Sharp-eyed visitors who read yesterday’s updated “Top ten toxic terrors of TEC” quickly asked about a possible omission. And who is that illustrious candidate? None other than Prince Singh.
For the record, his omission was deliberate. The reasons are complex and varied, but let’s plunge in and take a quick look at Planet Prince.
One factor was that the Prince case remains a ball in motion. We suspect there’s lots more to the matter at hand. And frankly, we do not believe what will come out is positive for Singh. So, we’re keeping our powder dry, asking questions, looking around.
Second, Rome wasn’t built in a day, nor was Planet Prince. The allegations against him go way back, and it will take a while to unpack this mess.
Third — and this may be the key to unraveling this mess — Planet Prince was built by a consortium. Think presiding bishops, standing committees, vestries, and staffers. Lots of people helped make this mess possible, and even now we see PB Michael Curry wringing his hands and essentially saying, “I don’t know what to do.”
Fourth, while anyone who abuses their wife and kids in the manner alleged really is objectionable, our outrage extends in multiple directions. That includes the Episcopal Church as a whole, which is utterly clueless regarding non-sexual abuse, and often acts as an enabler. Then we get PB Michael Curry wringing his hands and saying he doesn’t know what to do, when anyone with half the common sense God gave a goat would have suspended Singh on the spot. Any allegation of child abuse or domestic violence should result in immediate suspension. And judicatories should take a no-holds-barred approach to returning someone to a position of power in these situations. Nor can we ignore the Michigan standing committees, which by now should have had more than their fill of bad bishop behavior and need to put their collective foot down hard on this one. As in no affairs, no domestic violence, no child abuse, no giving away our money as a golden parachute to bad bishops.
Fifth, and this ties to our other concerns, the biggest issue in Planet Prince is not his appalling behavior at home. It’s the larger failure to understand family systems and maintain appropriate boundaries. Specifically, if we look at this as a family systems issue, Singh is the revered patriarch of an extended family. But the entire system has a massive problem if the behavior we see looks like something straight out of The Godfather. And the only folks saying no mas are Singh’s sons and his former wife. What’s wrong with that picture?
Sixth, Planet Prince is a sufficient mess that it gets its own write-up. We’re unsure whether that will be a series of articles or a single tell-all. But in either case, we already see multiple warning signs that were brushed aside, single points of failure, and all the usual issues that prevent the Episcopal Church from acting with integrity in these situations.
Additionally, we see a possible issue that we’ve bumped into many times in the denomination. Specifically, we get so focused on inclusion and diversity that it becomes our only goal versus one of several objectives. And we say that as avowed liberals who support affirmative action. But we strongly suspect that decision-makers were so enthralled at the prospect of having someone of Singh’s ethnicity as bishop that they gave short shrift to issues touching on suitability.
We typically try to offer solutions, so we suggest this: before Curry puts his foot and crozier in his mouth again, it’s time to contact experts within the denomination on impairment. We also recommend contacting independent experts and touching base with peers in other denominations.
For example, a Catholic cardinal would be required to remove Singh from any contact with children immediately, and there would be tough issues asked about his treatment of his wife, who is not in a position of power. From our discussions with Catholic clergy, it would be unlikely that Singh could remain in office.
We also note with hope that we see some positive signs. The social media around this issue have not been the usual attacks against whistleblowers. That said, much of the supportive dialogue appears to be coming from outside the church.
On the downside, getting media coverage of religion is tough these days. Thus, while there’s been some pick-up at Religion News Service and other outlets, we suspect there will be little appetite for an investigative reporting approach to problems on Planet Prince. That leads to shallow reporting that is unlikely to do much beyond scratching the surface.
So, rest assured: we’re peering at Planet Prince through the telescope of a very jaundiced eye. And we’re prepared to bet that Singh will land on our Top Ten Toxic Terrors of TEC list within the year. In fact, he may warrant special recognition all his own.
But for now, it’s too soon to know just how this sordid mess will play out, except to say we are confident that Singh’s former wife and sons are telling the truth about these issues. In fact, check out their great website here.
We’d also like copies of his much-vaunted physical and psychological evaluations. Singh himself brought up these issues, so they should be fair game. And no, we don’t want some crackpot report saying he’s the healthiest man to ever roll through the practice or a summary of findings. We’d like to see the actual medical records.
Lastly, we’re calling down the Ten Plagues of Egypt (and anything being held in reserve) on Singh for portraying this situation as the fallout from a divorce. The allegations we have seen are heart-rending and far outside the normal bruised feelings of divorce. So we’re prepared to say Singh is being a manipulative sack of scum. And if he isn’t, he’ll put the matter firmly to rest by providing documentation that he does not abuse alcohol or engage in domestic violence. (To those handling the plagues: let’s swap out the first-born thing for something else. We like Nivedhan.)
We’re all ears, Planet Prince. Game on!