Anglican Watch

Update on the Daniel McClain debacle at St. Paul’s, Dayton

Episcopal priest Daniel McClain

For more than a year now, Anglican Watch has covered the slow-motion train wreck of Episcopal priest Daniel McClain and the horrific mess at St. Paul’s, Dayton. This post provides an update on these issues.

As regulars know, Anglican Watch lambasted the clueless and unhelpful folks at The Living Church for their puff piece on St. Paul’s in February.

Specifically, while we recognize that, like this publication, The Living Church is not a neutral outlet, we also believe that the publication should provide accurate coverage. No one benefits from blasts of BS like the whole “Keeping the Main Thing the Main Thing” article from February about St. Paul’s and Daniel McClain.

In fact, while Jesus was a compassionate man, he had little patience for hypocrisy by religious leaders. On that score, last time we checked, the Ten Commandments still forbid adultery.

Yet per the Diocese of Southern Ohio’s Title IV complaint, McClain is having an adulterous relationship with a woman we refer to as Plant Lady. That’s an inside joke, but we use the alias for a more critical reason, which is that we choose not to identify McClain’s adulterous companion.

In other words, the main thing doesn’t include adultery, and Daniel McClain wouldn’t know Jesus if the latter ran him down in a pickup truck. (Jesus, if you’re reading this, please don’t let us stop you.)

And The Living Church is a bunch of buffoons if it publishes a puff piece about St. Paul’s, even as it ignores the crucial context of the Title IV case.

Indeed, doing so is akin to reporting on the positive aspects of the Pinochet regime, even as one ignores the murder of hundreds of government opponents. At some point, the entire narrative crosses the line from advocacy into questionable integrity and, from there, to outright deception.

Plus, we are not the only ones to ask The Living Church to provide an accurate portrayal of life at the parish, so we can safely say that our sister publication deliberately overlooked the underlying ethical issues. That’s a mistake, and one that hurts all involved.

Meanwhile, multiple sources tell us they have observed McClain going on dates with Plant Lady and bringing his kids.

Right there, we have a problem. A huge problem.

Adultery is terrible in its own right. But ethically, there is a big difference between a one-night fling and an ongoing pattern of unfaithfulness. Guess which category Daniel McClain occupies.

That said, bringing his kids into the mix is shocking and appalling and reflects a new low in Daniel McClain’s already outrageous conduct.

It’s also a reason to question why Daniel McClain has any access at all to his children. One person asked in a rhetorical question: “What message does this send to his children? Isn’t this likely traumatic to his children?”

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that even the most well-adjusted kids would have issues of divided loyalty, conflicts of interest, and plenty of trauma when a parent brings their adulterous companion into the mix.

As to McClain’s few remaining supporters at St. Paul’s, we cannot fathom how any rational actor can purport to be a Christian and disregard Daniel McClain’s spectacular indifference to the welfare of his children. And in multiple situations, we see signs that Daniel McClain is manipulating his children to try to gain an advantage in his divorce litigation.

Any adult who would use their children in this way is just pathetic.

Nor is this an isolated issue. Per court filings, Daniel earlier brought one or more of his kids to divorce court with him.

What kind of stupid, mean-spirited, POS does that?

Daniel McClain, that’s who.

Daniel McClain’s Title IV response due

In the midst of this ugly fact pattern, there’s another reality, which is that McClain’s reply pleadings were recently due in the Title IV clergy disciplinary proceedings.

While these documents are not yet public, it’s a fair bet that Daniel McClain draws from the usual bag of tricks:

  • I did nothing wrong.
  • It’s all my wife’s fault.
  • It’s all part of a vast right wing/left wing/anti-church/Masonic/fill-in-the-blank conspiracy.
  • My wife is mentally ill.
  • My wife is engaging in parental alienation.

We’ve seen these antics from McClain and others before. Such fabrications are tiresome, irritating, and should be beneath the dignity of a purported professional Christian like a priest, but they’re nonetheless ubiquitous among problem clergy.

So, when we obtain copies of Daniel McClain’s Title IV pleadings, we will publish them. Let’s see if our predictions are accurate.

Anyone want to place some bets?

The juxtaposition of Title IV and Daniel McClain’s children

Speaking of Title IV and Daniel McClain’s children, there’s an ugly juxtaposition between the two.

Specifically, sources within the parish tell us that Daniel McClain continues to send his children to church despite the fact that the Diocese has suspended him.

That’s problematic for multiple reasons.

The most obvious problem, of course, is that it puts Daniel McClain’s children in an awkward place. Not only does it create the temptation for parishioners to ask the kids about their father, but it risks inviting Daniel into topics that, by definition, are not within his purview while suspended.

Second, it weaponizes the Title IV case, using the relationship between the McClain kids and parishioners as a way to pressure the bishop, the Diocese, and others implicitly.

Third, for the reasons above, Daniel McClain’s decision evinces an ugly willingness to manipulate his children in pursuit of personal objectives.

To be clear: Children are not appropriate pawns in the personal power plays of a priest allegedly engaged in misconduct.

In parsing these issues, the Title IV Hearing Panel needs to recognize the distinction between the McClain civil divorce litigation, which is outside the scope of Title IV, and Daniel McClain’s shockingly inappropriate behavior in connection with the litigation.

