UPDATE: Presiding Bishop places Partial Restriction on Bishop Bruno

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UPDATE: Church attorney calls for deposing Bishop Bruno and forensic audit of the “Corp Sole” Read it here.

 

Press Release from Office of Public Affairs

 

[June 29, 2017] Today, Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop and Primate, the Most Rev. Michael Bruce Curry, has placed a “Partial Restriction on the Ministry of a Bishop” on the Rt. Rev. Jon Bruno of the Diocese of Los Angeles.

Signed by the Presiding Bishop, the Partial Restriction is effective immediately and is a temporary measure only, to protect the integrity of the Church’s disciplinary process, until it is concluded. This partial and temporary restriction does not “express any opinion about the merits of the pending Title IV proceeding.”

The text of the Partial Restriction follows:

Partial Restriction on the Ministry of a Bishop

In recent days, I have learned of actions that, in my view, may threaten the good order and welfare of the Church.  I have learned that, earlier this year, the Rt. Rev. Jon Bruno, Bishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles, entered into a contract for sale of property (the “St. James property”) that is central to a disciplinary matter now pending under Title IV of the Canons of The Episcopal Church, in which Bishop Bruno is the Respondent. According to Bishop Bruno’s submissions in that disciplinary matter, the contract for sale of the St. James property sets the closing date as July 3, 2017.

Bishop Bruno’s actions and intentions regarding an earlier attempted sale of the St. James property are currently under review in the pending disciplinary matter. I am deeply concerned that his act of entering into a new contract for sale of the same property, while his approach to the earlier sale is still under review, has the potential to undermine the integrity of the Church’s disciplinary process. The secrecy with which the recent sales contract was undertaken adds to the potential for undermining the integrity of the Church’s disciplinary process.

Accordingly, in order to protect the integrity of the Church’s disciplinary process and, thereby, the good order and welfare of the Church, and pursuant to Canons IV.7(3), (4), and IV.17(2), I hereby place the following partial restriction on the exercise of his ministry until the pending Title IV matter has been finally resolved:

During the period of the restriction, the Bishop, acting individually, or as Bishop Diocesan, or as Corporate Sole, or in any other capacity, is forbidden from closing on the sale of the St. James property, or otherwise selling or conveying the property or contracting to sell the property, or, in any way assisting in the sale or conveyance of the property.

This restriction is effective immediately. Nothing in this restriction is intended to express any opinion about the merits of the pending Title IV proceeding.

This document shall be served upon Bishop Bruno today and shall inform him of his right to have any objections to this restriction heard pursuant to Canon IV.7.

(The Most Rev.) Michael Bruce Curry
XXVII Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church

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James Pratt
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James Pratt

Christopher Seitz makes a good point. The PB can inhibit Bruno, and depose him. But oversight of Bruno's management of the temporalities is a different matter.

What I have not seen discussed is how California charity law might come into play. The Diocese, and the Corp. Sole, are charities, and as such there is a public interest in their management and financial dealings (cf. the investigation of the Trump foundations by the NY Attorney General for allegations of self-dealing and use of funds for non-charitable purposes), The Church Attorney hints at this in his suggestion for a forensic audit, but perhaps it is time to turn the whole affair over to California authorities.

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Professor Christopher Seitz
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Professor Christopher Seitz

My point is that +Bruno obviously wants to sell the property and believes that TEC cannot stop him due to his local position legally. Has no legal sovereignty? Title IV governs ecclesiastical life, which courts will not interrogate.

I am not agreeing with +Bruno. My point is that Title IV has sought to give supremo authority to a PB without the commensurate work on rewriting the constitution. This gap needs to be closed. Carrying around a metropolitan cross is a nice snappy liturgical gesture, but +Bruno does not believe it has teeth.

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Eric Bonetti
Member

I doubt +Bruno believes that the larger church has no legal claim to the property. First, he successfully litigated that very issue. Second, the Corp Sole audit report, while hardly a model of transparency, recites both case law and canon law in its assertion that the Dennis Canon applies to assets held be Corp Sole. Thus, +Bruno would get laughed out of court if he tried that line of argument.

This is merely a case of someone who is used to having his way.

What I would like to know is what is the LLC that Corp Sole apparently controls? It is reflected in the Corp Sole audit report, but with very little disclosure beyond that.

Given that an LLC typically is a strategy to limit liability, and often is used to conceal actual ownership, I am curious indeed to know what is going on there. Or, as the church attorney noted, something surely does not pass the sniff test.

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Eric Bonetti
Member

A corporate sole has no legal sovereignty, but is a one-person corporate entity held, in this case, by a church officeholder. When +Bruno leaves office, his successor immediately acquires the same bundle of legal rights and obligations as he held. That said, because the Corp Sole comprises whoever is the canonically lawful bishop of LA, it cannot act in a manner inconsistent with church canons. Moreover, if +Bruno is removed from office, which appears increasingly likely given his conduct, he no longer is the Corp Sole and no longer has any legal authority over assets held by Corp. So, just as the PB has canonical authority over +Bruno, so too does he or she have canonical authority over the Corp Sole.

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Professor Christopher Seitz
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Professor Christopher Seitz

The real question is, apart from a general moral evaluation that +Bruno is off the plantation, what actual role does the PB have? Everyone can cheer him on, but materially does it bring anything to heel in legal terms re: corporate sole sovereignty in LA?

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Eric Bonetti
Member

I am glad to see that ++Curry is taking the matter seriously and is exercising his canonical rights to prevent potential injustice.

If nothing else, we should all be glad that the people of St. James the Great still want anything to do with The Episcopal Church. I would not blame anyone in that congregation for throwing up their hands in disgust.

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