Wednesday, August 20, 2014

I Mentioned David Moyer The Other Day

Because I became Catholic via RCIA, and because I'm pretty well engrossed with what I'm learning about the mainstream Catholic Christian tradition, with no special need for Anglican-style liturgy, I hadn't been following the usual Anglo-Catholic blogs, which frankly strike me as aimed at the madwomen who wear straw hats and velvet hats to church, rather than adults, like David Moyer, who recognize that the Church is a battleground. However, a visitor brought me up to date on Moyer's status: on August 17, Moyer and his Newman Fellowship group were received into the Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter.

He and his group have my heartfelt congratulations and very best wishes, and I particularly admire Moyer's integrity, humility, and fortitude in coming to accept laicization in order to go in with his group. But what changed?

In February 2012, after Moyer was denied Archbishop Chaput's votum to come into the Catholic Church as a priest, Steenson is reported to have said,

"I told the people on Sunday that they must follow their conscience on the question of coming into full communion with the Catholic Church. Lumen Gentium 14 (the Vatican II constitution on the Church) makes this a matter of salvation: 'Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved. So, even if the Fellowship was not ready to make this decision, if an individual was convinced about what the Catholic Church teaches about herself, he or she should not be afraid to move forward.

"Catechumens who, moved by the Holy Spirit, seek with explicit intention to be incorporated into the Church are by that very intention joined with her. With love and solicitude Mother Church already embraces them as her own.'" (LG 14)," Steenson told VOL.

(I was told during RCIA, by the way, that those of us who had already been baptized into the Christian faith were candidates, not catechumens. A double check confirms that catechumens are not yet baptized, and the act of baptism radically changes a Christian's status, whether Catholic or not. I'm puzzled that Steenson, a theologian, would miss this, as the members of the Newman Fellowship, active Anglicans and former Episcopalians, had all certainly been baptized.)

Steenson's remarks were generally interpreted in reports at the time as telling the people of the Newman Fellowship that their group would not be received into the Ordinariate, with or without Moyer, and the clear intent of the remarks above is that their only other option was to come into the Catholic Church as individuals. In other remarks, Steenson at the time was generally reported as offering the Newman group the opportunity to join the other Philadelphia-area Ordinariate group, St Michael Archangel, or nothing:

If the congregation, sans Moyer, truly believes in the faith as Rome sees it, they are jeopardizing their souls not to join St. Michael’s under the Rev. Dr. David Ousley who will be given the nod to enter Rome through the Ordinariate some time down the road.
Vested as they may have been in cloying churchladyspeak, Steenson's remarks above strike me as basically a snotty putdown of what was, by Ordinariate standards, a large, sincere, and prosperous group. Mischaracterizing them as catechumens was tactless and condescending at best. Moyer's laicization does not seem to have been the only issue: it doesn't appear that they were offered any other option but coming in individually or via St Michael Archangel. After all, any group wishing to come in at the start was going to have to have a Catholic priest who served as chaplain while the Anglican priest who served with the group awaited ordination. What was so different with Newman?

It's hard to avoid thinking that something changed. Did Steenson pick up the phone at some point in subsequent years to have someone, divine or mortal, explain to him that, indeed, the Newman Fellowship is a large, sincere, and prosperous group, and, er, Steenson perhaps needed to give a bit more thought to pledges, donations, and bequests? Is this a sign that the Ordinariate of the Chair of St Peter might have become a little less the Ordinariate of the Diocese of Ft Worth?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

"You'd Better Answer That -- It Might Be God."

Despite the usual admonitions to turn off cell phones before mass, a doofus didn't bother, and a ring tone began to sound insistently during Fr Tom's homily on Sunday. Normally a doofus turns it off in short order, but apparently this particular doofus was frozen in panic and just let it keep ringing. Fr Tom finally interrupted his homily and said, "You'd better answer that -- it might be God." After a few moments of further reflection, the doofus finally complied. What God had to say we never learned.

That reminded me of an earlier dialogue with God, reported by none other than Robert William Bowman on the All Saints Fountain Valley Facebook page entry for June 16, 2014:

Beloved Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,

Yesterday I informed the Vestry of All Saints Church that I would be concluding my service to the parish on the Lord's Day, August 31, 2014. Over the past several months I began to sense that the LORD was preparing me for a move, as I was contacted by 2 ACNA congregations and one diocese of the ACNA inquiring about my availability for service. One congregation is on the East Coast, one congregation is in a different part of the the state of CA, and the diocese contacting me is in Texas.

