Skip to comments.Bank Freezes Accounts of St. John’s, Bristol
Posted on 08/16/2005 7:45:04 AM PDT by sionnsar
The first lawsuit between the Bishop of Connecticut and the vestry of St. Johns, Bristol, was filed in early August when Farmington Savings Bank lodged an interpleader with the New Britain Superior Court, asking it to determine ownership of the parish checking accounts.
Around Aug. 1 a representative of the diocese contacted the Farmington Savings Bank asking that new signature cards be prepared for the parish bank account giving nominees of the diocese control of the funds. At approximately the same time, St. Johns vestry contacted the bank asking that new account numbers be assigned and that the bank statements be mailed to a new address.
Farmington Savings Bank responded to the conflicting requests by placing the funds in court hands by asking for an interpleader. An interpleader is a legal proceeding that allows someone to compel parties making the same claim against him to litigate the matter between themselves.
A spokesman for the diocese told The Living Church Bishop Smith was on vacation and unavailable for comment.
The American Anglican Council released a statement on Aug. 12 criticizing Bishop Smiths actions saying it was a flagrant abuse of canon law. The AAC argued that the canons of the General Convention and canons of the Diocese of Connecticut vest authority in the vestry as agents and legal representatives of the parish in all matters concerning its corporate property.
While members of the congregation are free to come and go from St. Johns, members of the vestry have been forbidden access to parish records and files. Following Bishop Smiths July 13 seizure of the church building and parish assets, the diocesan-appointed administrator, Edward Siebert, took control of the parish post office box and directed the Bristol postmaster to direct all mail into diocesan hands.
Neither vestry members nor the treasurers have access to bills or the means to pay them, thereby inhibiting them from discharging canonical duties, according to the AAC's press release. The unilateral assumption of the vestrys duties sets a dangerous precedent that establishes a pattern for financial and legal responsibility, and by extension liability, to be assumed by bishops and dioceses across the nation. In this scenario, bishops would be responsible for all liabilities, contractual obligations, claims, lawsuits and any litigation, the release said.
Bishop Smiths decision to claim all the assets of St. Johns comes at approximately the same time the Vatican has issued new guidelines for Roman Catholic parishes and dioceses. The Catholic World News Service reported on Aug. 11 that the Congregation for the Clergy in Rome ruled that parish assets cannot be seized unilaterally by a diocese, and can be turned over to a diocese only with the consent of the pastors and their parish finance councils.
The decision came in response to an appeal by seven parishes in the Archdiocese of Boston that appealed the diocesan decision to close the churches and liquidate the parish assets. The Vatican ruled that when a parish is merged into another parish, the assets of the one become part of the new parish, not the diocese. The properties of a closed parish can be surrendered to the archdiocese only with the consent of the new parish administration, the Congregation for the Clergy said.
Roman Catholic angle on this (last 2 paragraphs) ping
Wait a sec.. I thought the parish was in financally very bad shape..which is one of the reasons Drew+ gave for his actions..this is kind of like fighting over who owns an empty hole?
But you know... this is peculiar. No mention of this on the CT 6 website. Or maybe that's just the lawyer's advice.
Well, this is what interpleader is for.
It's funny to me that none of the expropriated Church members or vestrymen sued, and that it took a third party bank to force litigation here.
You need to see what's going on in California:
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