Calling BS on DioVA, Cayce Ramey, and broken clergy disciplinary priorities

Narcissists and Title IV

Readers of this publication know we call them as we see them and we’re not afraid to chart our own path forward in turbulent seas.

And in the Cayce Ramey Title IV case, now underway in the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia (DioVA), we’re calling BS on the whole sorry lot that is involved, including:

  • the Diocese
  • former bishop Susan Goff
  • Respondent the Rev. Cayce Ramey
  • Title IV itself
  • Diocesan attorney Brad Davenport

Oh, and while we’re at it, toss Bishop Gayle Harris in the pot o’goo for her role in testifying against Ramey.

For the record, we’ve covered the Ramey situation before. We fully support efforts to end racism and white supremacism. We in no way criticize Ramey’s stance that the Episcopal Church is rife with structural racism. Not to mention gender bias, homophobia, bullying and organizational narcissism, in which people believe they are doing good, even as they perpetuate evil.

But in this regard, DioVA and the Episcopal Church are up to their usual antics. These antics include virtue-signaling, the ever-popular transactional solutions of book studies and other silliness, and throwing money at the issue. 

But even throwing money at the issue is a joke. The reality is that the Episcopal Church, as a descendant of the Church of England, was built on the backs of the enslaved.

Enslaved people built many of the buildings the Diocese uses today. And the immense suffering of enslaved people, which went on for generations, far exceeds the $10 million in reparations the Diocese has approved.

Think of it this way. In a day and age when a single incident of medical malpractice can result in millions in legal liability — especially when a court slaps a defendant with punitive damages for willful, prolonged misconduct — what price should we assign to the systemic torture and abuse of a whole class of human beings?

In other words, if the Episcopal Church liquidated every asset at its disposal, it wouldn’t be enough to actually achieve justice. Not even close.

Of course, that doesn’t mean the church shouldn’t try to fix this situation. But there’s far more than money involved–the change that is needed involves hearts, minds, and that perennial stumbling block within the denomination, access to the levers of power.

And let’s not kid ourselves — when we look around the average Episcopal parish on Sunday, it’s rare to see more than a handful of persons of color, even in the largest parishes.

Even worse, persons of color consistently complain about tokenism. Yes, they are on the inclusion checklist, but once they are on a vestry or other decision-making group, the expectation far too often is that they will sit silent and agree with the rest of the group. 

Or we get the flip side to tokenism, in which privileged persons of color glob onto the church and gas on about the woes they face, even though they are, individually speaking, anything but oppressed.

In other words, on the highest level, most denominational efforts to address racism are nothing but virtue signaling, and $10 million here or there won’t make a bit of difference.

Not to mention that any money the Diocese spends will land on safe, feel-good projects. Or on clueless, empty expressions of solidarity, like using an Southern Baptist Convention church for bishop Mark Stevenson’s consecration, simply because many members are persons of color. That, despite the ongoing investigation of criminal activity in the SBC and the denomination’s ongoing efforts to shut down marriage equality. That sort of clueless blundering about is worse than useless, and makes the denomination look like a bunch of out-of-touch white aristocrats casting about on ways to make good on the White Man’s Burden.

Doubt it? Consider the Sewanee bishops’ use of the racist trope, “With all deliberate speed,” in their critique of racism at the school. Can we get any more clueless? Have none of these folks ever actually bothered to learn about race relations in the US?

To paraphrase The Devil Wears Prada, did the Sewanee bishops fall and hit their little heads on the sidewalk?

The larger picture

Then, we come to the larger picture.

In this regard, the Title IV case against Ramey got its start when Ramey, then rector of Sharon Chapel in Alexandria, announced that he would stop celebrating Holy Communion until the Episcopal Church repented of its racism and white supremacism.

Good luck there.

In response, the ecclesiastical authority for DioVA, Bishop Susan Goff, asked Ramey to consider how his decision correlated with his oath, made at ordination, to obey the church and be subject to its discipline.

When that discussion predictably enough went nowhere, Goff, in the words of church attorney Brad Davenport, was obligated to begin Title IV proceedings.

The funny thing, though, is that Davenport saw no need to take a similar approach when it came to sexual harassment directed at Julia Ayala Harris, president of the House of Delegates. Indeed, he shut that Title IV case down based solely on his authority as church attorney — an outcome for which there is no legitimate explanation.

So, Davenport and his colleagues are running around like it’s 20 minutes to Armageddon over some fool who won’t say Mass, but he’s prepared to unilaterally sandbag sexual harassment.

That’s just splendid.

Nor did Susan Goff report the matter when Episcopal priest Bob Malm repeatedly engaged in perjury and other criminal conduct. 

Come to think of it, when confronted with allegations of criminal conduct by Malm, Shannon Johnston, the former bishop of Virginia, decided he “didn’t want to get involved.” But then, that comports with previous allegations that Johnston covered up egregious cases of sexual harassment involving clergy canonically resident in DioVA.

Of course, it’s good to know that church canons are optional.

Indeed, we have it from none other than Holly Hollerith, retired bishop of Southern VA, that there’s no need to get involved. 

That’s particularly the case when the allegations involve a grave issue, like the rape of a child. In that case, Hollerith himself has said, “Needless to say, I wouldn’t touch this complaint with a 1000 ft. pole.”

Moreover, Hollerith initially claimed he didn’t know anything about his email, then retreated from the scene with no apology. Nice.

In the meantime, we’ve asked Hollerith to be a Christian, take responsibility for his actions, and apologize. We’re not holding our collective breath—he’s far more likely to act like an Episcopalian, versus a Christian.

As to the Diocese, spare us.

