09 September 2008

Duncan gives his side of the court action

From The Rt. Rev’d Robert Duncan, Bishop of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh
September 9, 2008

Bishop Robert Duncan has released a statement on the results of a hearing before Judge James that took place on September 8.

The statement follows:

On Sept. 8, there was a hearing before Judge James in the Calvary litigation. Calvary took the position that the Realignment vote will violate the 2005 Stipulation and that Calvary was entitled to the appointment of a "monitor" to take over the financial affairs of the Diocese. Calvary first initiated this request in a July 2008 filing. Since July, we have documented with the Court the Diocese's strong opposition to Calvary's position, and the fact that Diocese has consistently complied with the Stipulation since it was signed, and will continue to comply with the Stipulation after the Realignment vote. The Diocese always has been, and remains committed to administering Diocesan assets for the beneficial use of all parishes and institutions of the Diocese, regardless of any parish's position on Realignment.

The relief Calvary sought -- a court-appointed monitor who would effectively run the financial affairs of the Diocese -- was not what was done yesterday. To the contrary, we proposed the appointment of an independent third-party (called a "Special Master"), who will have no role regarding the operation of the Diocese. Rather, the Special Master will review all Diocesan financial records and make recommendations to the Court regarding which property is covered by which provisions in the 2005 Stipulation (i.e., what is Diocesan property and what is parish property). The appointment of a Special Master has no impact on whether TEC or its representatives can make any claim to any property. These issues will be addressed at a later date. We have clearly stated our position that the minority who oppose Realignment are not entitled to seize the assets of the Diocese. If necessary, we will vigorously pursue this position in litigation.

It is important at this juncture, however, to be mindful of the destructive effect of the all-or-nothing approach to property disputes that has characterized so much of the church property litigation across the country. Judge James has voiced his concern that all members of our Church -- regardless of where they stand on Realignment -- should be permitted to worship as they deem appropriate. Before the conclusion of yesterday's hearing, Judge James asked counsel for both parties to confirm that nothing about the appointment of a Special Master, or the establishment of an escrow account, would negatively impact any parish's ability to continue worshiping as that parish chooses to worship.

We think appointment of the Special Master is an excellent way to begin the process of pursuing a fair and equitable distribution of property. To repeat, this process does not determine how property will be divided, it simply identifies the property at issue so the Court has a clear picture of what property is in dispute. We will continue to seek the Court's assistance to work through these issues to maximize our opportunity to avoid a destructive (and expensive) all-or-nothing battle.

There are many things upon which to comment, but I will limit myself.

Notice that Duncan states the minority is not “entitled to seize the assets of the Diocese” and that they will sue the cassocks off anyone who tries. Yet, when TEC files suit against Duncan and his thieves, Duncan will scream bloody murder that TEC has no right to sue him and those who leave TEC and the diocese of Pittsburgh.

I am very concerned about Duncan’s report of the judge’s “concern.” It appears to me that the judge is wading into dangerous waters here because of the First Amendment and the so-called “separation clause.” For the U.S. Courts to step in to deal with an internal matter or worship is of great concern to me.

And finally, notice that the theft of TEC property by Duncan is a done deal and he is bragging about the coming theft. “To repeat, this does not determine how property will be divided.” Sorry to inform you, Bobby, but the property is TEC’s to divide, not yours.

If the HOB does not depose this self-righteous crook, then the HOB deserves to be voted out of existence at GC09.