Thursday, April 10, 2014

What Does It Mean That No Charges Were Filed

against Robert Bowman, the REC priest arrested for child pornography? This page gives some explanation:
Prosecutors have a lot of discretion on whether to charge a defendant and which offenses they wish to pursue. Here are some of the most important factors to a prosecutor:
  • Political Aspirations: prosecutors often run for office or seek political appointments. As a result, they are keenly aware of the image prosecuting a particular offense sends the community. Even if the evidence is questionable, if there is considerable community outrage, a prosecutor may decide to pursue a case. Alternatively, certain crimes will almost always be prosecuted, because not prosecuting them sends a bad message (e.g., DUIs).
  • Office Policies: prosecution offices often have policies regarding which crimes they want to prosecute. There may be a push to prosecute a certain kind of crime or a policy to not prosecute other crimes that the office considers less important.
  • Prosecutor's Notion of Justice: prosecutors are people, and just like everyone else have beliefs and ideas about right and wrong. On one hand, it may lead a prosecutor to pursue a case more aggressively than may be warranted by the facts. On the other hand, it may lead to a prosecutor filing lesser charges or choosing not to pursue a case where the prosecutor thinks justice will still be served even though no one is charged with a crime.
My guess is that whatever Bowman paid his attorney, it was worth it. The DA might have decided Bowman wasn’t a big enough fish to go after, he was near retirement age, he was a priest who was sorry for what he’d done, or any other mitigating circumstance. Not filing charges would keep a 62-year-old man from prison as well as becoming a registered sex offender and a complete social pariah. However, this left open the question of whether he should be in parish or school work. A priest must be held to the highest standard, not whether it's worth a trial in such-and-such a case.

It would not surprise me if Bowman's attorney argued that REC disciplinary procedures would keep Bowman from parish work, or that he'd been fired from both the parish and the school, and news of the arrest would keep anyone else from hiring him in school or parish jobs. However, dioceses have just as much discretion on whether to bring canonical charges against a priest. So far, I have no evidence that any canonical charges were brought against Bowman in the REC or the ACNA. The ACNA has so far made no answer to my inquiry.

It may be that nobody could quite decide within the merged ACNA/REC whose job it would be to bring charges, and they didn't need the publicity -- one "selling point" for dissident Anglicans is that they somehow aren't subject to the same failings as the small percentage of Catholic priests who are accused of such things. This of course is incorrect. A bigger problem for dissident Anglicans is the ease with which they can hop jurisdictions -- if the REC figured there'd be a general understanding that Bowman shouldn't go back to parish work, this simply didn't apply to the ACA, which has clearly licensed him to preach and administer the sacraments there, whether they know of his problem in the REC or not.

Indeed, I've been told that the Episcopal Diocese of San Joaquin didn't bring charges against Anthony Morello for the scandal he caused in Modesto for a similar reason -- they figured his age and poor health would keep him from going back into parish work, so why go to the bother? Morello then hopped jurisdictions and continued to cause trouble in the ACA. But for any one denomination to inhibit or depose a priest (or more likely, just to ease him out) isn't going to keep another from putting him into parish work if it's determined to do so, which seems to be the case with the ACA and Robert Bowman.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Inquiry to the ACNA

I sent the following e-mail to the public inquiry address on the Anglican Church of North America's main web page:
Status of REC Rev Robert W Bowman

I’m trying to determine the current status of The Rev Robert W Bowman, who was rector of St Luke’s REC in Santa Ana, CA. In 2009, he was arrested on child pornography charges and terminated by the St Luke’s vestry. There were several references to the arrest in the Southern California press at the time, for instance at http://www.ocregister.com/articles/bowman-168221-home-church.html A year later, the Los Angeles District Attorney decided not to file felony charges in the case. However, due to the catastrophic consequences for anyone convicted of child pornography, it is in their interest to secure the best possible legal representation, and whether the DA decides not to file charges is not necessarily an indication that the individual should be in the priesthood.

