March 1, 2017

July 3, 2012

Bishopsgate Plot Thickens: Complaint Timed to Intimidate Witness

Earlier today, Greg posted a copy of a message sent out by the Rt. Rev. John W. Howe of Central Florida about the complaint made to the Disciplinary Board for Bishops against him for signing his name to an amicus brief filed with the Texas Supreme Court in the Fort Worth litigation. The brief, written by the Anglican Communion Institute, took issue with the ahistorical and very questionable position being advanced by ECUSA in the Texas courts that it is in a hierarchical relationship with its own member dioceses.

It is as if the United Nations—to take a parallel example of a conglomeration of individual members—were to claim that it could order its members what to do, or could prevent them from withdrawing any time they so choose. Bishop Howe and six other Bishops in ECUSA, along with the ACI scholars, merely pointed out the obvious flaws in that argument.

Bishop Howe writes, in part:

I am at a complete loss to know how the filing of this brief could constitute an offense for which any of us could be charged!

At this point, formal “charges” have not been filed. A “complaint” has been submitted, but we have not been told who filed it.

My understanding is that Bishop Matthews (Director of the Office for Pastoral Development, and “Intake Officer” regarding this matter) could dismiss the complaint on his own reconnaissance - unless the Presiding Bishop were to direct otherwise….

Well, Bishop Howe—and any others who may be wondering about both the timing and the substance of these complaints—let me shed some further light on the matter for you.

It turns out that in the Diocese of Quincy litigation, each side was scheduled to file last Friday, June 29, a list of the witnesses, both lay and expert, whom they plan to call to the stand at the trial scheduled for next April.

What a curious coincidence, then, that on the day before the Anglican Diocese of Quincy had to file its statement (i.e., on June 28), one of the Bishops which they planned to list as an expert witness received an email from the Intake Officer, the Rt. Rev. F. Clayton Matthews, that a complaint had been lodged against the Bishop for providing testimony earlier in that same case.

To drive the point home, the Intake Officer did not say in his email anything like “Of course, I find the acts alleged could never constitute an offense under the Canons, and will be recommending dismissal of the complaint.” No, instead, what he said was just the opposite: “In the next few weeks, I will institute disciplinary proceedings [under the new Title IV] ...”

The timing of the complaint, and the instant notification by email to the concerned Bishop, while hinting at several weeks delay in actually looking at the sufficiency of the charges, could not be a coincidence.

It has to have been a calculated effort to intimidate—not just this particular Bishop, but any of the nine Bishops who might be thinking of offering testimony on behalf of the Diocese of Quincy.

And now, your Curmudgeon comes to the most disturbing question: Who knew??

Who knew about the court’s deadline for naming witnesses in Quincy, but at the same time knew about the filings in Fort Worth—and also knew about how disciplinary proceedings against Bishops worked under the new Title IV?

As a reader has reminded me, there are candidates in two categories: (1) bishops involved in the litigation; and (2) attorneys involved in the litigation.

As for bishops, both the Rt. Rev. C. Wallis Ohl, Jr., the Provisional Bishop of Fort Worth and the Rt. Rev. John C. Buchanan, the Provisional Bishop of Quincy, are involved on the ECUSA side. And of those two, Bishop Buchanan would have read the Quincy affidavits, and would also have known about each side’s deadline to designate witnesses. Moreover, Bishop Buchanan is the bishop whom the Presiding Bishop has designated to sign and verify pleadings on behalf of the Episcopal Church (USA). He also serves at her pleasure as the Parliamentarian of the House of Bishops.

As for attorneys, there is only one law firm which is involved in both cases. And there is one attorney in that law firm who also happens to be the Presiding Bishop’s Chancellor. His name is David Booth Beers.

There is also only one attorney on the Presiding Bishop’s own staff who also could have known about all three items, and she used to work under Mr. Beers. Since then, she was hired by the Presiding Bishop as her “Special Assistant for Property Litigation”—i.e., for the Quincy case, among others. Her name is Mary E. Kostel.

So we have one Bishop and two attorneys who happened to be in the unique position of having the big picture in front of them: the Bishops who had submitted testimony in Quincy, the Bishops who had signed the amicus brief offering similar arguments in Texas, and the need for Quincy to commit itself to the expert Episcopal witnesses it would be calling at trial.

When it comes to Church property litigation, Bishop Buchanan and those attorneys both work directly for the Presiding Bishop, the Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori.

