March 23, 2017

August 8, 2007


COLORADO: Former Rector Don Armstrong Found Guilty of Financial Misconduct

[Episcopal News Service] The Rev. Don Armstrong, former rector of Grace and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Colorado Springs, has been found guilty on all counts of financial misconduct presented to an Ecclesiastical Court of the Diocese of Colorado that has been reviewing the evidence since July 31.
The preliminary judgment was made public August 8 by the five members of the Ecclesiastical Court who unanimously found Armstrong guilty of diverting $392,409 from the parish’s operating fund and committing tax fraud by not reporting $548,000 in non-salary income and benefits to state and federal tax authorities.

On other counts of misconduct, Armstrong has been found guilty of receiving illegal loans totaling $122,479.16 in violation of Diocesan Canons; unauthorized encumbrance and alienation of Grace Church’s real property; violation of the temporary inhibition placed on Armstrong; the improper use of clergy discretionary funds; and failure to maintain proper books of account.

A three-hour evidentiary hearing, held at St. John’s Cathedral in Denver July 31, featured testimony from Sheri Betzer, a tax fraud examiner and former IRS agent who investigated parish financial records ranging over a 10-year period, and Karl Ross, an attorney and co-executor of the Clarice C. Bowton Trust, established to fund seminarian scholarships, which Armstrong is accused of misusing for personal purposes.

“Last week’s evidentiary hearing before the Ecclesiastical Court is the culmination of a well-defined disciplinary process established by the Canons of the Episcopal Church whereby serious allegations of wrongdoing against any member of the clergy can be thoroughly and impartially investigated, and throughout which the accused has numerous rights and protections,” said an August 8 diocesan news release announcing the Ecclesiastical Court’s verdict.

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115 comments

So if “Bishop Rob” truly has evidence against Fr. Armstrong, why haven’t civil charges been filed? I trust this kangaroo court of his about as far as I could throw it; Fr. Armstrong was right not to appear at this sham.

[1] Posted by via orthodoxy on 8-8-2007 at 10:51 PM · [top]

So, when can we expect a judgment from a real court?

[2] Posted by Dr. Mabuse on 8-8-2007 at 11:15 PM · [top]

Even though it’s a sham kangaroo court, it still must be a terribly difficult and painful time for Rev. Don Armstrong and his family.  I will be praying for him to have strength, endurance, and grace amidst persecution.

[3] Posted by Truth Unites... and Divides on 8-8-2007 at 11:33 PM · [top]

News Flash!!!  In a shocking and surprising verdict, Court of Wolves finds shepherd guilty on all counts of protecting sheep!!!

[4] Posted by Milton on 8-8-2007 at 11:46 PM · [top]

This case cries out for justice from a civil authority.

[5] Posted by John316 on 8-9-2007 at 12:08 AM · [top]

This case cries out for justice from a civil authority.

It’s just a crying shame that a statement like that actually has merit to it.

[6] Posted by Truth Unites... and Divides on 8-9-2007 at 12:19 AM · [top]

I am very sad to read this.  I believe in Don Armstrong’s innocence and pray that his faith in Christ will sustain him and his family in this difficult time.

[7] Posted by Paula Loughlin on 8-9-2007 at 01:47 AM · [top]

I look forward to these charges appearing in a court which can discern justice—a secular court—since the ecclesiastical court of a diocese is unfortunately often not that place.

We don’t know, one way or the other, whether guilt or innocence exists in this matter—and we won’t know until these charges appear in a secular court. If Father Armstrong is guilty—then a terrible thing has been done.  If Father Armstrong is innocent—then a terrible thing has been done.

For everyone’s sake, these purported crimes need to appear in a just court.

[8] Posted by Sarah on 8-9-2007 at 06:22 AM · [top]

We don’t know, one way or the other, whether guilt or innocence exists in this matter—and we won’t know until these charges appear in a secular court. If Father Armstrong is guilty—then a terrible thing has been done.  If Father Armstrong is innocent—then a terrible thing has been done.

Amen! May the truth come to light in creditable form and the Lord exonerate the innocent.

[9] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 8-9-2007 at 06:30 AM · [top]

Of particular interest here is how +Minns will respond.  Armstrong+, given his situation, understandably has denied the authority of this court and has deprecated its integrity.  He has made no defense in this venue.  Would +Minns be under any obligation to take the decision seriously?  If so on why?  Would he be obliged to consider either a conviction in a criminal court or judgment in a civil case should things move in either of those directions?  Is so, why?

[10] Posted by EmilyH on 8-9-2007 at 07:28 AM · [top]

I’m not certain why Bishop Minns would be concerned with what ECUSA has to say in its church courts.

I would hope that Bishop Minns would be concerned about what a criminal court would say.

[11] Posted by Sarah on 8-9-2007 at 07:32 AM · [top]

What is the basis for the allegations above that this was a kangaroo court?  That is a very serious charge, if true, so I hope there is some basis for it.

[12] Posted by Widening Gyre on 8-9-2007 at 07:32 AM · [top]

RE: “What is the basis for the allegations above that this was a kangaroo court?”

Hi Widening Gyre, I don’t know that it was a kangaroo court—one really cannot tell any longer in ECUSA.  But I would assume that the basis is all the non-canonical actions already performed by various dioceses and our national church.  Bishop Smith of Connecticut, Bishop Bennison, Bishop Jefferts-Schori . . . three right off the top of my head there!

Once corruption is open and blatant, trust pretty much breaks down in the system—even if the specific system of a specific diocese or parish is a good or honest or fair one.

[13] Posted by Sarah on 8-9-2007 at 07:36 AM · [top]

Suppose, for argument’s sake, that all of Armstrong’s financial dealings were above board and that a civil court would exonerate im of all charges. (I sincerely hope this is the case.)  At the very least, he is guilty of an unconscionable sloppiness, thus falling far short of the biblical standard of living above reproach (1 Tim 3:2; 1 Tim 5:7). Secondly, the very large sums of money involved remind all of us why Christian leaders must not be lovers of money, as Scripture tells us (1 Tim 3:3).  Having never met the man, I understand he is a skilled priest and a thoroughly orthodox defender of the faith, the sort of which the church needs more of.  But his conduct here appears to fall short of biblical standards for leadership, even if “innocent” of these specific charges.  My point is that if those of our thelogical camp cannot subordinate our partisanship to the authority of Scripture, then I suggest there is a log in our collective eye in need of removal.

[14] Posted by Occasional Reader on 8-9-2007 at 08:17 AM · [top]

If Don+ can prove his case I’m wondering if a defamation suit against the diocese and ECUSA and the Bishop and PB as individuals would not be in order.  That would be interesting.  I know the prohibition against suing brothers and sisters in Christ, but it’s hard to recognize the B and PB as such.

[15] Posted by BrianInDioSpfd on 8-9-2007 at 08:33 AM · [top]

So, will someone explain or point to an explanation of how discretionary funds work in a parish? Was there no one to help the good father with his accounting?  This would be helpful for parishinors in general as they fund discretionary accounts for their beloved rectors.

thanks.

[16] Posted by southernvirginia1 on 8-9-2007 at 08:34 AM · [top]

What is the basis for the allegations above that this was a kangaroo court? 

An eccliastical tribunal making a determination of tax fraud?  Perhaps we should ask the IRS for a ruling on whether Jesus is the only wy to the Father.

[17] Posted by wildfire on 8-9-2007 at 08:46 AM · [top]

Wow.  The hearing lasted a whole 3 hours.

[18] Posted by James Manley on 8-9-2007 at 08:48 AM · [top]

Once corruption is open and blatant, trust pretty much breaks down in the system—even if the specific system of a specific diocese or parish is a good or honest or fair one.

Dead right, Sarah.  Unfortunately we can no longer trust any of these people to be fair and honest.  These are the same people who break into buildings and change locks,  they are the same ones who sue Vestry members, they are the same ones who speak out of both sides of their mouths - saying one thing and meaning another.  They are the same ones who deny one bishop his ordination on technicalities and then turn around and elect another without blinking an eye.

Yes, by their fruits we have come to know them only too well.

Fr. Armstrong, I am so sorry - we will be praying for you.  Let us hope a REAL court of justice can be found soon.

[19] Posted by Eclipse on 8-9-2007 at 08:58 AM · [top]

On the “kangaroo court” thing.  Whether one chooses to believe that +Colorado and diocesan authorities are vindictive reprobates, evil mongering persecutors etc., one would be hard pressed to beleve they are stupid.  They would not bring these charges and prosecute them in a manner that was not supported by the evidence they had (or how they felt a reasonable person would perceive it)  It would be a huge PR disaster and I doubt even Armstrong+ considers them that dumb.  I don’t know what the hard evidence is for the appelation “kangaroo” in this case… If people choose to believe that the Court made their decision either prior to the presentation of the case or independent of the evidence presented that is one thing.  Is there any proof of that?  It appears to me after reading the entire case that the evidence is compelling.  Armstrong+ chose not to respond.  Of course that is his option but that does not make the assumption that he was either pre-judged or not judged on the evidence true.

