Thursday, February 11, 2016

The Patrimony That Won't Die!

As I noted earlier this week, three bishops in the Patrimony of the Primate, including the Primate Emeritus himself, have made a declaration to the court that the ACA bishops who allegedly dissolved the Patrimony in January 2012 never had the authority to do so. In a 2012 declaration, however, retired TAC Arshbishop Louis Falk said,
I was aware that Archbishop Hepworth was retiring as of April 15, 2012, and that his named Successor, Archbishop Samuel Prakash of India, stated his intention to dissolve the Patrimony in his administration and upon his assumption of duties on April 16, 2012, which Archbishop Prakash in fact did. A unilateral abolition of the Patrimony, however, without consulting the United States Bishops, such as myself, who had voluntarily set aside our voting rights in matters that did not pertain to us, is an act that I see to be Ultra Vires (beyond their competence). In any event, if the Patrimony automatically dissolved on January 1, 2012 upon the erection of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter in the United States, as I understand to be Bishop Strawn’s position in this matter, then Archbishop Prakash would not have been required to take the action he did on April 16, 2012, because there would be no Patrimony or Primate in existence to dissolve.
Abp Falk says Prakash did in fact dissolve the Patrimony, but I can't find any reference to this on the TAC website. The closest thing I find to it is the October 2012 Statement by a TAC Tribunal expelling Abp Hepworth from the TAC College of Bishops, a gesture perhaps more comic-opera than Orwellian, though there are certainly elements of both. The Tribunal imposed a sanction
THAT all licences for any EPISCOPAL or PRIESTLY function within any affiliated church of the TRADITIONAL ANGLICAN COMMUNION, be with immediate effect withdrawn.
However, I doubt that the Patrimony of the Primate was ever an "affiliated church", being in effect Hepworth's personal creation. But let's assume that treating the Patrimony as still in existence is something utterly outside Hepworth's ecclesiastical competence, and this is anathema. What's the TAC to do? Expel him again?

And of course, the TAC itself is the outcome of the highly controversial 1991 Deerfield Beach Consecrations, felt by other "continuing Anglican" denominations to be uncanonical themselves.

Speaking as a Catholic observer who was formerly Episcopalian, I've got to say that the "continuing Anglican" movement comes off as pretty much of a canonical wild west in any case. I can't imagine Strawn or Marsh seriously complaining that Abp Hepworth has done something uncanonical!

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Stephen Strawn And Letters Dimissory

Accoding to Merriam-Webster. a letter dimissory is "a letter given by a bishop dismissing a clergyman to another diocese and recommending him for reception there". It is pronounced DI-mis-so-ry (or possibly in the UK and Australia, DIM-sreh). The question of Fr Kelley's letter dimissory is related to, but separate from, the question of the St Mary of the Angels parish affiliation.

Fr Kelley's Letter Dimissory as an Anglican priest originated in Canterbury, England, in 1974, at the time of his ordination under the hands of Archbishop A. Michael Ramsey. It was well before the Anglican Church in America (ACA) had even come into existence. Thereafter, his Letter was transferred to appropriate bishops in the US, when Fr Kelley returned to this country to serve in successive Episcopal Church jurisdictions. It was transferred to the ACA's Diocese of the West (DoW), in Spring 2007 when Fr Kelley became rector of St Mary of the Angels.

It was duly transferred in 2010 by Daren K. Williams, then Bishop of the DoW, to the Patrimony of the Primate (PoP, based in Australia), when St Mary's began the process of leaving the DoW. By early 2011, Fr Kelley's Letter was held by Bishop David Moyer. bishop of the Patrimony. In late 2011, Williams abdicated. It is currently held by Abp Hepworth as the Patrimony of the Primate's bishop.

Stephen Strawn, the most junior ACA bishop in 2012, never possessed this required Letter, and thus never had jurisdiction or authority over Fr Kelley, who was under another bishop. However, on April 2, 2012, Strawn issued a "notice of inhibition" to Fr Kelley. It's worth pointing out that, during an attempt by Anthony Morello and others to seize the parish property on Strawn's behalf that day, Abp Falk explained to the Los Angeles police that Strawn had no authority to issue this letter.

The question of whether, or precisely when, the parish left the ACA for the Patrimony of the Primate is a legal issue that has been before the courts since 2012. The trial court found in October 2015 that the parish did in fact leave the ACA in August 2012. However, whether Bp Strawn had authority to inhibit or depose Fr Kelley is a separate canonical question, and this authority he clearly never had.

