Skip to comments.Stench [Diocese of Central New York]
Posted on 09/20/2005 5:53:30 PM PDT by sionnsar
I hope that there is much more to this. Because if there isn't, this is one of the most disturbing stories I've seen in a very long time.
It has been more than three years since an unexpected visitor told the Rev. David Bollinger that a former rector at St. Pauls Church in Owego, N.Y. molested him when the man was 12 years old during an unsupervised overnight trip. Since then Fr. Bollinger says others have come forward with similar complaints. The accused continues to be licensed as a non-parochial member in good standing of the Diocese of Central New York.
On May 31, the diocese served Fr. Bollinger with a 90-day notice of inhibition, charging him with possible criminal misuse of his discretionary fund. The inhibition was extended for another 90 days following a meeting of the standing committee on Sept. 8.
Immediately after learning of the sexual misconduct allegation in 2002, Fr. Bollinger reported to the diocese and the parish that an allegation of misconduct had been made against a former rector. Fr. Bollinger said 16 others came forward after the announcement claiming either to have been victimized themselves, propositioned or an eye witness to misconduct. The controversy began to affect attendance at St. Pauls as supporters and alleged victims traded accusations. According to Fr. Bollinger, it was four months before the bishop, the Rt. Rev. Gladstone Skip Adams III, agreed to come to the parish and address the issue. When he did, Fr. Bollinger said, Bishop Adams denigrated the victim, claiming the person was never a member of the parish and that people like this are always looking for money. Bishop Adams declined to be interviewed for this report.
According to Fr. Bollinger, early last November during a meeting with the vestry at St. Pauls, Bishop Adams said that Fr. Bollinger had been scapegoated and he promised to bring healing to the congregation. Assuming that the alleged victim would finally be able to confront the accused, Fr. Bollinger said he and others from St. Pauls were dismayed after the co-chair of the Diocesan Pastoral Response Team reported, during the Nov. 19-20 convention, that there were no active misconduct investigations. Immediately after that person completed the presentation, Fr. Bollinger said convention delegates from St. Pauls and Trinity Church in Binghamton (where the priest had also served) confronted the speaker and demanded to know why their complaints were not being investigated. Bishop Adams intervened, according to Fr. Bollinger and said there was no diocesan investigation because Fr. Bollinger had not cooperated fully.
Later that same month, the diocesan controller obtained access to the Bollingers financial accounts at the Church Pension Fund and Fidelity Services without permission, according to a lawyer retained by Fr. Bollinger. In a Jan. 3 letter he wrote to the diocese, the lawyer said he was in possession of documents which indicate that the controller employed identity theft to enter the account. The Bollingers only learned they no longer had access to their financial records, according to the lawyer, after the controller boasted about the intrusion during a meeting with the vestry of St. Pauls. The lawyer asked the diocese to investigate and if necessary apologize to the Bollingers and admonish the controller.
Cover-up? If it walks like a duck...
Bishop Adams hired a public relations consultant from Eric Mower and Associates. A Jan. 12 memo to Bishop Adams from the consultant and other senior diocesan staff recommended an expression of righteous indignation that included discipline of Fr. Bollinger. We believe it is absolutely critical that we keep a separation between the emergence of an alleged victim and Davids actions regarding [the controller], the memo states. While a pastoral response to the alleged victim and the congregation is clearly in order, that has nothing to do with David. The actions against [the controller] and his subsequent communication with members of your college of clergy have everything to do with David.
The diocese did undertake an investigation into the accusations made by Fr. Bollingers lawyer in the Jan. 3 letter. Bishop Adams has quoted from the ensuing report, according to Fr. Bollinger, but has never made it available. In a letter to Fr. Bollinger, Bishop Adams said Fr. Bollinger had betrayed my trust and openly engaged in personal attacks on both me and members of my staff.
The complete memo is here. The vestry's letter seems to suggest that the Diocese was out to get Bollinger in any way that it could.
Subparagraph (4) accuses him of striking out at treasurers, auditors and diocesan staff persons engaged in lawful activity requested by the vestry of St. Pauls, possibly to conceal your own misdeeds. The use of the term striking out is misleading and inflammatory. Disagreements did occur with an inept, incompetent treasurer, not striking out. We would welcome the opportunity to speak to the specifics. As you know, there is no dispute about the fact that the diocesan comptroller called Fr. Bollingers private retirement account to access his personal information. She was tape recorded by the accounts recording system as she did this.
The wife of a St. Paul's vestryman writes:
The priest who has been accused by several men of having abused them as young teenagers was not Fr. Bollingers immedicate predecessor but the one before that. It is my understanding that Fr. Bollinger tried to do the right thing by the alleged victims, that he was unsatisfied with the bishops response, especially that the bishop took no action against the accused abuser, and that Fr. Bollinger, with some others, became angry at a diocesan convention when it was stated that there were no abuse issues in the diocese. I wasnt there but I have heard people who were say that there was a public confrontation between Fr. Bolliner and the bishop over this.
It was shortly after that that this investigation into the financial affairs of the parish began. My husband assures me from his knowledge as a vestry member that Fr. Bollinger did nothing improper with parish money at any time, and nothing with any discretionary fund moneys which was not first run past the vestry. Explainations of some of the details are available in the letter the vestry wrote to answer the inhibition, which is at VirtueOnline (and maybe at the Living Church also?) I dont think Bishop Adams actually believes himself that Fr. Bollinger misused any money, which makes what he is doing the more evil. If you are someone who thinks where there is smoke, theres fire, ask yourself if your parish could stand up to a forensic audit (Which by the way, cost the diocese $45,000!)
It is possible that Fr. Bollinger became unwisely overangry when an employee of the diocese improperly accessed his retirement account. But wouldnt you be angry? First this person called the bank and tried to get the information over the phone and was told she had no right to the information. Then she went on line, and used information she had (probably from diocesan personnel records) to answer the forgot your password? clue question, you know, like What is your mothers maiden name? , and reset his password. In the context of an already tense conflicted situation, I think an angry response is understandable. I dont think it is evidence of any psychiatric illness, as that memo implies. This strikes me as a sleazy tactic for discrediting someone.
Her husband adds:
Bishop Adams has been trying to use allegations of financial misconduct in order to silence Father Bollinger. Everyone in the Cortland-Ithaca (NY) district, of which Father Bollinger was Dean, knows that these allegations are false, including the Bishop.
If the Bishop is successful in defrocking Father Dave, this message will have been sent to every Rector in the Diocese: cross me, and youll be thrown out. By any means, however dishonest.
Father Bollinger wanted to provide pastoral care to a parishioner abused by a former Rector at St. Pauls (not the one immediately preceding Fr. Dave, BTW), and was essentially ordered not to by the Bishop.
The Episcopal Diocese of Central New York has a major problem on its hands and
mob boss Bishop Gladstone "Skip" Adams had better realize it quickly. Because unless there's something we're all not being told , one is forced to conclude that an actual diocese of a Christian church is engaging in activities that have blown by inappropriate, passed heavy-handed and are closing fast on criminal.
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