May 20, 2009

More Words from Lala Land

Attorneys for Bishop Robert Duncan and the other defendants in the Calvary lawsuit have filed “Answer and New Matter to Complaint in Intervention” with the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas. It is difficult to know if the latest material from the Duncan camp is just so much legal flak intended to delay justice as long as possible or whether the deposed bishop is simply living in Lala Land. I am inclined to believe the latter. Apparently, being an “orthodox” bishop means never having to acknowledge ordinary facts. (Thanks to David Virtue for posting a PDF for the May 19, 2009, filing before it has appeared on the site of the county prothonotary. You can read an enhanced PDF here.)

I won’t attempt a serious analysis of the latest document from the defendants, but it is easy to communicate a sense of what is being argued by listing some of what the defendants admit and dispute. Most of the new document is concerned with refuting the assertions made in the most recent filing by The Episcopal Church, which can be read here. In particular, the defendants deny:
  1. that Bishop John C. Buchanan is “authorized to state the official position of TEC.”
  2. that TEC has headquarters in New York City.
  3. that TEC is hierarchical or that dioceses are subordinate entities [to anything, apparently].
  4. that the General Convention is “the highest branch of TEC.”
  5. that the General Convention had anything to do with the church’s “founding dioceses.”
  6. that TEC has 111 dioceses. (Dioceses such as Pittsburgh and San Joaquin have left, and “no new dioceses have been properly formed to replace them in accordance with the procedures set forth in the TEC Constitution and Canons.”)
  7. that Robert Duncan “was formerly Bishop of the Diocese.” (He is the “current Bishop.”)
  8. that the deposition of Duncan was legal or valid.
  9. that neither the constitution nor canons of TEC prohibit the withdrawal of a diocese from TEC.
  10. that the Dennis Canon applies to diocesan property.
  11. that the Anglican Province of the Southern Cone encompasses Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay, Peru, and Uruguay. (It is admitted that the Southern Cone is a member province of the Anglican Communion.)
  12. that “[i]t is a historic tradition of the Anglican Communion that each Province exercises jurisdiction within its own distinct geographic territory and not in any other Province.”
  13. that the church’s constitution and canons specify how dioceses are formed.
  14. that new dioceses are required to accede to the constitution and canons of TEC.
  15. “Any interpretation” of the BCP, constitution, or canons of either TEC or the Diocese of Pittsburgh. (The documents “speak for themselves. Any interpretation of said documents is specifically denied.” This assertion is made multiple times. A linguist would laugh at such an assertion, of course. Words are not carriers of pure meaning.)
  16. that “[t]he Constitution and canons of The Episcopal Church do not provide for the autonomy, release, withdrawal, or transfer of any diocese that is not a Missionary Diocese.” (A simple reading of the constitution and canons will establish that this assertion is false.)
  17. that Article I of the diocesan constitution has always acceded to the Episcopal Church constitution and/or canons. (Presumably this assertion is about recent history, that is, about the improper changes made to the diocesan constitution under Duncan.)
  18. that the Diocese of Pittsburgh “has ever participated as a subordinate unit in TEC.”
  19. that leaders of Duncan’s “diocese” are not bound by the constitution and canons, as they are no longer in TEC. (Of course, they were and were therefore bound at the time that they acted contrary to the canons.)
  20. that the “realignment” vote was urged upon the diocese by Duncan, even though it is admitted that he supported the vote.
  21. that the constitutional changes begun in 2007 were “intended to amend the Diocese’s Constitution to remove references to The Episcopal Church and to permit the Diocese to specify by canon the Province of the Anglican Communion of which it would be a member.” (That’s certainly what we thought we were voting on.)
  22. that the vote in the House of Bishops to depose Duncan was not carried by the required majority. (Duncan was therefore not deposed. He “voluntarily allowed the Standing Committee to become the Ecclesiastical Authority,” something he surely did not make clear to the world at large at the time.)
  23. that the “realignment” vote violated any provision of the constitution or canons of TEC. (Also: “The resolution is a written document, the contents of which speak for itself; any interpretation of said document is specifically denied.” Whatever does that mean?)
  24. that the diocese had a special convention in December 2008 or that any valid action was taken at the “purported” meeting.
  25. that “the Standing Committee of the Diocese appointed an Assisting Bishop to provide interim episcopal oversight for the Diocese.” (Obviously, truth or falsity here turns on which diocese is the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. This is really what the May 27, 2009, court hearing will be about.)
  26. that The Episcopal Church has not recognized the diocese run by those who stayed in the church. (The Presiding Bishop merely offered her opinion.)
  27. that there can be any interpretation of the “Request to Special Master,” which “is a written document, the contents of which speaks for itself.” (The same goofy assertion is made, in fact, about all filings by the defendants.)
The defendants deny other assertions by The Episcopal Church, but some of these are complex, and it is not clear whether, if pressed, some minor facts might be assented to. An incomplete list of what the defendants agree to is the following:
  1. Calvary Episcopal Church “is a non-profit corporation located in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.”
  2. The Rev. Dr. Harold Lewis is Calvary’s rector.
  3. Philip Richard Roberts was senior warden at Calvary when Calvary first filed suit.
  4. The diocese is not a missionary diocese.
  5. The General Convention approved the creation of the Diocese of Pittsburgh in 1865.
Various other incontrovertible facts are also admitted; I’ll spare you the details.

The filing concludes with “new matter,” asserting, basically, the following:
  1. Neither Bishop Buchanan, nor the Presiding Bishop, nor Executive Council has authority to state a position of the church relative to the current litigation.
  2. TEC cannot enter the case because the plaintiffs have earlier argued against entry of the church. (In fact, the defendants earlier argued that TEC was necessarily a party to the dispute that had to be admitted to the case. Plaintiffs argued that it was not. Plaintiffs have now welcomed the intervention of TEC. The defendants have not.)
  3. “Before the Diocese withdrew from TEC, the Diocese’s Constitution and Canons did not require its members or officers to remain members of TEC.”
  4. Canon law of neither the church nor the diocese (1) required TEC approval of diocesan constitutional amendments, (2) probibited the withdrawal of the diocese, or (3) required the diocese “to always accede to the Constitution and Canons of TEC.” (See my own essay, “Unqualified Accession.”)
  5. The changes to diocesan canon law allowing withdrawal were proper.
  6. The stipulation to which all parties agreed in 2005 did not prohibit withdrawal and was not violated by withdrawal.
  7. TEC is not a party to the stipulation, and the stipulation imposes no obligations to TEC on the part of the defendants.
That pretty much covers what I assume will be the last filing prior to the hearing a week from now. Judge for yourself where the defendants are coming from.

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