When I came to All Saints, I expected to stay for a few weeks until a new priest could be appointed to replace Dr. Morello. A few weeks has turned into 18 months, and by August 31, will be 20 months. It has been a distinct privilege and joy for me to serve this congregation over these many months. I have appreciated everything that everyone has done to serve the LORD here. You cannot possibly know what a tremendous blessing you have been in my life. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for allowing me this privilege. Just as the LORD sent me to be the "supply guy" (as I have styled myself) these many months, so He will again send His man to serve you in the future. Proverbs 3:5-6 reminds us to "trust in the LORD will all your heart and He will direct your paths."

I will continue to serve you until August 31, with the exception of the next 3 Lord's Days when I will be away on my trip to China. Next Lord's Day, June 22, the 10:00 AM service will be Morning Prayer. On the Lord's Day June 29 and July 6 The Reverend Bob Hammond will be the visiting priest. I will return to the pulpit July 13.

I ask your faithful prayer support as I travel to and from China. Please pray for travel mercies as we fly out Tuesday, June 17, and return Monday, July 7. Please pray for the man The LORD has already chosen to serve you. As the LORD supplied in the past, so He will do again in the future.

Kept with you in HIS love,
Robert Bowman
Romans 11:33-36

I didn't need to pick up the phone to figure out what my own response to God's call here would be -- I addressed the following to the public inquiry page on the ACNA main web site:
Robert William Bowman has been interim priest at All Saints Anglican Church in Fountain Valley, CA since 2013. He was formerly rector of St Luke’s REC parish in Santa Ana, CA, but was dismissed from that position following his arrest on child pornography charges in 2009. See http://www.ocregister.com/articles/bowman-168221-home-church.html

On the Facebook page of All Saints Anglican, he posted on June 16 of this year,

“Yesterday I informed the Vestry of All Saints Church that I would be concluding my service to the parish on the Lord's Day, August 31, 2014. Over the past several months I began to sense that the LORD was preparing me for a move, as I was contacted by 2 ACNA congregations and one diocese of the ACNA inquiring about my availability for service. One ...congregation is on the East Coast, one congregation is in a different part of the the state of CA, and the diocese contacting me is in Texas.”

I believe it would be an exceedingly unwise move for the ACNA to hire this man in any capacity. I hope you will warn the parishes and the diocese of this issue.

However, I believe the ACNA is an utterly different sort of organization from the ACA, and it would require written applications, criminal background checks, and full reference checks of all clergy. And since the REC is now part of the ACNA, the ACNA may well be already aware of Bowman.

For that matter, I would assume that Bowman is also fully aware of ACNA policy and understands fully that he will never be hired in the ACNA again. As a result, I can't help but wonder if the Facebook page is intended as a face-saving lie. But whose face is being saved here? I notified Brian Marsh of Bowman's arrest record in early April -- according to Bowman, he began to get calls from God several months before his June announcement, although I very much doubt they were eager inquiries from the ACNA.

I suspect instead that they were highly confidential chats with Frederick Rivers and "Bishop" Owen Williams. "We gotta ease you out," I assume was the basic subject. "Real slow and inconspicuous. Our jobs are on the line just as much as yours. Let's make this all just between us, and make it look like you're just movin' on here, huh?" As of today, Bowman is still on staff.

My only question is why Marsh, Williams, and Rivers thought it would be a good idea to keep the All Saints Fountain Valley parish exposed to a pedophile for almost five months so everyone could save face. I trust that responsible parties in the ACA will address this question, although if I were an ordinary parishioner, I'd be hopping mad and want some good answers myself.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Reference Check Oh-by-the-way

Robert William Bowman's arrest on child pornography charges distracted me in part from another discrepancy that came up when I did my own reference check. Bowman's profile on the clergy page of the All Saints Fountain Valley web site says
Rev. Dr. Bowman is a graduate of Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi and of the Graduate School of Education at RTS. He has an extensive history as Rector, Associate Rector, and Church Planter for Anglican churches. In addition to his academic studies at RTS, he did summer post-graduate work at The University of Cambridge, England, and the University of St. Andrews, Scotland.
The profile strongly implies that Bowman received a "Dr" (either an EdD or PhD) from the Reformed Theological Seminary, although it's weasel-worded if you look carefully. However, when I checked with RTS, I received this reply:
This is to verify that Reformed Theological Seminary has awarded Robert Bowman the following degrees:

M.A. – Christian Education May 23, 1980

M.Ed – August 3, 1985

Please let me know if you have any further questions.