I’ve been trying to determine whether Bowman was ever inhibited by the REC/ACNA, and what any eventual disposition of his case may have been. Naturally, termination by a vestry does not affect a priest’s ability to secure another parish job. St Luke’s REC Santa Ana closed its doors in 2012. However, following Bowman’s arrest and termination in 2009, Bishop Schofield of San Joaquin sent The Rev Earle Fox to serve as an interim there. Beyond that, I’m unable to find what diocese had responsibility for St Luke’s REC Santa Ana in 2009. I’ve inquired of both the REC Diocesr of the West and the ACNA Diocese of Western Anglcans, and they say St Luke’s Santa Ana and Bowman were never under their jurisdiction. REC Bishop Royal Grote has so far not answered my inquiry to him.

I would like to determine Robert W Bowman’s status as a priest in the REC/ACNA, and if possible, what actions may have been taken by the ACNA/REC following his arrest on child pornography charges. Bowman has recently been hired as an “interim priest” at the Anglican Church in America parish All Saints Fountain Valley, CA. I am concerned that the hiring authority, an elderly absentee priest-in-charge, may not have done due diligence regarding his decision. If the charges against him have been fully reviewed by the ecclesiastical authority and he was acquitted, well and good – but so far, I have no indication that this may have happened.

Since Bowman has now returned to parish work in another Anglican diocese and may be doing supply work at other parishes, I believe this matter should be resolved clearly, and I believe Bowman’s status as an REC priest should be public information. Many thanks for any help you may be able to provide in this.

We'll see what results.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Another Question

Looking around the web for the current status of the ACA Diocese of the West, I came to All Saints Anglican Fountain Valley. It has been without a rector since the death of Anthony Morello early in 2013. Currently Frederick Rivers is listed as "Priest" (I believe he should be "Priest in Charge"). Rivers, of course, is listed as "Rector" of St Mary of the Angels, as well as "Rector" of The Church of the Epiphany in Phoenix..

However, The Rev Dr Robert Bowman is listed as "Interim Priest" on the All Saints Fountain Valley web site. His official bio on the parish web site says, "He has served churches in Georgia, Mississippi, Florida, Arkansas and Virginia, as well as California. Alongside his church work, Dr. Bowman has served as a classroom educator and school administrator in both Christian day schools, and independent prep schools."

As I usually do, I googled Fr Bowman and came up with the following in the Orange County Register for April 8, 2010:

No charges follow pastor's arrest

Robert W. Bowman, who served as pastor of a Santa Ana church, was arrested in 2009 but no charges have been filed.

By DOUG IRVING / The Orange County Register
Published: May 1, 2009 Updated: Aug. 21, 2013 1:17 p.m.

(UPDATE ADDED ON April 8, 2010:
Prosecutors have declined to file charges against the former pastor of a Santa Ana church who was arrested last year on suspicion of possessing child pornography.

Police referred the case of Robert W. Bowman to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office, which “did not feel that it warranted a felony filing,” spokeswoman Sandi Gibbons said.

The DA’s office forwarded the case to the Los Angeles City Attorney, which handles misdemeanor cases, but it also decided against bringing charges.)

(THE ORIGINAL STORY:)
The senior pastor of a Santa Ana church has been arrested on suspicion of possessing child pornography.

Robert W. Bowman, 62, the rector at Saint Luke's Reform Episcopal Church in Santa Ana and the headmaster of a Christian academy in Gardena, was arrested Thursday afternoon at his home in San Pedro. He was booked into jail but was released on $20,000 bail.

The church dismissed Bowman as its rector on Friday, said Ken Sammons, a member of the church vestry. He said Bowman had been the rector, or senior pastor, of the small congregation for a few years.

He declined to comment further. Bowman did not return phone calls to his home and cell phone.

Los Angeles police arrested Bowman after a search of his home. Officer Jason Lee, a department spokesman, declined to say what led police to his home or whether they recovered any child pornography there, citing the ongoing investigation.

"There was a reasonable belief that he had possession of child pornography," Lee said.

Bowman was the headmaster at CrossRoad Christian Academy in Gardena, a school for children between "junior kindergarten" and eighth grade. His name had been removed from the school's Web site by Friday afternoon.

His name does not appear on the Megan's Law Web site, which lists registered sex offenders in California. Court records in Orange County show only a single traffic ticket for Bowman earlier this year.

