I haven’t blogged very recently about the Good Shepherd Rosemont situation.
I am a–pardon the pun–religious reader of the Good Shepherd Rosemont monthly bulletin, “Rod and Staff”. Here is a link to the PDF copy for September.
I don’t have any word on whether Montgomery County, Pennsylvania Orphan’s Court judge Stanley Ott has made a decision in the case, where the beleaguered (for other reasons) Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania is trying to yank the property out from under the control of the Good Shepherd Rosemont vestry.
My own read of this, as a non-practicing Pennsylvania attorney, is that even if the Diocese were somehow to disqualify the current vestry as Rosemont trustees, and therefore as owners of the property, there is nothing to say that the Orphans’ Court couldn’t invite or appoint other Rosemont parishioners to be the vestry. I don’t see where the property has to immediately cede to the Diocese. Again, (oh, again!), it’s NOT the Roman Catholic Church!
The Rod and Staff Newsletter said that the current vestry expected the Standing Committee of the Diocese (which is like the board of the Diocese) to seek “summary judgment” from Judge Ott sometime in September. David Virtue—who would have been the first to know afterwards!–hasn’t posted anything at Virtue Online, so I wonder if this has actually been filed.
I get some Rosemont e-mail from time-to-time, and the people there have split in factions, similar to St. Clement’s in the early 1990’s. They want me to look at it one way or the other, or say one thing but not something else.
But here’s what I have to say:
1) I don’t think the Diocese has a right to the property. The property is owned by the trustees of the Good Shepherd Rosemont corporation. If, for some reason, individual trustees are disqualified, the court can appoint new trustees from the other parishioners.
2) Father Moyer has a right to do his litigation, even though some people feel it’s not good for the parish. I am a lawyer and very sensitive to this point about demonizing someone who uses valid administrative or legal procedures. This very due process and rule of law were revolutionary concepts of the 18th century. Remember how disputes got settled before then? (Quite often, with bloody violence.) As readers on the canon law issue know, I think one of the Pennsylvania bench’s major failings has been not interpreting 15 Pa.C.S. 5107, which incorporates canon law into state nonprofit corporation law, using “neutral principles”. It was wrong for Bishop Bennison to interfere with Father Moyer’s right as a priest at Good Shepherd, and Father Moyer had the right to a legitimate church trial (not summary dismissal) per the validly enacted canons.
If this [is] the valid rule, and here it is written down even, you follow it.
The idea that the other side gets to make noises, badmouth the person, and do other histrionics because they don’t like the fact that the person is using process is just plain wrong. This is why our country is slowly becoming one NOT ruled by rule of law, but by the rule of whatever the powerful people, or the ones who scream the loudest, or the ones who invent the best slander, want.
3) The real problem in the Episcopal Church, and it’s been going on for some time, is that some people just want to always have their way. You see this with the antics of now-restored Bishop Bennison. Many, many people are asking him to resign. But he’s got his hands over his ears. And you know what? Bennison has a right in his job (even though he claimed Moyer didn’t have one in his). And I am sure, no, I am damn sure that he would use the 15 Pa.C.S. section 5107 argument if the Standing Committee tried anything to yank it from him.
4) Summary judgment is bad news, unless it’s one for your side. I don’t know why the Rod and Staff report suggested that a motion for summary judgment would be to the parish’s benefit. It most surely would mean that Rosemont loses the property.