Sincerely,

Kiama J. Lee
Registrar and Assistant to the Academic Dean
Reformed Theological Seminary

A responsible reference check by Frederick Rivers or the All Saints Fountain Valley vestry should have revealed this and disqualified Bowman, irrespective of his arrest record. It appears that Bowman's "Dr" is as fraudulent as Anthony Morello's, one more reason to re-open an investigation into how Morello was hired at All Saints.

Here's What I Would Expect To See

in an investigation conducted by adults of the circumstances surrounding how All Saints Fountain Valley hired a priest with an arrest record for child pornography, as well as the bizarre sexual abuse alleged against an unidentified diocesan bishop. I don't know if this is what will be done, but I've been at the fringes of this kind of thing at various times in my career, and my wife was the sexual harassment coordinator for two corporations, so she has good knowledge of how equivalent investigations are handled. If I were investigating both cases, I would
  • Want to know who was the safe environment coordinator for the dioceses involved. If there was none in either diocese, it would raise a red flag.
  • Want to see the written safe environment policies for those dioceses. If there were none, it would raise a red flag.
  • Want to see the standardized, written employment applications for both individuals. If there were none, it would raise a red flag.
  • Want to see the records of the criminal background checks and employment reference checks for both individuals. If there were none, it would raise a red flag.
  • Determine if either individual had any history of similar behavior that was known to colleagues or laity that had gone unreported, which might corroborate any allegations. Serious offenders don't do things just once.
  • For that matter, determine whether any similar behavior had been reported but not investigated.
  • Locate copies of the reports that generated the current investigation. If they are unavailable, that should raise a red flag.
  • Locate and interview affected parties, recognizing that with the passage of time, they may have become reluctant to speak about the incidents or even have passed away.
  • Contact former employers and determine the circumstances of their leaving prior employment.
  • Interview the ACA diocesan officials and bishops who were contacted about the incidents and determine their response.
  • Interview any clerical employees or parish volunteers who may have received the contacts and determine whether they passed them on.
  • Identify the actions or inactions that would explain why, following the contacts, no formal investigation was begun, or if one was begun, determine its results.
  • Determine why, if there was any validity to the allegations, parishioners were exposed to potential risks for months after the problems were reported.
  • Identify those responsible in the incidents themselves and make appropriate recommendations for ecclesiastical discipline, including any necessary preparation for trial of a bishop.
  • Identify those who might have covered up the incidents and make appropriate recommendations for ecclesiastical discipline, including any necessary preparation for trial of a bishop.
  • Recommend other measures that would make it plain that clergy who do not follow their responsibility to maintain a safe environment are held accountable.
  • Make other recommendations regarding how ACA policies and procedures may be improved to prevent such situations arising in the future.
It would be worth it to make a check of whether Anthony Morello had ever filled out a written employment application as well. I strongly suspect that, given the history I've seen, All Saints Fountain Valley has been a weak point where unscrupulous individuals can ingratiate themselves with superficial charm, bypass ordinary procedures, work their way into positions of trust, and even rise to high levels in the diocese. This should be a major embarrassment to the ACA. Had consistent policies regarding standard employment applications, reference checks, and criminal background checks been in force across the ACA, I don't believe any of the individuals involved would have become ACA clergy in the first place.

Who else might have been screened out, for that matter?

Sunday, August 17, 2014

More Money Questions

Here's another issue that occurred to me just now as I gave more thought to the parish budget that I reviewed the other day: what is the parish paying the ACA Diocese of the West and the Presiding Bishop? I know that once the parish left the Diocese of the West and went into the Patrimony of the Primate, it was not paying any diocesan assessment to the Patrimony and had stopped paying anything to the DOW. (I know that because I never wrote any checks for those expenses.) I didn't have access to earlier records of what the diocesan assessment for the DOW had been, although Fr Kelley did mention that it was "favorable".