Who just happens to be the “Diocesan Bishop” with authority to agree to dismiss the complaints filed against the Bishops.

Enough said. This whole affair reeks to high heaven.


Post scriptum: The intimidation did not work. The Bishop told the Quincy attorneys to keep his name on the list, and he will testify in April. And by the way—for those who are as outraged about these tactics as I am, you should know that the little Diocese of Quincy, whose savings and bank funds the Episcopal Church bullies managed to have frozen at the outset of the litigation, could use some financial help as it faces the trial against those same bullies in April. Send your donations, marked “Quincy” on the memo line, but made out to the “American Anglican Council”, at 2296 Henderson Mill Road, NE, Suite 406, Atlanta, GA 30345-2739.

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Interesting stuff. The canon lawyers can comment more accurately, but my understanding is that the national constitution and canons do not impose a national hierarchy on the dioceses, and never have done so in the history of US Anglicanism.

My understanding of US church history is that the Founding Bishops of what’s now TEC did not like each other, did not trust each other, and did not want one of them to have any position of authority over the others.

I would think that if the TEC leadership really want a national hierarchy (and given the shenanigans going on at 815, who would want that), they could amend the national constitution and canons accordingly.

[1] Posted by Ralph on 7-3-2012 at 05:22 PM · [top]

Ralph, they once tried to do just that, a little over 100 years ago—you can read the details in this post.

The proposal got shot down in flames at the next General Convention.

[2] Posted by A. S. Haley on 7-3-2012 at 05:55 PM · [top]

you should know that the little Diocese of Quincy, whose savings and bank funds the Episcopal Church bullies managed to have frozen at the outset of the litigation, could use some financial help…

Check is in the mail (really- but if you happen to be at the AAC, it will come under my legal name, not my SF moniker). It’s not all that much, but doing what I can. TEC is gonna have a real problem if I ever win the lottery.

[3] Posted by tjmcmahon on 7-3-2012 at 06:18 PM · [top]

Thanks for the history lesson, and another reminder of why we don’t have an archbishop. If the modern TEC want a national hierarchy, they can have one in a legitimate way, rather than duping judges.

One would think that this kind of witness intimidation would be unethical, if not illegal.

One would think that the bishop who has agreed to testify in the Quincy matter could not be disciplined by TEC for that.

We know that neither ordination nor passing a bar exam confers intelligence, but what lawyer could have approved the language in Bp. Matthews’ e-mail?

[4] Posted by Ralph on 7-3-2012 at 07:08 PM · [top]

I have now updated the post to reflect the fact that, as a reader reminded me, Bishop Buchanan, the Provisional Bishop of Quincy, was also in a position both to know the litigation timing and details, as well as to know the disciplinary process for Bishops.

[5] Posted by A. S. Haley on 7-3-2012 at 07:15 PM · [top]

It certainly looks like a stinking strategic move by someone. I doubt that a paper trail will ever turn up. Nor will we see a Congressional type investigation. It will probably all be passed off as a coincidence, the TEc partisans will be pleased, and the show will go on.

[6] Posted by Undergroundpewster on 7-3-2012 at 07:35 PM · [top]

Pewster, if a trail is established, come out of the cave and let’s make a complaint!

[7] Posted by Timothy Fountain on 7-3-2012 at 07:47 PM · [top]

Could the crime of witness tampering be shown in this instance…in a secular court of law? Then have whoever had a part in it (if it were found to be illegal) could be put in the dock, at least.

[8] Posted by A Senior Priest on 7-3-2012 at 07:50 PM · [top]

I have been asked before about the crime of “witness tampering.” It is not possible to provide a thorough answer.

First of all, crimes are specific to each State (unless a federal court is involved, which is not the case here). So an Illinois criminal attorney would be the best one to ask here. There may be degrees of tampering, which might include threats or intimidation on the one hand, or dismissal from one’s job or other such retaliation, etc.

Second, the attempt to intimidate, if that is indeed what it was, did not succeed. So we would not have a full, completed offense, but only an attempted one.

Third, all crimes must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. At this point, we have no such proof, but only a striking coincidence.

That said, the attorneys for the Diocese of Quincy might be able (if they receive enough donations to cover the cost) to depose Bishop Buchanan, and ask what role, if any, he played in alerting either the Church or Bishop Matthews to the filings. The answer would be most interesting.

