Jesus answered, “A certain man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who both stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead. By chance a certain priest was going down that way. When he saw him, he passed by on the other side. In the same way a Levite also, when he came to the place, and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he travelled, came where he was. When he saw him, he was moved with compassion, came to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. He set him on his own animal, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the host, and said to him, ‘Take care of him. Whatever you spend beyond that, I will repay you when I return.’ Now which of these three do you think seemed to be a neighbor to him who fell among the robbers?”
He said, “He who showed mercy on him.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.” Luke 10:30–37, World English Bible
Join us for a moment and imagine that you’re an Episcopal bishop (scary thought, right?)
You’re hanging in your purple duds, and an email comes in saying that a priest in your Diocese raped a child.
How do you respond? Options include:
- Picking up the phone, immediately calling law enforcement, reaching out to the victim to see what you can do to help, and searching church records for relevant information.
- Panicking and running in circles until someone throws a bucket of ice water on you, then proceeding to option 1.
- Doing nothing because you’re late for a standing committee meeting.
- Doing nothing because you don’t actually read your email, so you never see the email in the first place.
- Doing nothing because you can’t be bothered.
Hopefully, the answer is option 1.
Now, let’s take this situation a step further. You are Bishop Alan Gates, head of one of the largest dioceses in the church and one of the original colonial dioceses.
How do you handle the situation?
In this case, we don’t have to imagine. Instead, we can narrow Gates’ response down to some combination of options 3, 4, and 5.
How do we know that? Because that’s precisely how Gates acted in the case of “Jack,” who was allegedly raped by Episcopal priest Richard Losch as a boy in the mid-1970s while serving a parish in Marblehead, Massachusetts. (Jack is a pseudonym adopted by the victim to protect his privacy.)
When the email came through, we see zero evidence that Gates did anything to address the allegations.
As parishes in the area reel from Losch’s indictment, some may speculate that Gates missed the email. To that, we say, “Nice try, apparatchik comrades.”
In total, “Jack” sent 26 emails to Gates, the incompetent DioMass intake officers, Diocese of Alabama Bishop Glenda Curry, her now-retired minion Rob Morpeth, and others.
To be clear, an ELCA bishop begged the church to get involved but also got the cold shoulder.
The only people to take the matter seriously were retired CT bishop Ian Douglas and the Rev. Canon Robin Hammeal-Urban. And the Diocese of New Hamspshire, tiny though it is, appears to have acted with integrity.
The rest all passed by on the other side of the road. That includes the two incompetent knuckleheads serving as intake officers at DioMass: Starr Anderson and The Rev. Thea Keith-Lucas.
Even worse, those involved in this colossal fuster cluck violated the fundamental promises of Title IV: Being listened to with care and respect, and an immediate pastoral response. The latter never happened and still isn’t happening.
Pastoral Response is a vital component of Title IV. It is one of the first priorities to accompany all phases of the process for all participants. The canonical requirement for Pastoral Response is one of the important differences between past disciplinary processes and Title IV.
That outcome is shocking and appalling and makes a mockery of even the most basic tenets of Christianity.
So why did this happen?
Right about now, you may be asking, “How can so many people ignore the suffering of another human being?”
We can only speculate as to the answer.
If the situation is like many we see, a high percentage of church members said, “Oh, I don’t want to get involved. That’s something for law enforcement.”
That, of course, is a cop-out. Losch obtained access to children through the church and, via his ordination, held disparate power over a little boy who was unable to defend himself. The church made this situation possible, but it did nothing to address the resulting mess.
Another possibility is that Gates hit up Gossip Central before deciding not to respond. We’ve seen that from Gates before, where he calls up another diocese, only to learn that the complainant is a malcontent, that there’s nothing to the claim, that the person in question is a nutjob, you name it. It doesn’t matter whether it’s accurate or not; it came from another diocese, and that’s good enough for Gates.
Gates then claims he “investigated” the issue and either tells the complainant to pound sand or hits the magic ignore button.
Another possibility is that, like many people in the pews, Gates was impressed with Losch’s multiple books and verbal acuity. But fine words are not the same as faith. Nor is friendliness an accurate measure of faith or personal integrity.
Indeed, some of the most abusive people Anglican Watch has met are glib and full of hugs, smiles, and sunshine. In fact, listen to their sermons, and they gas on incessantly about love, compassion, and Jesus.
Yet scratch the surface, and underneath, you find a vile, vicious, vindictive serial bully.
Similarly, many narcissists deploy prowess in sports, academic accomplishments, or other irrelevant issues to obtain narcissistic supply and suggest that they are competent clergy.
Perhaps that is what happened here.
Another possibility is that Gates was too busy doing church. That’s a big issue in the denomination, where people get so caught up in the endless swirl of altar guild, vestry, worship, and social events that they don’t have time actually to be Christians — even as they make themselves feel good with their purported faith.
We can speculate endlessly about why the church was such a spectacular failure in this case. But on a more significant level, Gates’ failure doesn’t just involve his indifference to the suffering of others. The Losch debacle implicates the entire Episcopal clergy disciplinary system.
An important point: Far too often, participants in the Title IV process misuse the word “investigation.” A true investigation involves a neutral third party, a written report, and dissemination of the report. Rob Morpeth sending a few emails is NOT an investigation.
Relatedly, neither the Episcopal Church nor any other denomination is competent to investigate clergy misconduct. In such a small denomination, conflicts of interest are inevitable, and we have yet to see a situation in which diocesan staff have more than a casual understanding of dynamics within individual parishes.
In any event, this egregious failure by the various dioceses and bishops erodes not only trust in Title IV but also undercuts the credibility of the denomination at a time when it is already imploding. That lack of credibility extends all the way to Todd Ousley and presiding bishop Michael Curry, both of whom ignored repeated pleas for assistance.
Far too many followers of Christ look at situations like the Losch debacle and conclude that Jesus cannot be found in the Episcopal Church, except as a name to be conveniently taken in vain.
In other words, they find the Way of Love is a turn in the wrong direction because that’s not where the road actually leads.
The Episcopal Church is in dire trouble if it cannot effectively address clergy misconduct as serious as what is alleged here. Or if it is acceptable for any member of the clergy to ignore clergy disciplinary complaints in this manner,