Thus Strawn's letter of inhibition was never valid, and beyond that, the ecclesiastical court that was held to depose Fr Kelley on October 11, 2012, never had authority to do this. As a result, the content of Strawn's allegations is not privileged, and is thus potentially libelous and defamatory.

Those who participated in this process, in the spirit of this Ash Wednesday, would seem to have something to repent. In particular, Fr Walter Crites of the APA, who participated in the proceeding to give it a veneer of objectivity, seems to have been derelict in not reviewing whether the "court" actually had jurisdiction over Fr Kelley.

On the other hand, Brian Marsh has said more recently that merger with the APA is "elusive". I suspect this sort of chicanery has been factored into the APA's review of the potential for merger.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Archbishop Hepworth Redux

A blogger asks, "What's Going On?" I've heard some skepticism via e-mail as well. The question Mr Chadwick specifically addresses is, "If a 'Patrimony of the Primate' is being resurrected, which Church does it belong to? Obviously, the present leadership of the TAC would deny any recognition of such an entity. Is there a 'true' TAC and a 'bogus' TAC?" The best answer we have is from several TAC bishops themselves:
We find that Bishops Stephen Duane Strawn and Brian R Marsh at no time had any authority to dissolve the still-continuing Patrimony of the Primate, the Primate's own provision, world-wide[.]
The TAC bishops involved were John Hepworth, David Moyer, and Wellborn Hudson. Bps Marsh and Strawn may wish to dispute this, and they may wish to summon other allies within the current much-diminished TAC, but I suspect Strawn and Marsh will have preoccupations much closer to home. This sort of disagreement is by no means unusual in the "continuing Anglican" movement. Just sayin'. If I were Marsh or Strawn, though, I wouldn't want to stir up new problems for myself.

I don't know Abp Hepworth, and I've never corresponded with him. A visitor who does know him feels that he's been the victim of character assassination, and that in person, he has a sharp wit and broad theological knowledge. I'm probably safe in saying he's a flawed human being like all the rest of us.

On the other hand, his leadership was responsible for the TAC's 2007 Portsmouth Letter. This was probably useful to the Vatican in that it served as a beard to deflect attention from Jeffrey Steenson's resignation as Episcopal Bishop of the Rio Grande -- there was resentment enough of that move in New Mexico, but if the reason for Steenson's meeting with Cardinal Ratzinger in 1993 had been more generally known, the outrage would have been much greater, possibly making Anglicanorum coetibus a harder thing to bring about.

There can be no question that Hepworth's leadership brought TAC parishes into the Ordinariates. It's also plain that his leadership within the TAC from 2007 to 2012 allowed this to happen, in the face of strong opposition. Beyond that, it's plain that, at least in the case of St Mary of the Angels, a very significant parish in this process, the job isn't complete.

If Abp Hepworth's health and morale appear to have been restored enough for him to consider resuming the work he'd begun, under whatever auspices, I can't see this as anything other than a very positive development. Please continue to pray for the St Mary of the Angels parish. its vestry, Fr Kelley, Abp Hepworth, and Bp Lopes.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Parish Annual Meeting February 7, 2016

With the improving legal environment, the parish held its first annual meeting as mandated in its bylaws since February 5, 2012. This was a remarkable event. My wife and I attended as invited guests and friends of the parish, but one of the remarkable features of the event was the number of other guests from the Hollywood-Los Feliz community who also attended, clearly supporting the parish and eager for it to return. Because the sheriff has not yet evicted the squatter group, the meeting was held at the Our Mother of Good Counsel Catholic parish nearby.

Another remarkable feature was the news that retired TAC Archbishop John Hepworth is actively supervising the parish. Its renewed or continued membership in the Patrimony of the Primate is active and not simply a legal formality. Abp Hepworth underwent a serious health crisis at the time of his "expulsion" from the TAC and the ACA's seizure of the St Mary's property in 2012. It appears that he has recovered and is beginning to resume an episcopal role.

For several years, the parish had been canonically isolated, with the US-Canadian Ordinariate denying any connection and the ACA impersonating a parish through a bizarre and disreputable group of phony priests and unbalanced dissidents. The renewal of the Patrimony is a very important event, visually as much as canonically.

It seems to me that it represents a restart of the Anglicanorum coetibus process. As Fr Kelley pointed out in yesterday's meeting, the original intent was for Steenson to receive the parish in January 2012 as the first to join the US-Canadian Ordinariate, since the first meeting that led to the establishment of Pope St John Paul II's Pastoral Provision was held at St Mary's in 1978. Forces both inside and outside the Ordinariate managed to derail that process in 2012.