I would bet good money that that's changed, and once Mrs Bush and the vicars general took over, St Mary's, with regular rental income and low expenses, started paying money to the ACA in a hurry. And probably big time. And since the DOW had fairly low expenses -- maybe six parishes for a bishop to visit, after all, and only occasional synods -- a lot of that money went straight to the ACA. How much? We don't know, and oddly a web search turns up very little hard information. The Roman Catholic Diocese of Scranton, PA says of parish assessments,

Some dioceses assess parishes at a rate up to 25% of their total income. The rate of assessment for parishes within the Diocese of Scranton is 9.5%. This rate has not been altered since 2006. It is only because of the success of the Diocesan Annual Appeal that the rate has been able to remain constant. The Diocese in itself generates very little income. It is dependent upon the parishes to provide the financial support required to continue the mission of the Church.
In 2012, I took a careful look at the numbers of ACA parishes-in-good-standing and missions. The ACA doesn't have an official listing of which are which, but the best estimate I could make was that it had 25 parishes-in-good-standing and 43 missions. By the usual definition, a mission does not pay a diocesan assessment, and in more prosperous denominations even receives a subsidy -- that's probably not the case in the ACA. But what it means is that only 25 ACA parishes-in-good-standing, by the best estimate, pay any assessment at all to their dioceses, and of the dioceses, it's hard to know what sort of payments they make to the ACA.

But if the Diocese of Scranton is any indicator, 10% is a low estimate for how much St Mary's might be expected to pay. Based on a monthly rental income of $22,000, it would be paying about $2200 to the Diocese of the West, a substantial part of which would go to the ACA.

In fact, I would guess that St Mary of the Angels, at the time it went into the Patrimony of the Primate, must have been one of the very largest, and almost certainly the most prosperous. parish in the ACA. And that cash cow suddenly went away! Can there be any question why the ACA would try to seize the parish back?

And for that matter, can there be any question why the ACA will do everything it can to delay a final resolution at trial for the elected vestry's case against it? Every month of delay is $2200; every year of delay is $26,400. The longer my wife and I look at the record, the worse the ACA's case looks in Rector, Wardens, and Vestry v ACA -- I no longer put the vestry's chances at 50-50; I now think they're more like 70-30.

This means that at some point a year or two in the future, there's a good chance the ACA will not only lose its $2200 monthly income, which will create a big hole -- it will have to pay back $75,000 or more, plus interest. The ACA will have spent this money.

An Answer To The ACA's Dilemma?

Covering up for pedophiles and other sexual misconduct is, if we look at the examples of Cardinals Bernard Law and Roger Mahony, a serious matter and leads, or should lead, to retirement in some measure of disgrace. Whether Brian Marsh actually covered up remains to be seen, but if it turns out to be the case, I think he would pretty much have to go.

"If they get rid of Marsh, who else do they have?" asked my wife. Good question. The talent pool in the ACA is not wide. If Marsh "retires unexpectedly", it would be because another diocesan bishop had also quietly left the picture, which would leave only one mainland US diocesan standing, neither of whom strikes me as an attractive candidate -- one of them has a record of high-handed, uncanonical dealing, and he probably would not fly with many ACA clergy. And if the denomination is to survive, it would simply need to have someone not connected with the current clique. And farther down, frankly, there's a collection of useful idiots, dangerous incompetents, thieves, liars, and perverts.

"Maybe they could check to see if David Moyer is still available," I said, not joking. Think about it. Nobody, but nobody, is going to come in from outside unless he's too desperate to be a serious contender. Walter Grundorf strikes me as a Brian Marsh clone (a little like how Czar Nicholas II was a near-twin of King George V) and not what the ACA needs now. Moyer is a little wacky, but as far as I can see, he's the kind of wacky who'd wield a machete just where the machete needed to be wielded.

Not joking. To any responsible parties in the ACA who may be reading this, do you want the denomination to last longer than the two years it's now likely to?

UPDATE: I learn that Bishop Moyer is to be received, with his Newman Fellowship group, into the Catholic Church, although Moyer will not be ordained a Catholic priest. So he is no longer available to the ACA, the worse for them.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

ACA Lawsuit Status

On August 7, the respondents in Rector, Wardens, and Vestry v ACA (i.e., the ACA) filed a petition for rehearing with the California appeals court. On August 15, the petition was denied. This strongly suggests that the ACA's next step will be to appeal this decision to the California Supreme Court. The Supreme Court has the option of simply refusing to hear the case. The ACA's strategy is to string out the process as long as possible, while keeping physical possession of the premises and hoping some other event will intervene, like the deaths of key parties, loss of interest, and so forth. (That, though, cuts both ways.) This will also result in continued expense to the ACA, which I think it is less and less able to handle. The ACA ain't The Episcopal Church.

Come to think of it, stringing the case out could also have the effect of putting the consequences of losing it out past Marsh's retirement, whenever that might be, and leaving all that for his successor to clean up. An excellent strategy for Marsh, not as good for the denomination. Maybe some responsible parties are figuring this out.