Another story in the South Bay, CA Daily Breeze said that police began investigating Bowman following a report from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

A blog entry mentions that Bowman arrived at St Luke's in 2006. Before that, he appears to have been at an REC parish in Little Rock, AR. A copy of a listserv message places him at the head of a middle school in Little Rock in 1999. Given the location and the apparent consistency with the information in Bowman's bio on the All Saints site, this appears to be the same individual. I simply don't know if All Saints Fountain Valley or the ACA is aware of this arrest, or of Bowman's terminations.

It's worth pointing out that St Luke's REC Santa Ana closed in 2012, and the CrossRoad Christian Academy in Gardena closed in 2013. In the Daily Breeze article cited above, CrossRoad parents express pessimism about the school's future given the circumstances of Bowman's arrest. While both St Luke's and CrossRoad appear to have been marginal (which might be one reason they hired Bowman in the first place), there seems little question that Bowman was a destructive influence on both institutions.

It's also been difficult to track down the disposition of Bowman's case within the REC. Fr F. Earle Fox, an ACNA priest who took over the parish on behalf of the merged ACNA/REC after Bowman was let go, refers to him in the final sermon given at St Luke's as "Dr Robert Bowman", when he refers to other ACNA/REC priests as "Fr". Fr Fox has not replied to my e-mail requesting further information.

Inquiries to dioceses within the REC and the ACNA, as well as to knowledgeable individuals, have resulted either in no reply or, in the cases of the REC Diocese of the West and the ACNA Diocese of Western Anglicans, statements that St Luke's REC Santa Ana and Dr Bowman were never under them. As I posted yesterday, this appears to have been the case. Due to the changes in the REC and its joining the ACNA in 2008 and 2009, at the same time Bowman's arrest occurred, it may be possible that Bowman fell into a jurisdictional crack, and his case was never properly dealt with by the REC.

Certainly equivalent cases normally result in a priest being suspended and taken out of parish ministry. The fact that a district attorney declined to prosecute the case would not necessarily mean a priest would be returned to active ministry, given the overall circumstances and the extreme sensitivity of the issue in contemporary affairs. At this point, I've received no information on whether Bowman was investigated by the REC, whether any disciplinary action was brought, or what the disposition, if any, may have been. I do not find any reference to Bowman in parish work in any denomination between his arrest and termination by St Luke's in 2009 and his appearance at All Saints ACA Fountain Valley in 2013.

California law makes it an offense to possess child pornography in any form. California law prohibits an employer from using an arrest record in making an employment decision if the arrest did not result in a conviction. However, the information available does indicate that Bowman was terminated from his job at St Luke's REC, which in itself would be a normal issue to come up in a background check, especially if Bowman was not forthcoming about the reason for the termination. Given the level of trust required of even an "interim priest", who must be expected to come in contact with minors, the elderly, and other vulnerable people in a variety of potentially difficult circumstances, any hiring decision would need to take any potentially negative character information very seriously.

The hiring authority in this case would be the Priest-in-Charge at All Saints Fountain Valley, Frederick Rivers. While some interviews or checks may have been conducted by parishioners, the final decision and offer would have come from Rivers himself. It's hard to believe that a google search was not done on a potential candidate, but this was likely the case. The fact that Rivers is over normal retirement age and an absentee suggests normal attention to background checks may not have been given. At minimum, this should raise serious questions about Fr Rivers's judgment, and it should raise questions about his stewardship at both All Saints Fountain Valley and St Mary of the Angels.

I put the following information on the ACA's contact page at its home site:

Is the ACA aware that the Rev Dr Robert Bowman, currently serving as Interim Priest at All Saints Fountain Valley (DOW), was arrested on child pornography charges in 2009 and was dismissed from an REC parish (as well as the school where he was headmaster) as a result? See http://www.vcstar.com/news/2009/may/01/oc-pastor-dismissed-after-arrest-for-child-porn/

I would be very interested in the ACA's take on this -- there may be some extenuating reason for his hiring, but on the face of it, it does not appear to reflect good judgment or due diligence.

So far, I have received no reply.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Looking For An Explanation Here

This is related to two possible issues I've covered on this blog: one, the most pertinent right now, is the former Diocese of the West of the Anglican Province of America, which went into the Reformed Episcopal Church in 2008. In 2009, the Reformed Episcopal Church joined the Anglican Church in North America. (The loss of this diocese on one hand would be one explanation for the APA's renewed interest, however incomplete, in merging with the ACA.)