[20] Posted by EmilyH on 8-9-2007 at 09:10 AM · [top]

EmilyH-
One also assumes that if there were evidence that Don Armstrong, or anyone else, had stolen several hundred thousand dollars, that evidence would have been given to the district attorney who would have entered an indictment and gone to trial.  If they really have such evidence, that is the correct way to proceed. A diocesan trial of a man over whom the diocese no longer has any jurisdiction was pointless and only done for the sake of the PR, regardless of the outcome. So, no, they aren’t stupid, this is great PR for their point of view.  Essentially, they held a disciplinary hearing for an employee who quit and left the company 6 months ago.  When will they hold a disciplinary hearing for the bishop who was a trustee of the funds and apparently let this go on for years without paying any attention? 
    Perhaps ecclesial courts should get back to their true function- defending the doctrine and discipline of the church- and leave tax evasion to the IRS.

[21] Posted by tjmcmahon on 8-9-2007 at 09:22 AM · [top]

RE: “Whether one chooses to believe that +Colorado and diocesan authorities are vindictive reprobates, evil mongering persecutors etc. . . . “

Actually one is unable to determine this, based on the fact that this is an ECUSA court and so many unethical decisions have been made over the years that one is no longer confident in the systems that were set in place to exact justice.

One will be able to determine if justice has been served when one sees this in a secular court where justice will be objectively determined.

One hopes that this will occur soon, so that all the parties may discover the truth.  One wishes for the truth to be displayed, whichever way it goes, and one does not know the truth currently.

But either way the verdict in a secular court goes, one will be satisfied by the exhibition of the truth, since one has no interest, either way, save in the exhibition of the truth.

One hopes that the secular authorities will provide opportunity for this truth to be displayed.

[22] Posted by Sarah on 8-9-2007 at 09:23 AM · [top]

They would not bring these charges and prosecute them in a manner that was not supported by the evidence they had (or how they felt a reasonable person would perceive it) It would be a huge PR disaster and I doubt even Armstrong+ considers them that dumb.

I don’t know, Emily. Ever hear of “show trials”? I don’t think “dumb” has anything to do with it, but in any case, I hardly think - in the present state of the church - an ecclesiastical trial can be trusted to be impartial, fair and just. I have no idea what the truth of the situation is. This “trial” did nothing to clarify that.

[23] Posted by oscewicee on 8-9-2007 at 09:34 AM · [top]

One hopes that this will occur soon, so that all the parties may discover the truth.  One wishes for the truth to be displayed, whichever way it goes, and one does not know the truth currently.

But either way the verdict in a secular court goes, one will be satisfied by the exhibition of the truth, since one has no interest, either way, save in the exhibition of the truth.

One hopes that the secular authorities will provide opportunity for this truth to be displayed.

While I concur with this sentiment, there seems to be an underlying assumption among the SF comments that if exonerated of the charges by civil authorities, that Fr Armstrong would be innocent of violating the biblical standards of conduct expected of a priest and thus fully vindicated.  I don’t see it that way.

[24] Posted by Occasional Reader on 8-9-2007 at 09:38 AM · [top]

Yes, I think it will end up in the secular court.  The DA in the county involved did serve on the Grace vestry.  He has stated that he will not be personally involved if the case moves that direction.  But in the civil arena, I wonder who has standing to litigate. It would appear that would be the heirs of the trustor whose funds were allegedly directed to support Armstrong’s+ family.  Tgey might not be interested in pursuing this where they have no real vested financial interest.  Of course some atty might want it on a contingency.  Now the tax thing, the allegation was that Armstrong+ caused the church to commit tax fraud.  One might assume that that allegedly fraud also resulted in his underfiling his returns and might result in an audit, then charges but why would the IRS “single” him out?  Other than the scandal in the church, is their sufficient warrant for his name to pop-up. Would the IRS then feel compelled to audit anyone whose name came up in this way?  There is also the state tax issue?  Maybe someone can enlighten me, but I think that some of these concerns might be why we haven’t heard anything about any civil actions, and, if Armstrong+ was being audited by either the state or IRS, who, other than he would be likely to know it or disclose it?

[25] Posted by EmilyH on 8-9-2007 at 09:42 AM · [top]

A diocesan trial of a man over whom the diocese no longer has any jurisdiction was pointless and only done for the sake of the PR

The main component of which I’d assume is intimidation of others. If they don’t take this to civil court, there will no longer be any intimidation value.

[26] Posted by SpongJohn SquarePantheist on 8-9-2007 at 09:45 AM · [top]

On the “kangaroo court” thing.  Whether one chooses to believe that +Colorado and diocesan authorities are vindictive reprobates, evil mongering persecutors etc., one would be hard pressed to beleve they are stupid.

I would disagree with you in that it is pretty stupid to accuse a person of tax fraud when you don’t know what he disclosed to the IRS and when, ultimately, a federal court, not an ecclesial tribunal, gets to decide whether the government has been defrauded.  Apparently, the tax fraud claim is based upon a review of W2s that were issued to Armstrong+ by the parish and a conclusion that the income as reported in those forms was lower than what +Armstrong actually received.  This fails to consider two possibilities.  First, some amounts that appear to be remunerative are not deemed reportable income under the Internal Revenue Code.  In fact, anyone who has cracked open a tax law treatise will note that approximately the first half is devoted to the $64,000 question of what, exactly, is reportable income.  Second, not all income that is deemed reportable to the IRS appears on a W2, which is why there are all of those extra lines on the 1040 for reporting of income from other sources.  It could be that Armstrong+ reported the income anyway.  Remember that the tribunal did not review the actual tax returns.

I am not making a statement of guilt or innocence here, only that it is tremendously poor judgment to make conclusory statements of criminality when the jury is not just still out, it hasn’t even been formed yet.  Armstrong’s name has been seriously soiled by these charges, and if the IRS decides not to pursue the matter, I would expect a significant damages claim to be filed against the bishop, the Diocese, 815, Episcopal News Service, and all other entities and individuals involved in making, broadcasting, and repeating the tax fraud charge.  Notwithstanding the biblical injunction against suing other Christians, this may be the only way for Armstrong+ to recover his reputation.

[27] Posted by Steven in Falls Church on 8-9-2007 at 09:47 AM · [top]

This body had no personal jurisdiction over Armstrong+ as he is not subject to their authority.  It had no subject matter jurisdiction to make determinations of theft or tax fraud; those are matters for the criminal courts.  No personal jurisdiction.  No subject matter jurisdiction.  It doesn’t even merit the designation “kangaroo court.” 

My point can be illustrated by the following example.  Suppose the IRS were to audit Fr. Armstrong and announce in the midst of the audit that it had concluded that Fr. Armstrong’s transfer to CANA was invalid because in its opinion an obscure provision of Nigerian canon law had been violated.  We would all say “That’s none of your business.  If Bp. Minns or the Nigerian HOB were to conclude this, we would pay attention, but the IRS’s views are irrelevant.”  And if the IRS informed us that it had retained an expert in canon law from the UK and had even consulted with Ian Douglas, the world’s foremost authority, our view would not change.  If the IRS opines about Schedule D or accelerated depreciation, we listen.  But not about Nigerian canon law, and it doesn’t matter how many degrees their expert has.  It wouldn’t even matter whether the IRS were right or wrong in its view.

When I was in law school I had a professor, nationally known in legal circles, who often used a particular example when arguing with students.  It became something of a trademark for him.  When a student would speculate about some fact that might be the case but was irrelevant, he would interrupt and say “What if a hundred bishops testified in court that X was true?”  (This was back in the days when bishops still had a reputation for veracity.)  His point was that X was totally irrelevant.  It didn’t matter what the evidence was; it didn’t even matter if the fact was uncontroverted.  It was irrelevant.

Even after 35 years I still remember this colorful pedagogical device.  But after all these years and a career spent practicing law, this is the first case I have seen where my professor’s example is literally true.  It doesn’t matter what a bishop thinks about tax fraud.  It wouldn’t even matter if there were a hundred bishops.  It no more matters what the bishop and eccliastical tribunals of Colorado think about the Internal Revenue Code than it matters what the Commissioner of the IRS thinks about Nigerian canon law.

