Canon Lawyer Says Clergy Face New Risks under Title IV Revisions
By David W. Virtue
January 23, 2013
According to a canon lawyer who has worked both sides of the litigious fence, Episcopal clergy are at far greater risk than ever before of facing ecclesiastical discipline under revisions made to Title IV Canons of The Episcopal Church.
Michael Rehill, former chancellor of The Diocese of Newark, NJ, says that as a result of recent revisions to Title IV, many more Members of the Clergy are now facing ecclesiastical discipline. "Not a week passes without our receiving at least one call from a Priest who is suddenly facing Title IV issues or a Title IV proceeding. We frequently hear Priests saying, 'I never thought it could happen to me.' But it can happen to any Member of the Clergy, regardless of age, gender, experience or Diocese. You need to be prepared before it happens to you."
A total revision of Title IV ("Ecclesiastical Discipline") took effect on July 1, 2011. The revision established new disciplinary structures; added numerous new canonical offenses; and stripped Members of the Clergy of fundamental due process rights that, under the predecessors to Title IV, were intended to provide Clergy facing ecclesiastical discipline with a fair process and a fair trial.
The new canon had unintended consequences for ultra-liberal bishop Charles E. Bennison, former Bishop of Pennsylvania, when he was forced into retirement before mandatory retirement age, following charges and conviction for conduct unbecoming a bishop when he covered up his brother's sexual abuse of a minor.
THE NEW TITLE IV
Rehill says Title IV now includes several new offenses, which had never previously been included in the Canons of the Episcopal Church, for which a Member of the Clergy may be subject to discipline.. In addition to the Offenses under the old Title IV, a Member of the Clergy may now face disciplinary proceedings for (a) "attempting to violate, directly or through the acts of another person, the Constitution or Canons of the Church or of any Diocese;" (b) failing to "cooperate" with any Title IV investigation or proceeding; (c) bringing a false accusation or providing false testimony or false evidence in any Title IV investigation or proceeding: and (d) failing to report all matters "which may constitute an Offense" under Canons IV.3 or IV.4.
"In addition, Title IV now has entirely new disciplinary structures and multiple phases, and it contains provisions which give broad new powers to Bishops, disgruntled parishioners and former parishioners, and others who can now anonymously file unsubstantiated charges; and the rights of Episcopal Clergy have been substantially reduced. For example a Bishop may, without prior notice or hearing, (a) place restrictions upon the exercise of the ministry of such Member of the Clergy or (b) place such Member of the Clergy on 'Administrative Leave', the equivalent of 'Inhibition' under the former Title IV. Canon IV.7.3. All Episcopal Clergy have the right to be represented at every stage of Title IV proceedings. No Member of the Clergy should ever face a proceeding under Title IV without adequate, experienced and knowledgeable representation."
Rehill has worked both sides of the ecclesiastical tracks.
When Newark Bishop John S. Spong asked him to serve as his Chancellor, people who knew them both were surprised that Spong would choose Rehill, an Anglo-Catholic. Spong countered: an ideological chancellor will serve the bishop only if they agree, while a Catholic respects the office regardless of who occupies it.
Writing for The Living Church, reporter Doug LeBlanc noted that Rehill has represented some of the more vivid personalities in the House of Bishops, including Joseph Morris Doss, the late Walter Righter, and Richard Shimpfky. Today, he is a frequently cited critic of the revised Title IV. Rehill rejects arguments that the current Title IV is more pastoral than its predecessors.
Rehill represented The Rev. Janet Broderick Kraft, formerly of Grace Church in New York City and now rector of St. Peter's, Morristown, NJ. She was embroiled in a scandal at Grace Church when then NY Bishop Richard Grein dumped his wife Joan and ran off with Ann Richards. He finagled a position for Richards in Grace Church, after levering Broderick Kraft, sister to the actor Matthew Broderick, from that parish. She sued and won significant monetary damages against the bishop. Some 39 charges were brought against Grein, but then Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold made them disappear in a puff of ecclesiastical smoke. Richards was cited as "the other woman" in Grein's divorce proceedings. He later married her. It was her third marriage and his second. Grein managed to walk away from all the charges through the efforts of an attorney brought in by Griswold. Grein also walked away from a presentment against him.
Other canon lawyers who represent orthodox Anglicans include Phil Ashey of the American Anglican Council, John H. Lewis Jr., and attorney Allan Haley whose blog Anglican Curmudgeon comments on the current trials and tribulations of being in the Episcopal Church (USA) and the Anglican Communion. His blog can be found here: http://accurmudgeon.blogspot.com/
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