This is going to be the last in this series for a while. For my previous posts on the Good Shepherd Rosemont, please do a Google search. I am usually at a very high rank for “SEO” on the topics surrounding the parish.
Father Moyer posted his farewell remarks, here, because he is out of a job and a place to live. For those of you who were looking for a specific apology to John Lewis for the side litigation, it’s in there. Better late than never, I suppose.
If this case didn’t prove, once again, that justice in the Pennsylvania court system is a bit of crap shoot, let me link to an old YouTube clip of the Pennsylvania Lottery theme song. The state lottery is a numbers game that has been featured prominently on evening television in the Commonwealth for the last 30 years and then some. You can play the jingle while you read the rest of the post.
People who have followed the Good Shepherd matter for the past 10 years are exhausted, as litigation tends to do. As is so typical in Pennsylvania, no one came out the winner:
Not the Diocese – if they paid their official hacks (generally referred to as “chancellor” or “assistant chancellor”), it was money right out of the budget for the good works of the followers of Jesus. People have been giving money weekly in the collection plate, and they don’t expect it to end up going for billable hours of a law firm.
Not the Bishop – from his initial, non-canonical, overreach in 2002, it look Charles Bennison nine further years to get rid of Moyer. And, in the meantime, the Standing Committee of the Diocese had zapped his own ass off the throne around 2006, for other reasons; and he had to–what–sue in order to get his mitre back. What Bennison originally did was clearly illegal in that it was against canons. But then, look how long it took to do the deed.
Can Charles Bennison himself, or anyone else, actually think that reading about his legacy in, say 10 or 20 years time, would feel that he actually had been doing good by the people he was supposed to shepherd?
Not the Parish – people on the outer loop like myself get the details relatively later, but, as can be expected, all the disagreements floating out there really caused a rift in the parish.
Not the Rector – after initially being cheated out of a license, Moyer joined what amounts to a separate Anglican association, then later adopted a program to join the Roman Catholic Church. Plus this side litigation with his former attorney, John Lewis. If you are trying to gain back something that was unfairly taken from you, do you go all over the map like that? I am not confident that Moyer was thinking it all through.
Not the GS Vestry – after we saw what diocesan chancellor Mary Kohart initially was saying about the vestry members as a group (“trespassers”, etc.) and Judge Ott’s lack of clarity about who the vestry have state (i.e. Pennsylvania) duties to, can the rest of us really thank these people for making service to a religious society in Pennsylvania any less clear? In the typical protestant parish, who do the vestry serve (who do they owe the duty back to)? It sounds like, going forward, vestries in not only Episcopalianism, but all the other denominations that reject the claims of the Pope are going to heed whatever the pushiest denomination lawyer has to say. Now there is even less clarity than before the brouhaha began.
So the end result is not to outright avoid litigation—remember, as I’ve said before, the courtroom open to everyone is the 18th century improvement over the older remedies, which were usually pretty violent. It is, though, to avoid useless courts and questionable judges–ones that frankly seem to be pulling it out of thin air or avoiding the meaty issues because they are afraid to make the decision that really comes with the job. I’m afraid that in this state there are plenty like this. Wasn’t it clear, sometime in the last 20 years, that when it comes to Episcopalianism and the Pennsylvania court system, that the deck was already stacked against those who knock on the courthouse door for a remedy?
[Update 9/3/11: Al Haley blogs that the Episcopal News Service, the PR arm of the national body of the Episcopal Church, is already getting sloppy with the facts in Judge Ott’s decision . . . ]
[Update 9/3/11: Were there silver linings in this for me? Well, yes. Just more vindication that I was right in 1993. But when Philadelphia judges decide that they going to, metaphorically, shove a cookie down your throat and bust your knee unless you bend it, it doesn’t do much good to receive justice late.
1) Standing – clearly, parties outside those recognized by a local parish have standing.
2) The canons clearly govern.
3) A vestry member of a parish can be removed for doing things against canons.
4) A rector can be removed for doing things against canons.
5) A parish corporation cannot run a parish against the canons of the denomination.
The vague point is whether standing only resulted because the suers (the Standing Committee) were part of the “hierarchy”. But that creates a first amendment Establishment problem, doesn’t it?
Until next time . . . ]