the Fort Worth petition (as well as in the Pittsburgh and Fresno complaints), the Church alleges that the clergy members of the Standing Committee, the Corporation and the diocesan Trust became automatically ineligible to serve further in those positions once they broke the above oath of conformity by choosing to become affiliated with the Province of the Southern Cone. It is on that basis that the Presiding Bishop claimed to derecognize the Standing Committee in each of the three dioceses.

Bishop Bennison, as stated, was found guilty of conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy. Such conduct must also violate his Oath of Conformity, as well -- since it is arguably (though only arguably) worse than the conduct of the clergy who chose to realign with another province.

So the question arises: if the Presiding Bishop can derecognize the clergy members of the standing committees in each of three dioceses for violating their oaths of conformity, why did she not derecognize Bishop Bennison for the same violation, and declare the see of Pennsylvania vacant?

I felt this was important enough to pass up the line.

* * * * *

August 14, 2010
To: Xxxxxxx Xxxxxxx
From: Mary Kostel
Subject: Your memo of August 13 -- Fort Worth

I took up your question with the PB yesterday. She's going to check with David [Booth Beers, her Chancellor], and get back to me tomorrow.

* * * * *

August 15, 2010
To: Xxxxxxx Xxxxxxx
From: Mary Kostel
Subject: Your memo of August 13 -- Fort Worth

As promised, the PB contacted me after talking to David [Booth Beers]. His advice is to take that associate off the case and give him or her other work to do unrelated to TEC. He says no one in their right mind would ever catch the discrepancy, let alone be bothered by it.

Please do as he asks.



  1. +Bennison might be considered disqualified since by T.E.C. standards, he might be over qualified. I mean, his notoriety might take the spotlight away from the other nefarious stars of the T.E.C. show.

  2. Seems to me DBB has a soft ego and doesn't like bright, young associates pointing out things that may never have crossed their minds with all the machinations they have done with the canons.

    DBB give the 'wee Sh#*^' other work cos he will cause us problems.

    Alas since we have no confirmed 'trail' with the emails to say it is now in public domain.

    "As ye shall sow, so shall ye reap."

  3. Hmmm..
    I seem to recall that at least one of the "remaining" Standing Committee members did NOT approve of the Diocese of San Joaquin "leaving" TEC. How is it that that person's stance has been folded into the others? And if that one is actually the case, then were there others? I mean, if they agreed with the majority action of the diocese then why did they stay? What the heck? Doesn't that add another chink in the PB's action armor? And, btw, where is the canon that allowed the PB to "de-recognize" anybody without presentments being made?

  4. I love the part about taking the associate off the case and giving him/her other work to do.

    Damn near every document filed by ECUSA/TEC in any of its many litigations is made into a PDF copy, and sent all around the internet.

    From there, the filing is "crowdsourced" into the community of lawyers and legal commentators who have an interest in what the Episcopal Church is up to.

    That presumably young associate is more in tune with 21st century lawyering than, well . . . the partner with, ehem, a possible Rule 7.3 (Solicitation) issue.

    You'd think that the Episcopal Church's multiple filings would be checked against each other for factual accuracy and consistent pleading. One of the quickest ways to lose, it seems to me, is to argue a fact as blue in one jurisdiction and orange in another.