[28] Posted by wildfire on 8-9-2007 at 09:55 AM · [top]

Southernvirginia1,
I imagine that rules concerning discretionary funds vary from diocese to diocese, but there are general priniciples that probably apply to all, including a regular reconciliation of the account by someone other than the parish priest, and a yearly audit, as part of a regular parish audit, done by either by committee or by an independent firm, depending upon the size of the parish. In parish of this size, it should have been an independent firm, due to the size of their budget…but that even varies from diocese to diocese, I think.

Other general rules that apply are that while the fund is used at the discretion of the priest, there are certain limitations…i.e. no buying vestments or other articles for personal use of the priest; people who have benefited from the fund have the right to confidentiality; any cash transactions should be thoroughly documented; if discretionary money is spent on books, office equipment, etc, they become the property of the parish.

Because of the issues of disretion and confidentiality, it’s difficult, and perhaps unfair, to establish stringent parish controls over the rector’s fund. At the same time, if a parish values their priest, they’ll set some limits over his/her ability to sign checks and access to funds other than discretionary.

Discretionary funds aren’t intended to serve as “mad money” for parish priests, and diocesan guidelines are meant to provide standards. You can probably access southern virginia standards either through their website, or by calling their finance office. Or else just ask your parish administrator.

Hope this is of help in understanding.

[29] Posted by Shumanbean on 8-9-2007 at 09:58 AM · [top]

I read the rest of the article, and wondered about the statement that 340 of the 2500 members went with the CANA church.  Does anyone know if it was really that small of a percentage that left?

[30] Posted by CarolynP on 8-9-2007 at 10:04 AM · [top]

Mark,

A few things.  First, Berskhire greetings from this Purple Cow!  I didn’t know you lived up in God’s country.  Ah to be on Taconic right now (it’s about 138 degrees here in SW Virginia).

Second, no jurisdiction?  Let’s say you were an attorney here in Virginia and improperly took money from your firm’s trust account.  You then move to Massachusetts.  Virginia Bar would have no authority to discipline you since you’re now in Massachusetts?  Perhaps we need to distinguish between “render judgment” and “discipline.”  I would think the diocese (just as the state bar) would have the authority to police what folks do when acting within the diocese (or the state, as the case may be). 

Third, no jurisdiction?  Are you saying the church courts cannot discipline priests for financial misconduct and would have to wait for the civil authorities before being allowed to act? I don’t know the canons on this one but I’d suspect they would have this kind of authority. 

Sarah,

Are you saying that this decision by the court is unethical?  I got confused over your post (must be the aforementioned heat).

[31] Posted by Widening Gyre on 8-9-2007 at 10:17 AM · [top]

I don’t know that 815 really wants to start many investigations into misappropriation of funds. There is still that unanswered question as to where all the legal funding for Beers and company is coming from. Has anyone seen an answer to that one?

[32] Posted by Laytone on 8-9-2007 at 10:19 AM · [top]

Again on the Ecclesiastical trial and Mr McCall’s comments on jurisdiction of the Diocese.  It would appear to me that the diocese must go through this process if only to protect itself from allegations of liability for any current or future misconduct of Armstrong+  It’s one thing to stand up in court and say: “He’s not ours” vs. to stand up in court and say: “He’s not ours and here are the papers to prove it”  Episcopal canons, not civil law, require this process and the diocese is just moving through the steps.  And, it is a reasonable question to ask, Was Armstrong + an Episcopal priest in good standing when he allegedly committed these acts, well, yes.

[33] Posted by EmilyH on 8-9-2007 at 10:26 AM · [top]

<blockqoute> The main component of which I’d assume is intimidation of others.</blockquote>

So the TEC does have core doctrine after all.

[34] Posted by Paula Loughlin on 8-9-2007 at 10:28 AM · [top]

Thanks Shumanbean.
It’s about what I would have expected. And in the specific case makes all of this all the more strange. But over time we’ll see where it goes. I just wondered what piece I was missing.

[35] Posted by southernvirginia1 on 8-9-2007 at 10:31 AM · [top]

EmilyH, I don’t know where the truth lies in this case, but the allegation is that more than a half-million dollars of non-wage income was not reported.  From what I’ve seen, that is more than enough for the tax authorities to “single out” Fr. Armstrong, or anybody else.  You may be right that this would be unlikely to be dealt with in the normal course of events - the amounts are non-cash, and presumably not independently reported to the IRS, and the chances that Fr. Armstrong would be audited are small - but there has been sufficient media coverage that it seems unlikely that this will not be dealt with by the civil authorities.  Supposing there’s substance to the allegations, that is.

[36] Posted by Phil on 8-9-2007 at 10:33 AM · [top]

IIRC Don+ requested the IRS to audit his returns several months ago.  I think it was around last Easter.  Wonder what became of that.

[37] Posted by CarolynP on 8-9-2007 at 10:41 AM · [top]

For Phil, yes the monies involved are substantial.  But what I am unclear on is how the IRS identifies individuals for audit?  I have no idea what is in his personal tax returns.  The allegations of the diocese is that he caused the church to under-report his income on their W-2s.  The question I raise is, if my neighbor accuses me of possible tax fraud, does the IRS audit me?  If my boss accuses me, does he write a letter to the IRS, send an e-mail and the IRS jumps into action?  If the Episcopal Diocese writes the IRS and tells it that its church Grace St Stephen’s underreported income to its employees, does it then audit all those employees?  I simply don’t know the process.  Itnwould seem that the IRS would have software that would identify patterns of irregularities.  But, in the case of Grace, those patterns would not pop-up until Grace filed some form of amendment of their employer forms.  I have owned a business, and done witholding, but, in the case of clergy, they are considered self-employed for tax purposes and file quarter lies.  It would appear that the amounts reported, the definition of the funds as income, and the actual process of reporting itself lay with Armstrong+.  I don’t know who, if anyone at the Church would be filing the needed amendments.  If the property is a diocesan one as argued by the diocese, it would seem they would be doing the filing, if not, and under Vestry/Armstrong+/Crippen, +Minns?  it would appear that they should be filing the amendments.

[38] Posted by EmilyH on 8-9-2007 at 11:16 AM · [top]

<font color=darkred> The Rev. Don Armstrong, former rector of Grace and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Colorado Springs, has been found guilty on all counts of financial misconduct ...</font>

Aha!  That will settle the issue, even for all you reactionary troglodytes who have suspected all along that this whole thing was simply a diocesan dirty trick, a groundless smear job on one of your so-called “orthodox” leaders by an amoral and ruthless diocesan leadership!

...  presented to <font color=red>an Ecclesiastical Court of the Diocese of Colorado </font> that has been reviewing the evidence since July 31. 

Uhh, umm, never mind…

[39] Posted by Craig Goodrich on 8-9-2007 at 11:20 AM · [top]

WG and Emily

Numerous priests have moved to CANA and been deposed.  None of them has been granted a trial;  the ECUSA view seems to be that summary removal for “abandonment of communion” is the appropiate canonical remedy.  To my knowledge, Armstrong+ in fact has not been charged with “abandonment.”  It appears to be the only thing he is NOT charged with.  (I may be wrong on this.)  Of course, if Colorado had followed the usual ECUSA procedure with Armstrong, it would have no pretext for publicly defaming him by charging him with criminal conduct.  In the law this is called actual malice. 

Colorado clearly has the right to remove Armstrong from the roster of ECUSA priests.  It could have done so without accusing him of crimes.  By following the course O’Neill has charted, Colorado has made itself, as the Brits like to say, a hostage to fortune.  It is now at the mercy of determinations to be made by the criminal courts.  If Armstrong is exonerated by the criminal authorities, the diocese will not have enough money to pay the defamation damages.  If the diocese (and individuals) are found to be liable for defamation, it is likely to be willful and malicious.  Will that be covered by insurance?  Then we’ll see how seriously ECUSA takes the hierarchy argument.  Was O’Neill acting as a lawful agent of ECUSA, which is therefore financially responsible for his conduct?

ps It is sunny and 75 degrees this afternoon on the Taconic ridge.  Just gloating!

[40] Posted by wildfire on 8-9-2007 at 11:33 AM · [top]

Mr. Goodrich, I’m colorblind, but is that red bold print you are using?  You’ve raised the commenting standard, sir.

[41] Posted by Phil on 8-9-2007 at 11:36 AM · [top]

FYI, here is a link to a portion of IRS pub 970, re: scholarships.  IMHO, the court must have been over its head. 

But you can imagine how the court’s argument might go - step A, find a poorly documented or apparently irregular payment - glossing over missing information, step B, show that the payment was made to the defendant, step C, argue that because the undocumented or irregular payment was made to the defendant, then it must have been income and should have been reported to the IRS. 

