Earlier today, the House of Bishops discussed some of the details and timeline behind the decision to dismiss the Julia Ayala Harris Title IV case. The details are deeply concerning.
First, of course, is that Todd Ousley served on the reference panel. We won’t belabor the point, but Ousley is about as useful as a three-legged bull on wet ice. He routinely ignores the requirements of Title IV, including procedural and notice requirements, and does nothing to provide a pastoral response.
We also note that his claim of 45 or so complaints a year against bishops contrasts sharply with this statement of four or five actual cases every year. While the two are not irreconcilable, the whole purpose of Title IV is to resolve conflicts. So Ousley’s claim that there may be an issue, but it’s not within the ambit of Title IV, is hogwash.
We also note that Ousley rejected repeated pleas for help from the victim in the Losch child rape case. No matter what the language of Title IV, what bishop worth his pointy hat ignores someone raped as a child?
Second, the other bishop involved is Chilton Knudsen. While she’s often a go-to in these sorts of cases, she is ethically bankrupt. Not only has she repeatedly ignored her legal and moral obligation to report child abuse, but in the Chicago case, she lied about it. Of that we are certain.
Anglican Watch editor Eric Bonetti also has first-hand experience with Knudsen. In his case, he alleged that Episcopal priest Bob Malm engaged in criminal conduct by engaging in perjury. Knudsen and the hearing panel concluded that the matter was “not of weighty and material importance to the ministry of the church.” How is that possible?
The answer may well sit with the attorney connected with both cases, Brad Davenport. Sources have told Anglican Watch that Davenport’s position is that Title IV cannot touch matter under litigation. Odd, since we didn’t see that approach in the property recovery litigation.
Moreover, as church canons themselves point out, Title IV is a church process, not a legal one. And the canons attempt to fully exercise First Amendment freedom from government interference by saying that matters of church discipline may not be litigated in court.
Thus, assuming the reports we hear of Davenport are true, he’s essentially saying that he would prefer being sued, versus working for reconciliation. That is stupid, counterproductive, and un-Christian. And he’s essentially saying he’d prefer that the courts handle clergy discipline — which given the current state of the judiciary, is an astonishing proposition.
As for his decision in the Harris case, his decision to recommend a pastoral response indicates he’s nothing short of clueless. He is well-respected as an attorney, but on these issues, he’s a dinosaur. There is no excuse for physically assaulting any other human being, full stop.
As to the whole bit about Konieczny being a respected bishop, those are exactly the ones who typically try to pull a fast one. So spare us.
And, we’d also note that there is at least one Title IV complaint against Knudsen over her refusal to follow Title IV requirements.
So, we reiterate our previous comments:
- Ousley needs to go. Full stop.
- Bishops who do not follow Title IV must be held accountable.
- Bishops who dismiss Title IV cases on pretextual grounds–like Knudsen did in the Malm case–must be disciplined.
- The church needs to take misconduct seriously. Davenport was very much off base in his recommendation, and it needs to be clear to all involved that allegations of illegal conduct-whether it’s physical assault, perjury, whatever–will be addressed by the church.
As things stand, the Pointy Hats Club and its minions are deplorably out of touch with modern ethical standards.