One puzzling issue is the difference between what is now called the Reformed Episcopal Church Diocese of the West and the ACNA's Diocese of Western Anglicans. I've been trying to track down certain events connected with the former St Luke's Reformed Episcopal Church in Santa Ana, CA, which closed in 2012. For whatever reason, the REC-DOW says St Luke's was never part of that diocese, which makes me wonder if what is now called the REC-DOW is actually just the former churches in the APA-DOW that went into the REC in 2008. Meanwhile, is the ACNA Diocese of Western Anglicans largely made up of former REC parishes? (And of course, this is not the same thing as the ACNA Diocese of San Joaquin, made up largely of former TEC parishes.)

Update: the Diocese of Western Anglicans was founded new in 2009, as part of the ACNA, containing mostly former TEC parishes, but not those in the ACNA Diocese of San Joaquin. However, this leaves open the question of what diocese had jurisdiction over St Luke's REC Santa Ana, CA, before it closed in 2012, and especially during certain events in 2009.

Can anyone provide any clarification here?

Friday, April 4, 2014

So Why The Low Profile?

Indeed, Stephen Smuts is not the only one puzzled at Bishop Marsh's request that he not mention the ACA in his blog, since Smuts's blog is semi-official, and he normally posts almost any official utterance made anywhere in the "worldwide Traditional Anglican Communion". But since total "worldwide" TAC membership outside the US is almost certainly in the very low four figures (if not even less), news from the US franchise would be extremely important. What in fact is going on here?

Let's start with something that's been in the back of my mind, and about which I'd neglected to post up to now: Marsh's project to merge the ACA with the Anglican Province of America. This is the public issue that's clearly preoccupied him. I've often wondered, though, how the APA ought to consider the St Mary of the Angels situation, as well as another potential scandal in the ACA, as it might relate to this merger. Poking around the web after my post yesterday, I ran into this item, in which the Standing Committee of the APA Diocese of Mid America registers "grave concerns" about the leadership of the ACA. The piece goes on:

According to a memo sent to VOL, the Standing Committee of the APA Diocese of Mid-America (DMA) says it cannot proceed with merger talks because of "grave concerns" about the present leadership of the ACA, "given past actions." A motion was unanimously passed by the Standing Committee on August 9 [2013] as the consensus of the 4th Synod of the DMA held in La Porte, Indiana. . . . Furthermore, . . . great concerns were brought forth regarding the present Episcopal [sic] leadership of the Diocese of the Missouri Valley, Anglican Church in America.
Well, let's parse this out. A standing committee in Anglican denominations is the diocesan equivalent of a parish vestry. It's responsible for the temporal affairs of a diocese, including diocesan assets and property. Why would an APA standing committee have so many reservations about a merger with the ACA? It's pretty much answered its own question: it's worried about the ACA Bishop of the Missouri Valley, the Rt Rev Stephen Duane Strawn, of whom I've spoken here. The "past actions" to which the APA DMA Standing Committee refers presumably include:
  • Encouraging factional disputes in individual parishes, at two Texas parishes and St Mary of the Angels Hollywood
  • Using those factional disputes as an excuse to step in and seize temporal control of the parish
  • In the case of St Mary of the Angels, going outside his diocese (and later, even his denomination) in order to do this
  • Violating both ACA canons and a statement by the ACA House of Bishops in order to seize a parish
  • Appointing a disreputable and scandal-tainted priest to supervise this process -- including the use of violence against parishioners
  • Exceeding his authority as bishop to discipline and damage the reputation of a priest not under his episcopal authority.
It's worth recognizing that, although the specific complaint of the APA DMA Standing Committee is against Stephen Strawn, ACA Presiding Bishop Brian Marsh has either tacitly or explicitly endorsed and even encouraged Strawn's actions and those of Strawn's disreputable stooge, the late Anthony Morello. Er, in a merger of the ACA and the APA, what could possibly go wrong? The cardinal virtues are Prudence, Temperance, Fortitude, and Justice. I congratulate the APA DMA Standing Committee for displaying these -- though I wonder how the APA leadership can otherwise countenance a merger with the ACA. At least one group of APA laypeople have their heads screwed on.