Of course, if the missing information from step A were to show that the payment was regular, then C goes away.

From the Gazette, Aug 1:

Crippen charged in a phone interview that the diocese refused to cooperate with Grace Church’s bookkeepers in the investigation and appeared to have drawn its conclusion before receiving any evidence. The vestry board of the breakaway Grace CANA church opened its own investigation with the cooperation of Armstrong shortly after the schism and expects to have its findings ready next month, he said.

“Everyone here is interested in getting all of these accusations answered,” said Crippen, who added that Armstrong has denied any wrongdoing. “The fact of the matter is there were going to be no answers and no justice in the Diocese of Colorado’s kangaroo court.”

As noted above, some of the problems are: (a) the investigation does not appear to have been up to government standards, (b) the lack of defense participation (which I understand, given the quote above), and (c) the relevance and qualification of the court to deal with such matters. 

Next thing you know, they will opine on securities fraud, nuclear plant licensing, and patent infringement.

wink

[42] Posted by tired on 8-9-2007 at 11:43 AM · [top]

CarolynP,
According to a report in the Colorado Springs Gazette, there were 370 votes cast and 342, or 93%, were in favor of the parish leaving the Episcopal Church and joining CANA.

Before the break up, the parish was reporting around 2,000 members.  Some say that 200 to 400 remained in TEC and worship in an alternative location, and the rest appear to be missing in action.

[43] Posted by John316 on 8-9-2007 at 11:58 AM · [top]

Having had a son, who mercifully has just graduated from college, I am pretty much up the scholarship code.  I don’t think that is the issue here.  First the funds did not go to his kids, but to special accounts.  I don’t know in whose names those accounts are, but far more important, his children were not elligible recipients based on the terms of the trust.  The terms of the trust were such as to make it compatible with IRS restrictions. 

I was in higher ed. for years, a scholarship fund must be open to a class of potential recipients.  In this case the class was Colorado residents of at least five years studying for Episcopal priesthood.  Recipients are determined by an independent committee or reviewer with no direct or beneficial interest in the outcome.  In the case of Fr. Armstrong, the allegations are he either had a direct interest, beneficial interest or both.  I am uncertain as to how sholarship funds would be reported on the recipient student’s tax return.  If memory serves, they may only be informational (scholarships and grants) and not reported as income and must be applied only to their tax exempt expenses (difference undergrad, grad, employer required ed. etc.)  On the ACI transfers of funds, that is a whole other issue.

[44] Posted by EmilyH on 8-9-2007 at 12:16 PM · [top]

EmilyH opines:

It would be a huge PR disaster and I doubt even Armstrong+ considers them that dumb.

Exactly, EmilyH—exactly! I mean, if would be one thing if for the last couple of years we had seen a consistent pattern of TEC bishops acting in an irrational, vindictive and self-destructive manner towards conservative…paris…

[45] Posted by Dave on 8-9-2007 at 12:18 PM · [top]

If memory serves, (and at 67, it sometimes fail misearbly) a statement was made early on iin this inquisition, that Fr. Don had reported all of his discretionary funds and had paid the pappropriate taxes on them.  My problem is: just what flaming business is it of anyone’s what a person does with HIS discretionary funds?  To my best estimate, they are totally without reservation, and available for discretionary use, the individual’s discretion, not Joe Blow’s discretion, down the street, or even the bishop’s discretion, in his ivory tower.

But, then, I may be wrong…again!

[46] Posted by Fr. Chip, SF on 8-9-2007 at 12:18 PM · [top]

I think the diocese would argue that there were unauthorized disbursements from the trust received by the defendant, thus constituting taxable income.  However, the defendant may have had reason to believe that the trust disbursements were authorized and, as such, that they were a non-taxable scholarship.

Here is Captain Yips’ take on this.

[47] Posted by tired on 8-9-2007 at 12:23 PM · [top]

Those are some large amounts backed by some pretty serious law breaking. Thus I agree with Sarah Hey and Via Orthodoxy. A secular court needs to be looking at this if it is all very factual and there is a paper trail that investigaters can make a serious case with. Otherwise, I like many am very suspicious of Ecclesiastical Courts that are out to just rid themselves of Bible believing clergy.

If it all has merit and truth to it…then it should go to secualr courts. If not then someone needs to be looking at the Bishop of Colorado!

[48] Posted by TLDillon on 8-9-2007 at 12:25 PM · [top]

Everything that I have read so far Is that everyone feels Father Armstrong is innocent.  Do you ever think that maybe the guy is guilty.  Where was the elcted vestry, how come they were not doing their job.  When money is involved, their should be checks and balances.  The vestry member who is the treasurer, he or she, should be held accountable.

[49] Posted by qharbour on 8-9-2007 at 12:33 PM · [top]

I say this with all due consideration - the people who rendered this verdict and had the audacity to make it public are the scum of the earth.  Even if +Armstrong is guilty of violating the federal Tax Code, an ecclesiastical court has absolutely no right to find him guilty of such a violation.  It makes as much sense as the US Tax Court publicly finding TEC guilty of heresy (even though they are).  The whole discretionary fund thing is such a tar pit that my church does not even have one.  They are very difficult to adminster properly and can cause all kinds of problems for the clergy who have them.

[50] Posted by Daniel on 8-9-2007 at 12:52 PM · [top]

Re: Everything that I have read so far Is that everyone feels Father Armstrong is innocent. 

I for one have no opinion on Fr. Armstrong’s guilt or innocence.  I am not in a position to know.  My point is that the Colorado diocese is not in that position either.  They should have framed their allegations purely as violations of canon law, where their competence lies.  By framing them as violations of the criminal code and tax code, they have overreached their legitimate jurisdiction and potentially exposed themselves to massive civil damages.  This strikes me as legally foolhardy.

[51] Posted by wildfire on 8-9-2007 at 01:17 PM · [top]

RE: “Are you saying that this decision by the court is unethical?”

No.

Why would you ask that?

[52] Posted by Sarah on 8-9-2007 at 01:56 PM · [top]

We don’t know, one way or the other, whether guilt or innocence exists in this matter—and we won’t know until these charges appear in a secular court.

Ha!  What a Crock!  ohh

I have always maintained that a man is INNOCENT until PROVEN guilty!  It seems I’ve read that somewhere in one of those “Historical Documents”!  This may not be a popular idea in our culture where mere accusation brings condemnation, but it is an idea I will carry to my grave.  Therefore in the absense of any civil charges being filed, much less a conviction, Armstrong remains INNOCENT and should be treated as such. cool mad

[53] Posted by Spencer on 8-9-2007 at 01:56 PM · [top]

RE: “Everything that I have read so far Is that everyone feels Father Armstrong is innocent.”

Hi, qharbour, have you read my 4 comments above?

“We don’t know, one way or the other, whether guilt or innocence exists in this matter—and we won’t know until these charges appear in a secular court.”

I simply do not know if he is innocent or guilty.  I do not know.

[54] Posted by Sarah on 8-9-2007 at 01:57 PM · [top]

Spencer,
I’m soooooo with you on this one of innocent until proven guilty! It is the accusers responsibility to give proof of said guilt and then the innocnet gets to shoot holes in accusers proof if it can be done. An Ecclesiastical Court does not have the capability of a Civil, State or Federal Court.  Thus if Fr. Armstrong is guilty and there is strong proof to the accusation then the diocese & bishop should alrert the authorities and let the wheels of justice roll in whatever direction the proof leads. Until then he is INNOCENT!

[55] Posted by TLDillon on 8-9-2007 at 02:03 PM · [top]

I hope Rev. Armstrong is found innocent in the same manner as the Duke Lacrosse college students, and then Rev. Armstrong can decide whether he wants to settle with the Diocese of Colorado or not regarding a defamation of character lawsuit.

If and when the tide turns, and the merciless inquisitor gets his turn to be under the microscope, well…..

[56] Posted by Truth Unites... and Divides on 8-9-2007 at 02:09 PM · [top]

“Next thing you know, they will opine on securities fraud, nuclear plant licensing, and patent infringement.”

Let’s not forget carbon setbacks (Peace and Blessings Be Upon Them) and stock in yellowcake futures!

[57] Posted by Fr. Chip, SF on 8-9-2007 at 02:39 PM · [top]

This was a one-way show trial, and nothing upon which someone can make a “guilty” or “not guilty” determination.  I hope, pray, that the acrimony, charges and countercharges can be resolved in a way that precludes litigation and brings “shalom”.  The only winners in the litigation will be the lawyers.  Those that advocate litigation usually aren’t the ones who live in court and regularly see its consequences. 

