HOLLYWOOD, CA: St Mary of the Angels Parish Votes to Secede from ACA
Fr. Kelley seeks Ordinariate for his flock
ACA Presiding Bishop denies any knowledge of priest's flight
By David W. Virtue
August 15, 2012
The Anglo-Catholic parish of St. Mary of the Angels which is embroiled in a legal and ecclesiastical battle over its property and priest has, by a 2/3 majority, voted to leave the Anglican Church in America and join the Roman Catholic Church through the Ordinariate.
"We are officially independent as we continue on our journey to be received into the Ordinariate," said Dr. Allan H. B. Trimpi, Senior Warden of St. Mary of the Angels. "Our new Articles of Incorporation are now on file with the California Secretary of State."
"This is news to me. I have received nothing from the parish in this regard," said ACA Presiding Bishop Brian Marsh, in an e-mail to VOL. "My recent conversation with Monsignor Jeffrey Steenson of the Ordinariate with whom I have established a good working relationship, would seem to discount the truth of Fr. Kelley's statements."
In a "Dear Parish Family" letter, Trimpi said the solicitation is in "strict compliance with both Article XII of the then current St. Mary's bylaws, and the statutory requirements of the California Corporations Code. For a vote to approve an amendment to the Articles, a 2/3 majority or more of those voting was required. The results of the vote are that an overwhelming majority of you, above 75%, voted to amend St. Mary's Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws, thereby declaring our Parish's independence from the Anglican Church in America. Our new Articles of Incorporation are now on file with the Cali-fornia Secretary of State. We are officially independent as we continue on our journey to be received into the Ordinariate.
"Our parish has wisely made a free-standing non-profit California Corporation in Fr. Dodd's day, back in 1930, to protect the parish from hostile external actions. Twice before, California courts have upheld St Mary's right to choose its own destiny and association.
"From the beginning we have embraced the vision of a parish loving and serving Christ, and open to the whole community, in the Anglo-Catholic tradition. Our Lord has led us into deeper obedience to Him, to seek to fulfill His High Priestly Prayer for the visible unity of His whole Church. He had a way to achieve and secure this from the start. With profound gratitude for the leadership of Abp Louis Falk, we look for¬ward to the reunion of Anglicans with the Chair of St Peter, offered in the Apostolic Constitution of Pope Benedict XVI. There our Anglican Patrimony will be both protected and fostered.
"There may be a point on our pilgrimage when the parish will be ready to move into the Ordinariate ahead of our beloved Father Kelley. Msgr Steenson, the Ordinariate's Ordinary, has a reasonable proposal for that moment, which we have seen and accepted."
However, a former parishioner told VOL that the result of Fr. Kelley's vote was "fixed, fraudulent, and phony. Predictably the 'voters' have opted to amend the parish's by-laws and to disaffiliate from the ACA. This vote was in itself illegal under existing parish by-laws in that it was conducted entirely via absentee ballot. There is also reason to believe that not every eligible parishioner received a so-called ballot and had a chance to participate.
"The reference to Monsignor Steenson's 'reasonable proposal' is a red herring. What Steenson has made unambiguously clear privately, is that while St. Mary's is still welcome to enter the Ordinariate, Fr. Kelley will not under any circumstances be welcomed into the Ordinariate as a priest. Steenson sent a very cautiously, gently worded open letter to the parish, very pastoral in nature, but unfortunately so vague as to allow Kelley and Trimpi to totally misrepresent the Monsignor's true intentions."
A source told VOL that Steenson is subsequently preparing to send a follow up letter to the parish wherein he rebukes Kelley for deliberately misrepresenting him. "The fear amongst some is that the Ordinariate's lawyers will once again weigh in and water down the language. Kelley no longer has control of the building, so now the battle is being fought entirely in court and in email."
Canon Tony Morello, speaking on behalf of the ACA, said the siege is over. Fr. Kelley has been out of the basement now for about three weeks. He was removed by security and the LAPD, VOL was told. "We know of no services being held by Fr. Kelley and in fact we've not seen him for several weeks. He's trying to avoid a summons but it was served on he and his family this last week. "There is a trial this coming Wednesday that should tell all. The judge is to decide if the ACA has jurisdiction. If he rules we do, then it's all but over for Fr. Kelley."
Fr. Kelley did not respond to an e-mail request for information.
VOL will bring you an update on the situation on Wednesday.
Court Rules in Favor of ACA Diocese of the West in St. Mary of the Angels Lawsuit
By David W. Virtue
August 23, 2012
Yesterday, a California Superior Court judge in the county of Los Angeles ruled he could not adjudicate over whether Fr. Christopher Kelley the Vestry, Wardens, and Vestrymen had a claim to St. Mary of the Angels because of the First Amendment. He said he must defer to the Anglican Church in America's decision that Kelley has no rightful claim to the parish property and the rectory.
Judge Michael Paul Linfield said the case is not simply one of property rights which the court can resolve using "neutral principles of law", but that this is a "quintessentially religious controvers[y]" - something that the court is forbidden to do by the First Amendment. "The determination of who is the true Rector of St. Mary's Parish, and who can control St. Mary's Parish property, rests exclusively [with] the highest ecclesiastical tribunals of the Church." In this case, it is the Anglican Church in America, Diocese of the West.
The judge noted that the Roman Catholic Church has made no claim.
"We are very pleased with the court's ruling. It underscores the importance of ecclesiastical order. This will allow the parish of St Mary of the Angels to once again do the work the church has been called to do. Because of this ruling, Father Kelley will be required to leave St Mary's," said Presiding Bishop Brian Marsh of the Anglican Church in America.
Kelley brought a detainer against Canon Anthony Morello and other members of the ACA Diocese of the West. The court dismissed the action brought by the priest claiming that Morello was the rightful rector deferring to the Anglican Church of America ACA - Diocese of the West as the rightful ecclesiastical authority.
The judge had earlier told Kelley to make plans to get out and to try and reach a settlement with the ACA/DOW for a severance package. The judge's ruling is "tentative" as he is on vacation for a week, when he returns he will finalize all matters, Morello said.
According to canon lawyer Allan S. Haley, a "tentative" ruling in California is what a judge issues a day or so before the matter was scheduled to be argued. It gives the parties the benefit of what the judge thinks of the case after having read all the papers presented to him. The party whom the judge has tentatively ruled against has the option of asking the court to hold the scheduled hearing, or else of waiving the hearing and allowing the tentative ruling to become the final ruling.
If the party asks for the hearing, there is "one last chance" to try to persuade the judge to change his or her mind by the arguments made at the hearing.
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