My own view, not reflecting Fr Kelley's opinion but not necessarily inconsistent with it, is that up at least to Jeffrey Steenson's retirement, the process of growing the Ordinariate has been in the charge of people who seem to wither everything they touch. Indeed, the reconstituted "Anglicanorum Coetibus Society" has not borne fruit consistent with even its lukewarm introductory fanfare; its new members should, in my view, look toward using the upcoming Lenten season to reconsider their roles.

The disappearance of the once-enthusiastic Anglo-Catholic blogosphere also reflects the so-far disappointing outcome of Anglicanorum coetibus. The St Mary's parish has always been an important part of this process. The bungling that has so far characterized the startup of the US-Canadian Ordinariate isn't going unnoticed.

The parish wants to restore itself. The community wants it back. The Anglicanorum coetibus process needs it. Please continue to pray for the parish, its vestry, Fr Kelley, Abp Hepworth, and Bp Lopes.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

A Couple Of Observations

My prediction over the past couple of months, that the Bush group would only be able to delay the inevitable for short periods, looks like it's turning out to have been correct. This leads to a couple of other questions. One is that we still don't have a clear picture of how the group financed what was, by Mrs Bush's own estimate, about $2 million in legal fees.

However, with the loss of the tenant in the commercial space and now the certain loss of the property, it's hard to imagine how they can continue the appeal of Judge Strobel's decision, which will involve hundreds of thousands more. My wife and I suspect they have been looting the parish of assets to meet expenses, but even this option will now be foreclosed.

The absence of Lancaster & Anastasia LLP from Mr Cothran's claim of possession may be significant -- it was a clear loser, but the Bush group's whole case has been a loser, and this hadn't deterred their intrepid legal team to date. Stay tuned.

The next question goes to the parish's affiliation. I have assumed up to now, and posted now and then to that effect, that the parish is unaffiliated. I now learn that the parish apparently intends to continue to identify itself as part of the Patrimony of the Primate. This was established by John Hepworth and Louis Falk in late 2010 to protect ACA parishes who intended to join the US-Canadian Ordinariate from adverse action by ACA bishops.

Although the ACA bishops unanimously requested that the Holy See erect the Ordinariates at the earliest possible time in March 2010, and in April 2011 pledged not to interfere with Patrimony parishes, they never acted in good faith over either move.

It seems more and more plain that their sole object was to seize St Mary of the Angels, a property worth somewhere in eight figures -- the only other ACA parish planning to leave with equivalent assets was Incarnation Orlando, which had put itself under a separate jurisdiction. Thus the ACA House of Bishops voted to dissolve the Patrimony in January 2012, when it became plain that David Moyer intended to continue to protect St Mary's from interference by Stephen Strawn.

However, court documents show that in John Hepworth's view, the ACA House of Bishops never had the authority to dissolve the Patrimony, since it was created by Hepworth himself as Primate of the TAC. As Hepworth put it in his deposition, the Patrimony still exists, St Mary of the Angels is still a parish in it, and Fr Kelley is still a priest in good standing in the Patrimony.

Samuel Prakash became the "acting primate" of the TAC following the retirement of John Hepworth (or his explusion by the TAC College of Bishops, depending on who you're talking to). He appears to be nothing but a figurehead, and the real power in the TAC, inasmuch as it exists, is with Brian Marsh and his ally Michael Gill. So far, none has made a move to dissolve the Patrimony on behalf of the Primate or the TAC.

They probably feel they don't need to. Remaining ACA clergy have either been cowed by Marsh and Strawn, or they stay out of their way and avoid direct confrontation. I would expect, though, that if the ACA's legal position continues to deteriorate in the St Mary of the Angels cases, we'll see an announcement of Marsh's "retirement". I wouldn't rule that out -- stay tuned.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Hearing on Cothran Claim Of Possession Feb 2, 2016

I attended this hearing, and in fact so did a substantial contingent of squatters: the phony "Bishop" Owen Williams, his tired-looking wife, an unkempt Patrick Meyers AKA Omeirs, and several others. Notably missing were Mrs Bush and Messrs Lancaster and Anastasia. We learned just before the hearing that they would not represent Mr Cothran, who turned out to be appearing pro per. As the wisdom goes, he had a fool for a client. It's difficult to imagine something going more disastrously for the squatters, although I'm afraid that for them and the property, there's more potential downside.