All this doesn’t mean I believe the church should rejoin TEC—that’s an entirely separate issue.  In fact, I hope the CANA congregation propers.

Having said that, I don’t go as far as my usual hero, Chip Johnson, cj, when he states: “what flaming business is it of anyone’s what a person does with HIS discretionary funds?”  Without regard to the facts of this particular case, “discretionary” funds remain at all times funds of the church, with the clergy serving in a fiduciary, trustee-like role in making disbursement decisions.  The use of such funds should be consistent with the purposes of the church, indeed they must be under applicable IRS guidance.  Taking the choir out to dinner certainly meets the smell test; paying for a hair cut obviously does not.  The same concept holds true for properly established scholarship funds.  Every corporation or non-profit with a scholarship fund should know the rules.

As Christians, we must be above reproach, conducting ourselves above the standards set for others.  All of us, at one time or another have fallen short of this standard. What I would like to see if for the emerging Anglican North American community to learn from our mistakes, and establish some voluntary standards or organization, like the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA), and take the lead.

[58] Posted by Going Home on 8-9-2007 at 02:42 PM · [top]

The court operates independently of the diocesan bishop and is governed by the Episcopal Church’s canons.

Yeah, right!

[59] Posted by GillianC on 8-9-2007 at 02:57 PM · [top]

From the <a >Rocky Mountain News</a>.

“Armstrong’s spokesman, Alan Crippen, said Wednesday that the findings are no surprise.

“We have far more confidence in the civil justice system in the state of Colorado and would be happy to meet the bishop and the diocese there anytime,” Crippen said. “We have supreme confidence the good name of our rector will be exonerated.”
Last week, the diocese’s Denver-based attorney, Hal Haddon, predicted that “a huge civil case” likely would be filed this fall in Colorado Springs based on the ecclesiastical court’s findings.”

[60] Posted by John316 on 8-9-2007 at 03:13 PM · [top]

Sarah,

You had written, “Actually one is unable to determine this, based on the fact that this is an ECUSA court and so many unethical decisions have been made over the years that one is no longer confident in the systems that were set in place to exact justice. ”  I didn’t think you were making a judgment about the current decision, only that the past decisions (the unethical ones) lead to concern over the fairness of the outcome.  Just wanted to check. 

And full disclosure, I wrote my third year paper in law school on a comparison of church law to civil law by focusing on the Righter Trial (which had just wrapped up its work).  I don’t think I called the decision unethical but certainly concluded a civil court would have handled this issue much differently (on the matter of judicial recusal and judicial process).

[61] Posted by Widening Gyre on 8-9-2007 at 03:37 PM · [top]

I wonder if it is fair to say that if Armstrong fails to bring a defamation action against the diocese (regardless of what the civil authorities may do) then one may infer guilt by inaction.  After all, if it is as some say here that the diocese simply lied and made stuff up, he’d have a pretty easy case, n’est-ce pas?

Of course, perhaps being defamed by the diocese raises his street cred among the CANA-nites, so there would be no harm no foul.  Man, it is hot here.  Stange thoughts enter the brain…

[62] Posted by Widening Gyre on 8-9-2007 at 03:45 PM · [top]

I wonder if it is fair to say that if Armstrong fails to bring a defamation action against the diocese (regardless of what the civil authorities may do) then one may infer guilt by inaction.

Not necessarily.  Just because someone punches you in the nose doesn’t mean you have to punch the other person in the nose to establish your innocence.

[63] Posted by Truth Unites... and Divides on 8-9-2007 at 03:54 PM · [top]

Widening Gyre, no inference should be taken.

As you know given your education/training/profession, a statement can be false and for various reasons not rise to the level of a tort.  Also, anyone who enters into litigation—even with a meritorious case—without carefully considering the expense, time, stress and “opportunity cost” is a fool.

When the dust settles in Virginia, Colorado, New York, Texas and elsewhere, several million dollars will have been spent on legal fees. I support those parishes that overwhelmingly voted to affiliate with another Anglican entity and discerned God’s call to fight to keep their property on theological grounds.  But we need to get beyond the fight with TEC. It is an anchor dragging everyone down.

[64] Posted by Going Home on 8-9-2007 at 04:00 PM · [top]

Lemme see-  “Cause” to accuse a man of (surely, at the worst) party to bad bookeeping,  Open disgrace:  Endangering thousands of souls by denying the basics of the Gospel, and sexual misconduct at the expense of the young, Guaranteed protection.  Yeah, I guess that about covers it!  There’s actually another syndicate whose name happens to rhyme with ECUSA, but I hear they take honor a bit more seriously.  Hmm. r.e.

[65] Posted by Robert Easter on 8-9-2007 at 04:42 PM · [top]

I wonder if it is fair to say that if Armstrong fails to bring a defamation action against the diocese (regardless of what the civil authorities may do) then one may infer guilt by inaction.  After all, if it is as some say here that the diocese simply lied and made stuff up, he’d have a pretty easy case, n’est-ce pas?

No, I don’t think it would be fair.  There are too many other reasons for not suing:desire to move on to more important things, scriptural admonitions to not take other Christians to court, dodgy accounting that doesn’t rise to the level of tax fraud, etc. 

Of course, perhaps being defamed by the diocese raises his street cred among the CANA-nites, so there would be no harm no foul.  Man, it is hot here.  Stange thoughts enter the brain…

Of course it does raise his standing among many orthodox.  We assume that anyone who is so openly attached by TEC must be a powerful worker for God.  But I suspect that both sides in this dispute are looking not to their “bases” (to use a political term) but rather to the uncommitted and the general public.  If CANA can be tarred as an organization led by criminals and Africans it will be seen as a less desirable option for those seeking a church home.  And likewise, if TEC is revealed to be totalitarian and abusive towards the orthodox more of them will be encouraged to flee to alternative jurisdictions.

[66] Posted by Eluchil on 8-9-2007 at 04:49 PM · [top]

On the issue of the extensive nature of the investigation, so much reference to tax law etc., I found that the willingness of the Diocese to engage in this a bit odd but I then remembered reading something odd about Colorado.  I think the reason that the ecclesiastical court case was put together, at least in part, the way it was, has to do with the fact that both sides are Colorado nonprofit corporations and subject to the Colorado Revised Nonprofit Corporation Act.  The tax status of the diocese in the state as well as the IRS as a 501c is therefore involved.  Article 4 states:

“No part of the net earnings of the corporation shall inure to the benefit or be distributable to its directors, officers, members or other private persons, except that the corporation shall be authorized and empowered to pay reasonable compensation for service rendered and to make payments and distributions in furtherance of its exempt purpose.”

I don’t have a copy of the diocesan articles, constitution or canons but do any of them require that it and its churches are subject to the act’s provisions?  Are they subject to it simply by the fact that they incorporated under it?

[67] Posted by EmilyH on 8-9-2007 at 04:59 PM · [top]

Emily,
I think it’s time for you to let it go.  You’ve had your trial and found him guilty.  Move on, please.

[68] Posted by CarolynP on 8-9-2007 at 05:19 PM · [top]

First, EmilyH, while it is true that the tax-exempt status of both players is 501c3, the article you cite is not directly at play here; it is a federal requirement for the tax-exempt status (operated and organized exclusively for charitable purposes…).  But yes, if both entities (the diocese and the parish) are incorporated under Colorado’s nonprofit corporation act, then yup, they are subject to it.  But it doesn’t explain this.  This is explained by an abuse of power by both parties involved. 

Second, CarolynP, I don’t think your comment was necessary.  I for one continue to welcome EmilyH to this conversation (which might be the kiss of death for her but oh well).

[69] Posted by Widening Gyre on 8-9-2007 at 07:59 PM · [top]

If the Diocese felt that Armstrong+ placed the church and possibly them in violation of their articles, what action could they take?  They aren’t going to take him to criminal court.  That’s not their venue.  So, they took him to church court which is.  It’s a weird situation.  They are claiming that he is part of their corporation, he is claiming he isn’t.  It seems to me that their argument is at least consistent.  For Carolyn P., I actually did spend some time trying to figure out why the diocese would take this tack as the question, and I thought it a very legitimate one, was raised on this blog.  I appreciate Widening Gyre’s words in my defense.

[70] Posted by EmilyH on 8-9-2007 at 08:12 PM · [top]

WG and Emily - time for you 2 to have a big group hug!!!

[71] Posted by CarolynP on 8-9-2007 at 08:24 PM · [top]

The court operates independently of the diocesan bishop

I too had a good laugh over that one.  There were clergy on that “court”.  I guess only in Colorado do the clergy operate “independently” of the diocesan bishop.