[9] Posted by A. S. Haley on 7-3-2012 at 08:03 PM · [top]

Tiny Quincy marches faithfully on despite all the chaos that swirls about us.  God bless you all for your support.  Perhaps some day soon we’ll be known as Mighty Quincy in this battle!

[10] Posted by quincess on 7-3-2012 at 09:30 PM · [top]

Siiigggghh…....... This sooo stinks to high heaven!!! Having met Bishop Buchanan, I have a serious problem thinking he might be the one responsible for this strategic move. However, that leaves the other choices as real possibilities in my mind. 

Has anyone figured out why there are two versions of some of the wording in one these e-mails?

Good night all!

[11] Posted by SC blu cat lady on 7-3-2012 at 09:41 PM · [top]

I recall Bishop Buchanan saying, “An unsprayed for bishop is a dangerous thing.”  How true.

Blue Cat Man.

[12] Posted by SC blu cat lady on 7-3-2012 at 10:20 PM · [top]

I’ve been an Episcopalian over three decades.  I never once heard a complaint about the old Title IV disciplinary process. 
One now can’t help but wonder if part of the rationale for the new Title IV legislation was to aid and abet the property litigation.  Are we the bride of Christ or the bride of Goodwin Procter?

[13] Posted by Jill Woodliff on 7-4-2012 at 07:57 AM · [top]

I’m no lawyer, but if these bishops are potential witnesses in an ongoing case, couldn’t a case be made for tortious interference? 

This certainly smells like an extra-legal attempt to intimidate witnesses.

[14] Posted by Bill2 on 7-4-2012 at 09:21 AM · [top]

#12, Thanks hubby, You made me laugh. As I remember that quote is “
An unprayed bishop is a dangerous thing. 
Anyway, the latest news from the Diocese of SC:
The standing committee has written a statement dated July 3rd concerning the recent complaints against the nine bishops. This is now published on the first page ofthe diocese’s website.

[15] Posted by SC blu cat lady on 7-4-2012 at 09:26 AM · [top]

drat. An unprayed for bishop is a dangerous thing. Yes, we heard Bishop Buchanan say that.

[16] Posted by SC blu cat lady on 7-4-2012 at 09:28 AM · [top]

#13, Jill, Very good point. Me too. The old Title IV canons were much more strict as to whom and for what clergy could be disciplined. Now, these canons allow just about anybody to file a complaint. I believe the Curmudgeon had a post on his blog comparing the two versions. No doubt, if you really want to know, you can find it over there.

Bill2, Yes indeed, this could be considered intimidation of witnesses. The only problem with this is that the initial stages of the new process so favor the Presiding Bishop that she can basically make sure it goes her way at least until it gets to the D B B. So if she is the person behind all this intimidation, we will never know even if a complaint is filed. THAT complaint would never see the light of day. She would make sure of that!!

[17] Posted by SC blu cat lady on 7-4-2012 at 10:08 AM · [top]

T19 has news of a complaint filed against Philip Turner.

[18] Posted by James Manley on 7-4-2012 at 11:50 AM · [top]

“or the bride of Goodwin Procter?”

Hmmmm…TJ wonders just how far he can go with this without being banned for life and excommunicated… he pleads with the staff that if his post is considered in sufficiently poor taste, it just be expunged, and TJ be sentenced to an appropriate penance.  But I just can’t help myself…

I am inclined to say that the relationship with Goodwin Procter is not so much a marriage as it is a “commercial arrangement”  made by the bride who has told the husband that she is attending a church retreat, but is actually in Vegas living it up with the family fortune.  I am reasonably sure that if the money dried up, Goodwin Procter would move one to some other wealthy client.

[19] Posted by tjmcmahon on 7-4-2012 at 12:04 PM · [top]

The leadership of TEC HAS NO SHAME.  These kind of tactics are just wrong.

Mark my words - they will continue to become more agressive as time goes on.

[20] Posted by B. Hunter on 7-5-2012 at 10:03 AM · [top]

#9 I would think that if the link can be made, the trial court may be persuaded to consider sanctions…I know, as a trial judge, that the court looks with great disdain on those who intentionally seek to disrupt the order and integrity of the process. If sanctions are imposed they would be such as to address the wrong and be sure the wrong never happens again.  If it is an attorney attached to the litigation, that attorney might reasonably expect a note in inquiry from the entity administering their license to practice, in addition to any sanction.  Getting to the truth would be an exercise in the preservation of justice…something we all should take seriously.

[21] Posted by aacswfl1 on 7-5-2012 at 11:31 AM · [top]

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