What's Marsh's worry here? I think it's pretty plain: almost any publicity about the ACA is going to have a down side, because it's going to bring up the scandal of St Mary of the Angels Hollywood and the conduct of Strawn and Marsh. That in turn could cause second thoughts in the APA. Indeed, almost any event in the ACA will have the effect of raising questions -- new bishops in the ACA so close to a possible merger? Why? A Dean at a parish that had previously had only a rector, for a "cathedral" whose bishop has a funny background? Why?

Best to say nothing, until the suckers take the bait, anyhow.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

A Few Updates

Last month, the Freedom for St Mary's blog noted that a State mandated case settlement conference at the Los Angeles Superior Court took place, at which I'm independently informed that nothing was resolved. This involves the civil charges of theft against Fr Kelley. As I understand it, the exact evidence against Fr Kelley can't be forced out under discovery until just before the trial, which is scheduled for summer 2014.

However, in earlier proceedings, Mr Lancaster telegraphed his intentions when he requested a summary judgment against Fr Kelley from the court. At that time, he alleged, according to a knowledgeable party, that the most serious charge was that Fr Kelley and Deacon Yeager "stole" leftover food from parish lunches for their own use, thereby saving on their own grocery bills. (As a participant in those meals, I would say that the parish was always aware that any leftovers, usually nominal amounts, were gladly given to the Kelleys and the Yeagers. In addition, the Yeagers usually prepared these meals and donated any food costs that could not be reimbursed.)

The fact that the ACA and Mrs Bush, as plaintiffs, had moved for a summary judgment, which is normally a defense strategy, and cited the "theft" of leftover food in support of this motion, indicates the weakness and trivial nature of the case. Although Anthony Morello had asserted noisily in earlier stages that the ACA would go to the District Attorney over Fr Kelley's "thefts", criminal charges have never been filed. Fr Kelley has insisted that the case go to a jury trial, something Mr Lancaster and the ACA have resisted since Anthony Morello left the picture.

This brings us to the question that the Freedom for St Mary blog raised in the post linked above: who's in charge here? I noted last November that Presiding Bishop Marsh had designated the newly-consecrated Owen Rhys Williams as episcopal visitor to the ACA Diocese of the West. However, more recently I saw that Bishop Marsh's schedule had him making an episcopal visit to St Mary of the Angels on March 30, just this past Sunday, well after he'd designated Williams as episcopal visitor to the diocese.

This suggests that Marsh wants to keep St Mary of the Angels under his own thumb, irrespective of anything else Williams might do. (The Diocese of the West is essentially moribund in any case; I doubt if Williams is overtaxed.) But then I noticed that on April 27 of last year, Stephen Smuts, effectively the go-to PR guy for the "worldwide Traditional Anglican Communion", posted:

Well the truth be told, basically, Bishop Brian Marsh has – and let me make sure I use the correct word here – ‘asked’ (?) that I make no mention of the Anglican Church in America on the blog. Why? I’m not sure. The idiom, ‘your guess is a good as mine,’ does come to mind (my mind at least).

Some of you have already noticed the trend and asked about the ongoing omission of the ACA. So now you know.

(Isn't it interesting that Smuts tiptoes around "asked"? That makes me wonder if the "request" came via Bishop Gill, Smuts's superior, and thus took on the color of an order.) This request seems to have come at some time before April 27, and thus a fairly short time after Anthony Morello passed on to his final judgment, which suggests that Bishop Marsh had adopted the strategy of keeping a much lower profile over this case -- Morello and various St Mary's dissidents were putting over-the-top allegations on Smuts and Virtue Online.

Another item in the lower-profile department: without fanfare, St Patrick's Anglican Catholic Cathedral of Titusville, FL, now has a Dean, Fr Mark Siegel. St Patrick's, of course, is the seat of the ACA Bishop of the Eastern US, the Rt Rev John Vaughan, of whom I've spoken on this blog. On other ACA sites, Vaughan is still listed as Rector of St Patrick's, but this would suggest that at least some of Vaughan's pastoral responsibilities are being unloaded. Vaughan's record allows for the interpretation that he has, in the past, been quietly eased out of the priesthood in the Roman Catholic Church and then the US Episcopal Church. Is he being eased out of the ACA?