[72] Posted by Nevin on 8-9-2007 at 08:46 PM · [top]

Any ‘court’ convened by the Diocese of Colorado against Don Armstrong is almost by definition a joke. That’s not to say they can’t be correct, though; I’m with Sarah - until a secular, civil court weighs in on the matter, Don Armstrong remains accused, but innocent until proven guilty. Predicating things on his guilt or innocence is pretty pointless.

[73] Posted by Greg Griffith on 8-9-2007 at 08:50 PM · [top]

Back in the days of the (Jesus) Revolution, a bunch of us shared houses together, and most of us were pretty new at this Christianity thing.  Sometimes some wind would blow up amongst two or three of us, and we’d either one of us go to the house pastor, or he’d walk in, to solve it.  Likely as not, he’d not even try to find a right or wrong side, but he’d just say there’s just one that’s right, and that’s Jesus.  Sometimes that sounded to me kind of pat, but there’s a lot more to that than I ever realised!  We might be technically correct about some point, or not, but is the way we’re handling the news apt to make somebody want to know our Jesus? “By this will they know that (you are My disciples / the Father has sent Me), by your love one for another!”  Anybody that wants to answer me on this, please I’ll be here in case you’d rather not pull the discussion off-topic.

[74] Posted by Robert Easter on 8-9-2007 at 08:54 PM · [top]

Greg. and all, you might want to follow the link to the left and see what Captain Yip has to say about this.. You’ll get a chuckle if not a laugh, and find out they really could NOT do some of what they did.

Blessings,
Grannie Gloria

[75] Posted by Grandmother on 8-9-2007 at 09:32 PM · [top]

As a final thought, this outcome was desparately sought by Bishop O’Neill.  Do you realize that Bishop O’Neill does NOT consider the move by Don Armstrong to CANA as an “abandonment of communion” which canonically requires him to depose Fr. Armstrong as a priest?  That’s right, whereas all TEC bishops are now regularly removing priests left and right (20+ in VA just last week) for exactly this reason, Bishop O’Neill claimed right before the “trial” that Fr. Armstrong had not formally renounced his orders, thus the proceedings must go on.  Perhaps he needs to counsel Bishop Lee for his rash actions?

[76] Posted by Nevin on 8-9-2007 at 09:37 PM · [top]

The local National Public Radio news reported tonight that the Diocese of Colorado has referred the matter of Don Armstrong to the local authorities.

[77] Posted by Concerned Parishoner on 8-9-2007 at 10:11 PM · [top]

The story behind the story is the amount of money that has been spent on the “investigation.” I have now heard the figure is up to $1,000,000. None of this was appropriated in the diocesan budget. The yearly budget is ~$1.8 million. In 2005, there was a surplus of $70 thousand. In 2006 there was a deficit of the same. In 2007, there was a predicted deficit of slightly more, not reflecting money spent for Kobe Bryant’s lawyers.

[78] Posted by rob-roy on 8-9-2007 at 10:12 PM · [top]

Updated prediction, five years from now, more than 10 million will have been spent in legal fees associated with TEC’s implosion and prosecution of leaving parishes.

This has become a blood sport.  The call for criminal investigations, on the one side, or a run to the civil courts, on the other, will leave no victors.  Trust me.

As people in positions of authority wash their hands of responsibility in this matter, they will say things like “it is in the Courts now” and “I have been advised by counsel not to comment on the case.”

[79] Posted by Going Home on 8-9-2007 at 10:25 PM · [top]

I have now heard the figure is up to $1,000,000. None of this was appropriated in the diocesan budget.

It would matter just a little bit whence you “heard” this.  Sources? 

Secondly, and more importantly, is there really any reader of SF who thinks that the amount of monies involved and the apparent improprieties did not call for some kind of investigation? (I would only be too happy to find out that it is just apparent, but an investigation is needed.)  Let me put it bluntly:  If it were say, Susan Russell, would there not be an outcry from these precincts that due diligence be done, whatever the expense (within reason, of course)? 

Reasserter that I am, through and through, I have found the responses to the Armstrong mess today utterly baffling and disillusioning.

[80] Posted by Occasional Reader on 8-9-2007 at 10:43 PM · [top]

Good news - bad news:  KRCC is now reporting that Colorado Springs police are investigating and a special prosecutor may be appointed.

[81] Posted by John316 on 8-9-2007 at 10:52 PM · [top]

RE: “Secondly, and more importantly, is there really any reader of SF who thinks that the amount of monies involved and the apparent improprieties did not call for some kind of investigation?”

I am very glad that this is being investigating . . . I have consistently stated that it needs to be investigated by the civil authorities.  May that occur.

[82] Posted by Sarah on 8-9-2007 at 10:55 PM · [top]

“Special prosecutor”
Not exactly a term that brings to mind notions of justice and fairness.

[83] Posted by Going Home on 8-9-2007 at 11:20 PM · [top]

Sarah, at least, is smart enough to hedge her bets.

[84] Posted by anotherone on 8-9-2007 at 11:49 PM · [top]

Anotherone, I disagree with Sarah’s apparent faith in the civil and criminal system to sort out the truth of what is reported above and reach any sort of appropriate resolution to all this, but in fairness she is not hedging her bet.  Read her historic posts on this issue.

[85] Posted by Going Home on 8-10-2007 at 01:46 AM · [top]

In this circumstance I’d trust a secular civil court way more than DioCO and even CANA investigations, mainly because I can see how one would benefit ruling in a certain way where a it should not matter to a civil court one way or another. So my basis towards the civil system here is due to my faith in our fallen nature to be tempted when there is a gain to decide in that direction, so more a distrust of ecclesiastical entities in this situation. Without basis in the decision, I’d trust the civil authority decision to be with less politically motivated.

Secondary note is the IRS claims, I’m not sure the ecclesiastical structures have jurisdiction or understanding on those claims. Any decision is suspect to expertise. The Ecclesiastical Court’s verdict would have no barring in civil court for those reasons.

[86] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 8-10-2007 at 05:55 AM · [top]

For Timothy, the DA in the county is a previous vestryman at Grace.  I am certain that he would recuse himself from participation.  If there is a prosecution, and that’s a big if, and it takes place in Colorado Springs, Armstrong+ is likely to be judged by a group of citizens from one of the most, if not the most, socially and politically conservative communities in the country.

[87] Posted by EmilyH on 8-10-2007 at 06:39 AM · [top]

RE: “Sarah, at least, is smart enough to hedge her bets.”

No need to.

I’ve stated from the beginning that we simply do not know.  As have ALL the StandFirm bloggers.

But I’m betting that, should Don Armstrong be proven guilty of any criminal wrongdoing in a reputable court of law, there will be a whole lot of progressives like you that are very unhappy that the SF bloggers have done just that.  ; > )

Kind of irksome, isn’t it?

[88] Posted by Sarah on 8-10-2007 at 08:18 AM · [top]

Timotheus-  But at least Sarah (and a few others) are not having a knee-jerk reaction and claiming the Armstrong is innocent just because he was up against the “meanie” bishop.  “Orthodox” does not automatically equal sinlessness.  Having read the presentment in a fairly objective way, I don’t think there’s much chance that Armstrong isn’t guilty of at least part of the charges, even though I don’t know the “details” of his side of the story.  Some of the evidence presented by the forensic accountant seems incontrovertible, no matter what explanation might be given.  That’s why I can’t understand the lemming-like rush of some in this thread to proclaim his innocence.  Either here or over at T19, one poster said that if Armstrong was found guilty in court, s/he personally (the poster) would write a letter of thanks and apology to the “meanie” bishop.  I hope that poster keeps his/her word in a few months.  I promise that if Armstrong defeats the charges hands-down (not through some sort of a plea-bargain) I will write him a letter of apology for doubting his innocence.

[89] Posted by anotherone on 8-10-2007 at 08:29 AM · [top]

Sarah-  The BLOGGERS here may have remained neutral, and that’s wise and commendable—not at all irksome, as you snidely suggest—but that’s definitely not the case with many posters.

[90] Posted by anotherone on 8-10-2007 at 08:32 AM · [top]

anotherone, I don’t think people have rushed to proclaim his innocence so much as to doubt the unbiased nature of the “court.” Which I do. I haven’t looked at the charges as closely as some have, but I do hold to the principle that a man is innocent until proven guilty - with the proviso that it is a court of civil law. The charges are serious ones and should be thoroughly aired, but I think a civil court is the place for them.

[91] Posted by oscewicee on 8-10-2007 at 08:36 AM · [top]

Having read the presentment in a fairly objective way, I don’t think there’s much chance that Armstrong isn’t guilty… even though I don’t know the “details” of his side of the story.

