It cannot be coincidence that on the same day—the last Friday before General Convention meets—notice was served about the Quincy complaint, notice was served about the Fort Worth complaint and the Fort Worth General Convention deputation circulated a letter to other deputies asking that bishops-elect be interrogated as to their interpretation of TEC polity before consents are given. The conclusion is inescapable that abuse of the Title IV process is being coordinated with the anomaly of General Convention consents to promote a rigid uniformity of opinion on controversial issues of polity. Those who adhere to the views expressed in one Texas amicus brief are to be welcomed; those who share the views of the other amicus brief are to be blacklisted. We appear to have reached the point where Messrs. White, Dykman, Dawley and Stevick—if they were alive today—would be banished from the church were they to testify truthfully that they believed what they wrote—and the point where the abuse of canonical disciplinary processes is thought to be an acceptable tactic to obtain political and secular legal objectives. Our hope for TEC and those at this General Convention is that they will resist this creeping totalitarianism, dismiss these frivolous complaints, reconsider the ill-advised Title IV revisions and start to restore some health and dignity to our canonical processes.
In 2011, several bishops and the four of us at ACI were asked to submit affidavit testimony in the Quincy litigation. The three bishops and the ACI clergy submitted short affidavits testifying that they had signed the 2009 Bishops’ Statement and believed it to be true. It is important to note that this was not legal argumentation, but testimony given under oath. Witnesses are not asked to take a position on the issues in the lawsuit; they are simply expected to testify truthfully under penalty of perjury. It is the civic duty of citizens to testify truthfully when required; it is common knowledge that those with relevant information can be subpoenaed and required to testify. That did not happen in Quincy; we gave testimony voluntarily. But the larger point is that testifying truthfully is not optional—it is a requirement of our legal system.
In late 2011 the court, relying in part on the affidavit testimony, denied TEC’s motion for summary judgment. It is important to emphasize that the Title IV complaint alleging a canonical violation was not filed against the fifteen bishops who signed the Bishops’ Statement in 2009, but only against the three who testified truthfully in 2011 that they believed it to be true. And it was not filed against these bishops in 2011 when they testified, but only a year later and after the summary judgment motion was lost. The conclusion is inescapable: the gravamen of the alleged canonical violation is not holding or expressing an opinion about polity but testifying truthfully (and persuasively) under oath in court.
Again we note that no Title IV complaint was lodged against these bishops in 2009 when they published these opinions in the Bishops’ Statement. Nor can anyone contend that submitting an amicus brief is a canonical offense; other TEC bishops have submitted a different amicus brief to the Texas Supreme Court this year expressing different opinions. Have we come to the point that amicus briefs expressing approved opinions get a nihil obstat but others, no matter how ancient and venerable their pedigree, are met with canonical reprisal? If so, our point that TEC’s polity is being transformed through secular litigation is proved beyond doubt.
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Posted July 2, 2012 at 6:10 am
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