In fact, the apparent absence of coordination or effective legal counsel strongly suggests that the overall cohesion among the group is breaking down. The exchange between Mr Cothran and the judge was simply embarrassing. The judge started out by asking Mr Cothran how he has the right of possession to the property. He asked Mr Cothran if he lived at the church.

Mr Cothran answered that he lived in his home (in Sherman Oaks), not at the church. Nobody lived at the church. But the vestry has title to the property, and Mr Cothran claimed to be on the vestry.

The judge replied that the "plaintiff vestry" (i.e., the vestry elected in February 2012) had title to the property. The judge told Mr Cothran patiently that he was not on the vestry.

The judge then asked if Mr Cothran was paying rent to anyone at the parish. Mr Cothran replied that he was not, there were no tenants at the parish. The judge explained that only a tenant can claim right of possession, and Mr Cothran had not filed a correct claim. He went on to explain that, as outlined in the law, Mr Cothran would need to pay the court a deposit of several thousand dollars in rent to further his claim of right of possession.

Mr Cothran said he'd paid $300 (apparently just the filing fee), and he thought that was enough. The judge explained that the church was valuable property, and the rent would be a substantial amount. Mr Cothran had not paid it.

Mr Cothran became more and more exasperated. The judge made it plain that he was denying Mr Cothran's claim of possession, and this was going to restart the five-day clock for eviction. Mr Cothran insisted that the case was under appeal. The judge explained that this was an entirely separate matter.

Mr Cothran then asked, "So what form do I need to fill out?"

The judge said, "I can't give you legal advice. I would advise you to contact your attorney, and in fact, to contact him very quickly."

Increasingly exasperated, Mr Cothran said he'd already talked to his attorney, although he was apparently not represented by any who was present in court. Mr Cothran then began striding up and down the aisle, pointing angrily at me and the two wardens, who were present from the vestry. He strode back toward the judge, who repeated that Mr Cothran's claim was denied. Cothran then strode back to me and the wardens, poking his finger at us, and shouting,

"KNOW. THIS. YOU. WILL. NOT. GET. IT."

At this point, the bailiff ordered Mr Cothran to leave the courtroom, which he did, followed by the squatter contingent. I noted that "Bishop" Williams's face was beet-red. The vestry and legal counsel stayed in the courtroom for some additional minutes to avoid encountering Mr Cothran in the hall.

Once we went into the hall, an observer who appeared to be an attorney remarked that Mr Cothran's conduct warranted a protection order. Mmes Greer and Rineer, the vestry's counsel, made it plain that the squatters were not going to leave without being dragged out and informed the wardens that they should not be present when the sheriff arrives to lock the squatters out. My wife and I expect to raise our level of situational awareness over the next days and keep our cars in the garage.

However, counsel said that there could be no further claim of possession, and the court would inform the sheriff that this claim had been denied. I assume that the five-day clock on eviction has been restarted, and the squatters will be removed from the property in a matter of days.

I took the elevator down from the seventh-floor courtroom. It stopped on the fourth floor, and when the doors opened, Mr Cothran and the squatter group were in the lobby, with Mr Cothran yelling and waving his arms. I shut the doors in a hurry, and there was no further confrontation. I never saw any effort by Williams, the phony priest and bishop, to exercise any restraint over Mr Cothran at any time.

Fr Kelley and the vestry, as well as their counsel, are clearly aware of the risks in the situation as it develops.

Friday, January 29, 2016

Toronto Group

My correspondent continues,
St Thomas More, Toronto is Canada's only "gathered" group. Back in the eighties a former rector of a local Anglo-Catholic parish who became a Roman Catholic tried to form an Anglican Use group of former Anglicans who had preceded him into the Church but could not get the required permission. Some of these people reappeared when the Ordinariate was in formation and formed the core of the STM mission. Since then there have been perhaps eight or ten receptions from assorted denominations. The priest is one of only three who came directly from the Anglican Church of Canada to the US-Canadian Ordinariate. He has been blogging as Peregrinus here since before the OCSP was erected, and although I find his blog long-winded and tendentious it is currently one of only two Canadian on-line sources of Ordinariate news. There are about a hundred Anglican churches in the city of Toronto. The number of current or former Anglicans is probably close to 100,000. In 2013, the Catholic Archdiocese of Toronto reported that 2,478 adults were received into the Church at Easter. The fact that St Thomas More draws perhaps 30 people on a Sunday is again, I think, an indication that the market for the Ordinariate has been grossly over-estimated, along with its role in the New, or even the Old, Evangelization.