I on the other hand will assume he is innocent until proven guilty- and this stacked “kangaroo” court doesn’t count.

[92] Posted by Nevin on 8-10-2007 at 08:39 AM · [top]

o—I can understand the doubt cast by many on the objectiveness of the ecclesiatical court, though I find it troubling that everyone assumes that the members of that court lack scruples.  I think the ecclesiastical trial was necessary, no matter that Armstrong defected.  If a lawyer is accused of wrongdoing and then suddenly leaves the Bar, the bar still conducts a trial and pronounces a sentence (such as disbarment—even if they’ve already left the Bar).  Any institution is bound to do the same.  Next, it goes to civil court, which is right and proper—for both sides.

[93] Posted by anotherone on 8-10-2007 at 08:43 AM · [top]

a, I don’t doubt the necessity in some sort for the ecclesiastical trial, just its meaningfulness in terms of truly discovering guilt or innocence. Twenty years ago, I would not have been hasty to assume bias in the court, either. But much has happened since then and I feel little trust, in general, in the people ruling TEC. It will be good for all concerned when a civil trial is held, and, whatever the outcome, we can move on from this. We can agree in that. grin

[94] Posted by oscewicee on 8-10-2007 at 08:57 AM · [top]

RE: “The BLOGGERS here may have remained neutral, and that’s wise and commendable—not at all irksome, as you snidely suggest. . . “

If it were not irksome to you, AnotherOne, then why claim that it was really an action taken to “hedge her bets”?

[95] Posted by Sarah on 8-10-2007 at 08:59 AM · [top]

“Innocent until proven guilty” is indeed the presumption that should be applied; and the Eccl. Ct.of the Dioc. of Colorado, under the circumstances, has not proved anything.  If the state courts have the desire to pursue this, their findings at that stage will alone provide the kind of clarity people here want.  But until such a time, I will continue with the presumption stated above.

[96] Posted by Ephraim Radner on 8-10-2007 at 09:12 AM · [top]

I’d concur with Dr. Radner+—it’s not only fundamental to the American understanding of jurisprudence but higher to Biblical, just one example being 1 Cor 13:7 commands of love for Armstrong+.

The Ecclesiastical Court’s verdict as presented in this release would only have jurisdiction over the loan in relationship to it’s cannon. The US tax code is not their oversight no matter who they have testify, that is another important American understanding of a jurisprudence. It is possible by pursuing claim with it does not have jurisdiction that a tort could have been committed.

Biblical commands, the essential concepts of Natural Law in justice system and the possibility of going too far can commit a tort - I’d urge extreme caution on those who declare guilt outside a court with proper jurisdiction. This caution is not demanded to those who wish to express belief in innocence as Biblical commands dealing with justice & “Innocent until proven guilty” actually promote this rationale.

[97] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 8-10-2007 at 09:35 AM · [top]

EmilyH raised an interesting point that I don’t think anyone responded to:

“If there is a prosecution, and that’s a big if, and it takes place in Colorado Springs, Armstrong+ is likely to be judged by a group of citizens from one of the most, if not the most, socially and politically conservative communities in the country.”

I don’t know much about ecclessiastical courts or the Diocese of Colorado, but I’ll take everyone’s word that the people on the court would be more inclined to believe the bishop over Armstrong.  But bias is a concern in any court.  And, as Emily pointed our, a Colorado Springs jury, will probably end up being pretty conservative (and, so, probably more likely to believe Fr. Armstrong’s argument that he is being persecuted by a liberal bishop).  I would think the rules of evidence would be more rigorous in a secular court than a church one, so if there’s any problem with the evidence, that should help with any questions about the auditor’s findings.  Still, even if there is pretty convincing evidence one way or another in any trial, juries often make their judgments based on considerations other than the hard evidence.  Sometimes they go with their “gut feeling.”  And we’ve seen (and I’m sure many of us have complained) about jury findings that we think are unjust and even ridiculous. 

That’s assuming any of this makes it to a trial.  I’m sure the people running the DA’s office are very good people, but sometimes DAs are corrupt (we don’t have to go further back than this year and the Duke lacrosse case).  Even if the DA, who is reportedly still a member of Fr. Armstrong’s congregation, recuses himself, one might imagine that his subordinates are probably not in a rush to prosecute their boss’s priest.

I’m not saying that they will allow personal considerations to cloud their judgment.  They may prosecute the case, or there might not be sufficient evidence to proceed.  But I find it troubling that most everyone here is more likely to believe the secular investigators and court than the church ones when it is clear that all people (including all investigators, prosecutors, judges, and jurors) have biases.  I just don’t finnd it all that believable that all the officials of the diocese are acting in bad faith.  I do think it’s possible that they are biased, but as I said, we all have biases.  So, why should they be any more biased than the people in the secular investigative and judicial process?

[98] Posted by Episcopalian2011 on 8-10-2007 at 11:51 AM · [top]

Oh. My. Goodness.
That’s right, you’ve convinced me. It’s not that you’re determined Armstrong is guilty beforehand no matter what the evidence is, and you’ll invent any ludicrous rationalization to keep believing that.
No, you’ve proved that the United States judicial system is a complete and utter failure.

[99] Posted by SpongJohn SquarePantheist on 8-10-2007 at 12:00 PM · [top]

But bias is a concern in any court.

But most especially when the court itself has political ends at stake. I don’t know how conservative Colorado is - my only friends there are liberal atheists - but I suspect that very few of them are Episcopalian and they are most unlikely to know liberal from conservative in the church’s context. I’d be surprised if they saw the case as anything more than possible financial wrongdoing. Sorry, the ordinary potential bias of any courtroom hardly compares to the bias likely to have prevailed in the ecclesiatical court. That’s a red herring. (Additionally, except amongst liberals, the political bias doesn’t consistently line up with the religious position - I’m not a conservative, politically, but I am orthodox in faith.)

Speaking of interesting points, unaddressed - I believe a few have been addressed to Emily to which she has not responded.

[100] Posted by oscewicee on 8-10-2007 at 12:01 PM · [top]

DioTexGuy - prosecutors and their staffs around this country, no matter their political beliefs, are hard-working professionals with a commitment to the rule of law.  I can think of a couple of big examples of what you say: Mike Nifong and the O. J. Simpson jury.  Neither are what we might term political conservatives.

On the other hand, in the Scooter Libby case, we recently had a jury that, by its own admission, was sympathetic to the defendant and felt the case should not have been brought.  Still, it did its duty and convicted.

With respect - I know you’re not a flaming lefty here - your comments implying bias and/or corruption, especially in the absence of any facts whatsoever, are absurd.

[101] Posted by Phil on 8-10-2007 at 12:14 PM · [top]

Its not a matter of corruption in the traditional sense.  Most prosecutors are hard working and professional.  They are good at what they do.

However, they are prosecutors.  Prosecutorial discretion is huge, and the percentage of grand jury presentations that are “no billed” is miniscule. Look at any major corruption case, and you will see charges on a number of counts for which conviction is unlikely, but which increase the liklihood of settlement and, during a trial, give a jury an ability to rule with the defendent but still convict on other counts. 

I support our criminal justice system.  I have no clue what happened in Colorodo.  But to suggest it is a panacea for this dispute is wrong. 

PS Phil—the problem with the Scooter Libby case was that we now know that the prosecutor knew, from the very beginning, who “outed” the CIA agent, and it wasn’t Libby. Yet the investigation continued.  Let me investigate you (or your dog) over a false charge—and then use the investigation to conduct hundreds of interviews and compell dozens of grand jury appears and and I promise I will eventually get a witness statement that is wrong or incomplete, and can serve as the basis for a perjury charge.

[102] Posted by Going Home on 8-10-2007 at 12:43 PM · [top]

Timothy - I agree with you on almost all counts - especially Libby.  Just pointing out that the jury held its nose and did what it felt the law demanded, even though it appeared to sympathize with Libby.  This seems to be the opposite of what DioTexGuy is arguing we might expect in Colorado.

[103] Posted by Phil on 8-10-2007 at 12:58 PM · [top]

But I find it troubling that most everyone here is more likely to believe the secular investigators and court than the church ones when it is clear that all people (including all investigators, prosecutors, judges, and jurors) have biases.

And I find it troubling as well that leaders in the church, such as O’Neill, have clearly demonstrated that they cannot be trusted and are willing to go to virtually any lengths to perscute.

Like you, I also doubt that this will ever go forward in the secular court…not because of a corrupt prosecutor but because the evidence used by the church to “convict” +Armstrong is and has been from the beginning, flawed or inadmissable.

I don’t know if +Armstrong is guilty or innocent. I do know that O’Neill and the Dio of Colorado have demonstrated that they are corrupt and apostate.

