The Living Church reports that morally bankrupt Todd Ousley, the bishop for pastoral development and part of the presiding bishop’s office, has issued a letter of support for the president of the standing committee in Haiti.
While the letter has several problems, the biggest problem is that it overlooks a critical point. Specifically, Jean Madoché Vil, the standing committee president, is a fugitive wanted by the Haitian National Police for arms trafficking.
The news marks the latest setback for the diocese, which has been in a state “catastrophic dysfunction” since several senior diocesan officials were arrested on charges of arms trafficking and money laundering. Despite this, the diocese maintains it is not involved in arms trafficking.
Ousley’s letter drew immediate condemnation from Haitian clergy, with the Living Church reporting:
“Bishop Todd Ousley of the Office of Pastoral Development is the Church Center’s liaison with the Diocese of Haiti. In an email addressed to Vil on May 7, Ousley supported plans for a diocesan synod, or convention, to elect new members of the Standing Committee.
Ousley’s expression of support was denounced as “immoral and unacceptable” by the director general of the well-respected St. Vincent’s Center, an Episcopal institution that has provided educational opportunities and job training to children with disabilities since 1945.
“In encouraging President Vil to organize the Synod, [Ousley] did not underline anything about the current context in which Father Mardoché Vil is up to now being sought and pursued by the National Police of Haiti,” wrote the Rev. Irnel Duveaux in a letter to the St. Vincent’s board, which was forwarded to TLC by a priest in the diocese. Duveaux did not respond to a request for comment.
Ousley declined to be interviewed for this article. Affairs Officer Amanda Skofstad released a copy of the May 7 email, which appears at the bottom of this article.
“The point of the letter was to address the need for a synod to elect or re-elect members of the standing committee,” Skofstad said. “Since the current occupant of the office of president of the standing committee is Vil, the letter could only be addressed to him. Any use of the letter to promote political agendas within the Diocese of Haiti would be a misuse of the letter.”
On that score, we’re calling BS on Skofstad. Specifically:
- The point is that fugitives wanted on allegations of gun trafficking should not be eligible to serve on standing committees.
- If an alleged fugitive is on a standing committee, they should be removed.
- The church should not be doing business with alleged arms traffickers.
- As to the bit about politics, spare us. The uproar isn’t about politics; it’s about integrity.
- We also need to ask what message this sends to the government of Haiti. Loosely translated, Ousley’s letter says, “Yeah, sorry he’s wanted for efforts to stage a coup via arms trafficking and importing counterfeit currency. But he’s our point person in Haiti, and we wash our hands of anything beyond that.”
- And as for the bit about the diocese deciding who’s on the standing committee, Ousley does no one any favors. The diocese is in such a state of chaos that it may not be able to make this decision.
- Then we get to the uncomfortable issue of what to do if Vil responds. It’s a safe bet that, at that point, the Haitian government will want to know his whereabouts. Is Ousley going to provide that information? Or ignore the request? As King James once said, “He who sups with the devil ought have a long spoon.”
- Relatedly, at what point do we act on allegations of criminal conduct? If so, what is that point? If arms trafficking isn’t a disqualifier, what is? Genocide? Multiple homicide?
Similarly, Ousley issued an appallingly unethical statement:
To the best of our knowledge, Père Jean Mardoché Vil is the duly elected standing committee president for the Episcopal Diocese of Haiti, and the validity of his service in that office is a matter to be determined by the diocese through its synod. As always, the clergy and people of the Diocese of Haiti are being held in prayer as they face various challenges within the church and Haitian society.
Simply put, that ended — or should have ended — when Vil became a fugitive. Not to mention there seems little doubt that senior diocesan officials were engaged in arms trafficking. And if he has nothing to hide, he should turn himself in, versus answering emails from the likes of Todd Ousley.
In the absence of a bishop, the diocesan standing committee has responsibility for the diocese per church canons.
And while Haiti has had minimal contact with the national church since the assassination of Haiti’s last president, it remains the largest diocese in the church. The church also operates numerous schools, hospitals, and other facilities, thus significantly supporting Haitian society.
Ousley’s letter is below.
Meanwhile, could we please have some integrity? Just a little? And if Curry needs authorization to cut Vil loose, there’s always recourse in the executive committee.