Fr Siegel, by the way, was previously Dean of the Cathedral of the Incarnation when it was with the ACA and then the Pro-Diocese of the Holy Family. While Siegel appears on various posts relating to the Cathedral (now Church) of the Incarnation's move into the US Roman Catholic Ordinariate, he presumably was not ordained a Catholic priest, and we must presume he did not become a Catholic layperson. Now he's a Dean again in the ACA. (The Pro-Diocese of the Holy Family, a creature of the now-purged-and-disgraced unperson John Hepworth, cannot have been a positive item on Fr Siegel's record -- I wonder what he had to do to get back into the ACA.)

As is simply the usual practice with the ACA, no official bio is available for Fr Siegel, despite his key position.

The ACA Diocese of the Eastern US currently lists 14 parishes. Some number of these are tiny missions; others may simply be inactive. It's hard to imagine Bishop Vaughan being so overburdened with episcopal responsibilities that a Dean is needed for his home parish. And if this is such joyous news, why are these things clearly being kept under wraps?

Monday, November 25, 2013

Legal Strategies Are Confidential

I have no knowledge of what the ACA intends in its various legal actions against Fr Kelley and the elected vestry of St Mary of the Angels. Nor, for that matter, do I have any special knowledge of what Fr Kelley and the elected vestry intend, other than what they have deemed appropriate to discuss with friends and supporters. On the other hand, my wife is a retired attorney, so we've been able to watch developments with some understanding of how the game is played.

The ACA, as I've mentioned here, has brought several actions against Fr Kelley, basically alleging that he stole money from the parish. In one action, it alleged that Fr Kelley forged the senior warden's signature (as well as, presumably, the signature of a second authorized signer) on a check. This was quickly resolved when the senior warden testified that the signature was in fact his; the court found in Fr Kelley's favor, and that action is no longer pending.

A civil suit is still pending against Fr Kelley, alleging that he stole money from the parish. It's worth pointing out that, despite brave words from Anthony Morello in 2012, no criminal charges have emerged from these allegations. The reason is presumably that a criminal case must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt to a unanimous jury, and if the ACA ever chose to bring its evidence before the district attorney, the DA would not have felt there was a case. A civil case, on the other hand, requires only a jury majority of nine out of twelve, based on the preponderance of evidence.

Even so, the ACA's case is going to be weak-to-nonexistent. As I've already said here, my first-hand experience of the parish's finances was that it was breaking even on authorized salaries and other expenditures. The parish was paying clergy and staff, paying heat and air conditioning, dealing with plumbing emergencies, buying candles and incense, and chasing away pests and termites, all proper and reasonable expenditures, all known to and approved by the vestry. There wasn't any surplus.

Quite simply, there was nothing there to steal. As interim treasurer in 2011, I saw no evidence that anyone was even trying. An accountant engaged to do an audit in early 2012 said the same thing. My current surmise, perhaps similar to the surmise at the Freedom for St Mary blog, is that the parish dissidents have been lying to the ACA and the attorneys about the real state of affairs. (That, of course, puts the best possible face on the actions of the ACA and its attorneys.)

In a puzzling strategy, though, the ACA brought a civil suit against Fr Kelley and then made a motion for summary judgment in its favor. My wife points out that a motion for summary judgment is normally a defense strategy -- in other words, the plaintiff brings the suit, the defense then asks the judge to rule that the plaintiff doesn't have a case. Here, though, the ACA asked the court to rule that its case was so strong that there shouldn't even be a trial.

Just recently, the court ruled the ACA's case wasn't that strong, there was going to have to be a trial. This is regarded as a defeat for the ACA. The feeling among Fr Kelley's friends and supporters is that the ACA simply has no evidence, which is why it wanted a summary judgment. Unfortunately, the rules for civil discovery in California make it impractical to move for discovery of the ACA's evidence until just before trial; at any earlier time, the plaintiff can simply say he doesn't have anything, and the defense's one shot at discovery is wasted. It's nevertheless hard not to surmise that the ACA simply has no evidence to support its case.

William Lancaster's record as an attorney is not good, with a well-publicized malpractice case against him that led to his leaving a prestige law firm. We'll have to see if handsome is continues to be as handsome does. The ACA, it seems to me, is doubling down on its future as well.