Until evidence or action proves otherwise, I’ll give the benefit of the doubt to +Armstrong and continue to believe that he is innocent until proven otherwise in a court of law.

[104] Posted by Forgiven on 8-10-2007 at 01:11 PM · [top]

Two qoutes from my critics that I’ll address at the same time (yeah multi-tasking…which incidentally is how I get work done while I’m feeding my blog addiction):

from Phil: “With respect - I know you’re not a flaming lefty here - your comments implying bias and/or corruption, especially in the absence of any facts whatsoever, are absurd.”

from SpongeBob: “Oh. My. Goodness.
That’s right, you’ve convinced me. It’s not that you’re determined Armstrong is guilty beforehand no matter what the evidence is, and you’ll invent any ludicrous rationalization to keep believing that.
No, you’ve proved that the United States judicial system is a complete and utter failure.”

I wasn’t trying to convince anyone of Fr. Armstrong’s guilt, nor have I determined he’s guilty no matter what the evidence is.  It seems that many here have determined he’s innocent no matter what the evidence is, so I was trying to question people’s assumptions.  I admit that I am inclined to think Fr. Armstrong is guilty, having read the details of the Motion for Summary Judgment.  Unless the outside auditor is totally corrupt, the evidence seems pretty strong.

I also wasn’t trying to say that the U.S. judicial system is a failure.  It’s undoubtedly one of the best in the world.  What I was saying is that all criminal justice systems are flawed, just as all human institutions are.  Reasonable people sometimes seem to lose their reason when they think of the criminal justice system.  They seem to forget that police officers, lawyers, judges, and juries are humans, and thus susceptible to human flaws of bias, incompetence, corruption, and a tendency to rush to judgment and focus only on what proves one’s own beliefs and assumptions.  My point was not to trash the judicial system.  It was to point out the human limits of any judicial system, and so to question other commenters’ assumptions that the real truth will only be discovered by the secular court.  We can rarely know with certainty that justice really has been done.  I believe it is in most cases, but it’s a kind of faith, similar in some ways to our religious faith.  But we do know that injustices occur in the courts, sometimes because of aggregious misconduct on the part of the police or prosecutors and most of the time just because people got it wrong. 

I don’t need to present facts about bias or corruption on the part of the criminal justice system in Colorado Springs because I wasn’t making an accusation.  I was making an argument that all systems are open to such problems. 

Timothy got it right, I think, by saying that it’s not so much about corruption in the traditional sense (by the way, I really had no intention of saying the DA might be corrupt…if you read my post, I said I’m sure that the DAs there are good people) but about prosecutorial discretion in making indictments.  By the way, I agree with him that most prosecutors are hard-working professionals.  One of my good friends is a prosecutor.

In my original post, I meant to throw some ideas out there and question assumptions.  I wasn’t trying to make a case against Fr. Armstrong or the Colorado Springs criminal justice system.

[105] Posted by Episcopalian2011 on 8-10-2007 at 01:52 PM · [top]

Looks like the wheels of justice are a turnin’.  Jake is reporting that the state has started its own investigation.  Yes, I know, it has only started the investigation so spare me the lectures on how investigation does not equal guilt.  Gotta go, Tiger’s on the course!

[106] Posted by Widening Gyre on 8-10-2007 at 01:54 PM · [top]

Well with the size of the numbers being bandied about i’d be amazed if the State chose to ignore it.

DioTexGuy - you keep saying that some of the commenters “have determined that Armstrong+ is innocent, regardless of the evidence”.  I am multi-tasking, too, while reviewing a very boring acquisition binder, so I may have overlooked the posts you are referencing.  But I do not recall seeing anyone claim that Armstrong+ was clearly innocent, only that he is innocent until objectively and with due process found guilty.  So could you please point to the posts you are referring to?

[107] Posted by CarolynP on 8-10-2007 at 02:04 PM · [top]

“I don’t know how conservative Colorado is - my only friends there are liberal atheists - but I suspect that very few of them are Episcopalian and they are most unlikely to know liberal from conservative in the church’s context.”

Colorado Springs is, I think, not typical of Colorado in its religious culture.  It’s the center of a lot of activity among conservative Christians (including the HQ for some parachurch and “culture war” organizations, Focus on the Family among them).  Since the conflicts in the Episcopal Church are well-publicized among conservative Christians, I would wager that the average resident of Colorado Springs knows something about what’s going on.

By the way, the public radio program “This American Life” did a fascinating examination of Colorado Springs and its conservative Christian culture.  http://www.thislife.org and find the episode, “Pray,” from 10/21/2001.

[108] Posted by Episcopalian2011 on 8-10-2007 at 02:07 PM · [top]

CarolynP:  The Revisionist Dictionary says liberals back up their arguments by looking at the larger scope of scripture to refute specific examples.  I guess I’m guilty of that here.  I know people here said innocent until proven guilty.  Maybe not recent posts, but earlier posts (maybe not even on this particular thread, but I’m not going to go searching…I do have to work) gave the impression that people were unswerving in their support. 

I wonder if your acquisition binders are more boring than the work material I’m reading right now.  I doubt it!  Happy reading!

[109] Posted by Episcopalian2011 on 8-10-2007 at 02:14 PM · [top]

Again, DioTexGuy, I don’t know much about Colorado, but from what I could read on the website you directed me to, it sounded as if this is a nondenominational group? Where I am “conservative Christians” typically regard Episcopalians as sinister, too Catholic-like - no matter where we are in the “cultural wars,” Episcopalians do things funny in their eyes. I am not persuaded that they are going to pack the jury.  grin They don’t have any irons in this fire.

[110] Posted by oscewicee on 8-10-2007 at 02:50 PM · [top]

David Virtue reports that Fr. Armstrong said: “In the end we are a CANA parish and I am a CANA priest. The accusations made by O’Neill are being fully investigated by CANA at my request—so I can reclaim my good name that the Episcopal Diocese and Bishop of Colorado have slandered.” If CANA is really doing its own investigation, perhaps we will get a verdict we can trust without having to wait for the secular courts.

[111] Posted by Roland on 8-10-2007 at 03:44 PM · [top]

How about CANA, and then the secular courts, and then we’ll just pick the best 2 out of the 3! ;>)

[112] Posted by CarolynP on 8-10-2007 at 04:00 PM · [top]

If CANA is really doing its own investigation, perhaps we will get a verdict we can trust without having to wait for the secular courts.

The problem is CANA would not have jurisdiction all the way around. If I commit a tort in CA but move to NV then CA still has jurisdiction although my residence is NV. This matter is complicated that NV & CA don’t talk to each other (this must mean the “Articles of Confederation” have reappeared). Also the charges listed in this ESN story all but one no Ecclesiastical Court would have jurisdiction. CANA could not review if the $122,479.16 loan violated DioCO canons. The IRS claim is the most serious but again jurisdiction.

I know this seems silly in one sense but our whole nations understanding is based on it. Marbury v. Madison is whether or not the US Supreme court has the jurisdiction to issue a writ of mandamus.

In a case VERY close to my home (five miles) was the case of the DC Snipper. The Fed exercised their jurisdiction on the weapons charge, the Commonwealth on the murder charge. If one or the other exceeded it’s jurisdiction, I trust the defense attorneys would do an excellent job (see above about presuming prosecutors being faithful to do their best) and both Muhammad and Malvo would be free of those specific crimes (shots 11 & 13) adjudicated not guilty due to a technicality. 

DioCO actually discredits itself in a way by exceeding it’s authority, the Senate ethics panel does not go as far as this ESN release indicates. Granted this release could be in error. 3

However since I do not credit DioCO for being an expert in anything other than DioCO canon law, the only thing Armstrong+ is guilty of is accepting a loan outside DioCO canons. Everything else he is innocent until an appropriate authority adjudicates otherwise. This is the foundations to our nations (a pretty good one compared to many) sense of justice.

[113] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 8-10-2007 at 04:27 PM · [top]

I don’t trust this court’s declaration of his guilt because I saw what was done to Fr. Bollinger here in Owego, whom I knew was not guilty.  I saw how in particular discretionary funds are an area in which an appearance of malfeasance can easily be construed where there actually was none. 

I say the same thing,  if the man stole, why haven’t there been civil charges?
If they don’t have the evidence to bring civil charges,  he is innocent in my books!  And why should we trust ANYTHING these folks do?  After first going through what happened to Fr. Bollinger,  and then going through what happened to Good Shepherd,  the name of TEC is mud with me. 

Susan Peterson

[114] Posted by eulogos on 7-5-2010 at 09:18 PM · [top]

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