Folks have their knickers in a knot because Ramey won’t say Mass. But they are slow-walking Malm’s criminal conduct, even as they make it clear they don’t take his perjury and other criminal behavior seriously.

Further, claims by the Diocese that it can’t get involved when litigation is involved, as is the case with Malm, are BS. Indeed, the Diocese had no issue with the double-whammy of Title IV and civil litigation when it jumped into the property recovery litigation.

Even better, while ACNA is hardly a bastion of integrity in addressing abuse, even ACNA was willing to address the allegations when a priest is abusive towards parishioners. That willingness to address abuse includes allegations that former Episcopal priest Tory Baucom behaved badly toward parishioners

Here’s what ACNA said when news about Baucom first made headlines:

In the ‘me-too’ environment we find ourselves in, we want to be clear that none of the grievances alleged are sexual in nature. The grievances presented include numerous and broad complaints from staff about workplace mistreatment, and questionable treatment of congregants,” an ACNA spokesman said of Baucom’s departure.

Shortly after, Baucom fled to Rome, which, along with TEC, too often serves as the last refuge for scoundrels.

Meanwhile, DioVA’s decision to pursue Ramey leaves us in a situation in which the Diocese is spending tens of thousands of dollars for a Title IV hearing panel, all over a priest who claims he won’t say Mass because the Episcopal Church is racist. 

For the record, the Episcopal Church is racist as hell, and even the whole thing about reparations is nothing more than a bunch of affluent, un-reconstructed hippies collectively donating their mandatory 401(K) distributions to provide a fig leaf over their refusal to enact meaningful change.

As for testimony in the Title IV hearing from Gayle Harris, this is another non-starter. 

Harris may be the descendant of enslaved people, but her outrage over her perceptions that Ramey is trading on race is pretty rich. 

After all, Harris not only lied about her experiences in Israel, but she utterly ignored allegations that Bob Malm engaged in criminal conduct in Massachusetts. So she’s willing to perpetrate a blood libel against the Jewish people in her zeal for social justice, but Malm — a criminal under her supervision — gets a pass.

Spiffy. Remind us to order Harris’ book on ethics when it comes out.

As to Ramey

Nor are we impressed by Ramey.

When we read Ramey’s pleadings in the Title IV case, we quickly pick up hints of narcissism. (Yes, imagine that.)

Among these are the predictable hoo-ha about his military career, his prowess in drawing up plans of action, and the other usual nonsense.

For the record, most of the former military we know are, at best, unimpressive when it comes to strategy, tactics, ethics, or business savvy. In other words, we’re left wondering why Ramey thought his military experience is germane to his decision not to fulfill the requirements of the job. Indeed, most military are big on the chain of command so, if anything, this information argues against integrity on Ramey’s part.

Meanwhile, several sources we interviewed shared their belief that Ramey is tired of being a priest.

Is that accurate? We don’t know, as Ramey did not respond to our requests for comment.

Is Ramey’s position on racism sincere? We believe so.

Is Ramey acting for the right reasons? We doubt it.

Instead, we believe that Ramey is using the whole Title IV thing as a quick route to the narcissistic supply feeding trough, even as he tries to position himself as the poster-dude for ending white supremacy. 

Former military? Check.

Anti-racist warrior? Check.

Credentialing for his consulting firm? Check.

In short, he may be sincere about his beliefs, but we are left asking what’s behind all of this. There are far too many hints lurking that this isn’t based on love for others, but rather a desire for adulation. And we note he didn’t arrive at the high altar of anti-racism until his TEC retirement apparently vested.

Imagine that.

Of course, Ramey is always welcome to contact us to share his side of the story, but from where we sit, we are anything but impressed.

Misplaced priorities and the Diocese

As for the Diocese and its officials, folks should worry less about whether this ding-a-ling is saying Mass, and more worried about:

  1. The criminal conduct of Bob Malm.
  2. The cover-up of sexual abuse by Shannon Johnston.
  3. The fact that, until recently, governance in the Diocese was so slipshod it literally didn’t know what was in its investment portfolio.
  4. The utter inability/unwillingness of the Diocese to address things like abuse within clergy families. And yes, we are thinking of specific situations.
  5. The corruption within the Standing Committee, including that involving Sven vanBaars, Tom Baker, and the disgraceful handling of the search for a bishop diocesan, including the related issue of gender equality and representative democracy within the church.

In other words, if the Diocese is going to go to this much time and trouble, it should put its resources towards a worthy battle with real consequences. Maybe start with treating women as equals, and stop with the fun, games, and power plays among the good ole Piskie Boys network.

Indeed, much of life is knowing which battles to fight, and which battles to address by rolling one’s eyes, sighing, and pondering whether the human race will be around in 500 years. (If it is, it will be without the Episcopal Church as we know it now.)

The issue of Ramey, and the resources the Diocese is spending to build his resume and send him sailing off into a second career, simply aren’t worth the time and trouble. If he can find a job that doesn’t involve saying Mass, spiffy. If not, too bad, so sad, catch you on the rebound.

Nor is Ramey 2.0 looking to be hugely successful—he hasn’t posted to X (formerly Twitter) in two years, and we don’t know of any racists who’ve changed their ways due to Ramey‘s antics. And frankly, we doubt any racists will change their tune over Ramey and his decision to not say Mass. Indeed, this sounds more like the makings of yet another dreary worst-selling book on race in America.

We also note that many times the best way to find a hater is to look among the purportedly inclusive. As the late Barbara Harris (no relation to the Gayle variant) famously said, “No one hates like Christians.”

We close with a reminder to the Diocese—if the high water mark of clergy discipline in DioVA is whether Ramey says Mass or not, you’re not only racist, but you’re clueless and unethical as well.

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