Among the myriad allegations of actionable misconduct on Daniel McClain’s part:

  • Knowingly violating a court protective order directing Daniel McClain to avoid contact with his wife by appearing at the Boonshoft, a local museum, with full knowledge that his wife was on the premises.
  • Telling multiple lies under oath during litigation, thus committing perjury.
  • Repeatedly failing to pay his already paltry child and spousal support, even as he tells the courts he cannot afford his current payments. Yet he has money for a new tattoo, to wine and dine Plant Lady, and otherwise pay for his adulterous affair. What kind of a-hole tries to leave his wife and children in poverty — even as he remains married to his wife?
  • Telling multiple lies about the Title IV case to parishioners and others in a seeming effort to undermine the Diocese’s Title IV efforts.
  • Trying to “wire” testimony before the courts by telling parishioners that his wife, Kate, is mentally ill. Not only do we believe that Dan is engaging in projection on these issues, but we see no evidence that Kate has a mental illness. That, in turn, raises numerous questions:

a) How are these appropriate topics for parishioners?

b) What does it tell us about a priest who thinks this is a proper topic of conversation?

c) What message does it send to McClain’s children when they hear their mother being trashed by their father?

Again, what sort of sorry excuse for a human being thinks this conduct is okay?

The bottom line

The bottom line is that Daniel McClain is notoriously uncooperative when the Diocese tries to rein in the more outrageous aspects of his conduct. (Narc much, Dan?)

That said, the Diocese urgently needs to address several issues and lock horns with Daniel if necessary to make these changes effective.

Among these issues:

  • His children need to find a church outside TEC or be offered private spiritual care by a diocesan-appointed chaplain. Daniel McClain should not be permitted to send his children to St. Paul’s during the Title IV case. Doing so is unfair to the children and parishioners and accomplishes no legitimate goal. And let’s not forget: By definition, children are inherently vulnerable. If Daniel McClain won’t act with integrity towards his children, the Diocese needs to step in.
  • Daniel McClain needs to receive a pastoral directive ordering no further contact with Plant Lady during the pendency of the proceedings. Per the Diocese, Daniel McClain has admitted that the relationship is sexual. That raises the question: Why are we being treated to this sordid spectacle? And if nothing else, why isn’t Daniel McClain being protected against the worst aspects of his bad judgment? After all, McClain is so troubled he doesn’t think lying is wrong. Nor does he think adultery is problematic. Until this case is resolved, someone please spare us the three-ring s*** show.
  • Every instance in which Daniel McClain lies about situations involving the church, his spouse/children, or Title IV need to be documented and investigated. We are confident that a pattern of ongoing, antisocial behavior will quickly emerge, raising the possibility that Daniel McClain has one or more personality disorders.

As to parishioners, we encourage them to insist that Daniel McClain treat his children with respect, including not pulling his children, either directly or indirectly, into the Title IV case. Nor should his children come to church or be involved in church activities. While separating from friends may be painful, putting the kids in an untenable situation is worse.

We also believe parishioners should insist that their funding for the church, which includes Daniel McClain’s salary, not go toward the support of an adulterous relationship.

Specifically, as long as Daniel is in any way drawing compensation from the parish, he needs to give up the adulterous relationship. If he’s unwilling to do so, then church money needs to be withheld and instead used for Christian purposes. After all, it’s all about keeping the main thing the main thing.

Or, as McClain himself would put it, time to Make St. Paul’s Great Again–or at least adhere to basic Christian norms. 

Further, we encourage the parish, the Diocese, and parishioners to contact children’s services about Dan’s behavior when he has custody of the kids. While McClain’s oldest son, Henry, may be old enough, under some circumstances, to be alone for extended periods and possibly to watch the younger kids, the ongoing divorce totally changes the paradigm.

Specifically, divorce can be profoundly traumatic for children, particularly during the already awkward teen years. As a result, we believe the McClain children need a stable, loving parent with them. Instead, Daniel McClain too often appears to spend his time with Plant Lady, while ignoring the needs of his children. Not to mention the whole thing about having Plant Lady hanging with his kids; it’s hard to say which is worse.

Finally, we close with the observation that $900 a month, which is the support granted by the courts to Kate McClain and the kids, is remarkably little given the number of kids, their ages, and their needs, particularly in light of Daniel McClain’s six-figure income. While we cannot know how the court calculated his obligation, this may be the time for the Diocese to assist the family so that they can move up and out of a situation many describe as horrific. 

Providing assistance would, at a minimum, be a profound act of kindness that would greatly ease the trauma the McClain children are experiencing.

We also hope church members will ask tough questions about Daniel’s behavior towards his wife and children. After all, doesn’t St. Paul’s at least purport to be Christian? Specific questions:

  • What does Jesus say about children?
  • What does the Bible say about adultery?
  • How did Jesus view hypocritical church leaders?
  • How would church members feel if their children were placed in the situation Daniel McClain is placing his kids?
  • How can anyone claim to be a Christian, or say he loves his kids, then turn around and try to reduce his laughably thin financial support for his family—even though he has money for a new tattoo and to conduct an extramarital affair?
  • Is $900 a month enough money to raise a family in Dayton?
  • Are church members and the St. Paul’s vestry responsible for this dismal state of affairs? Or will they “pull a Piskie,” shrug off the matter, and say it’s not their problem? After all folks, these are good people. So good, they go to church on Sunday! So maybe they are home free.

Let’s hope the Diocese, the parish, and church members move quickly to tie up some of these loose ends. And frankly, the sooner Dirtbag Dan is defrocked, the better for all involved, including Daniel McClain.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *