Thinking Anglicans

Court rejects request to review in Pittsburgh

The Diocese of Pittsburgh reports that the earlier court decision in its favour is upheld.

The Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania has turned down a request made by former diocesan leaders to reargue their appeal of a lower court’s ruling concerning diocesan property.

On February 2, 2011, Commonwealth Court affirmed the decision by Judge Joseph James of the Court of Common Pleas of Allegheny County that found the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh of the Episcopal Church to be the rightful trustee of diocesan-held property and assets, based on a Stipulation the former diocesan leaders agreed to in 2005. Those former leaders had appealed Judge James’ decision to Commonwealth Court, and two weeks after the appeals court affirmed Judge James, they asked the appeals court to reconsider its ruling.

The actual court order is available as a PDF, but the content is reproduced here:

NOW, March 29 2011, having considered appellants’ application for re-argument before the court en banc and appellees’ answer, the application is denied.

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Father Ron Smith
9 years ago

This really does soud like ‘Game, Set and Match’ in court to the lawful Diocese of Pittsburgh in TEC. No doubt this will give heart-burn to the ACNA schismatics. But then, that’s what the dodgy game of schism is all about: you don’t get to take the silver when you go! Vale, Abp Bobby!

Robert Ian Wiliams
Robert Ian Wiliams
9 years ago

Of course Anglicanism was birthed in a schism, and took all the property!

In 1829 on the granting of Catholic emancipation, the Catholic church had to agree not to claim it back as a prerequisite!

Andrew
Andrew
9 years ago

Where do we stand in Falls Church, Virginia?

Pat O'Neill
Pat O'Neill
9 years ago

Well, they can still appeal to the Superior Court and then the Supreme Court of PA…and, then, provided they have argued any federal constitutional issues so far, to the US Supreme Court. (If no federal issues have been involved at the state level, then the US SC will not take the case.)

But one would hope they’d stop wasting the courts’ time and everyone’s money.

Cynthia Gilliatt
Cynthia Gilliatt
9 years ago

The remaining VA cases come before the court for a final disposition later this month. Some of the smaller breakaways may settle, but I suspect that neither of those groups now occupying Truro and The Falls Church will settle – the two occupy large tracts of very valuable land in N.Va suburbs of DC. The courts have already ruled that there are no constitutional issues at stake, so nobody can appeal to the Supremes.

Pat O'Neill
Pat O'Neill
9 years ago

RIW:

I’m not sure the law on ownership of church property in the 16th and 17th centuries was as clear as you make it out to be. I’m neither lawyer nor historian, however (and neither are you, to my knowledge), so maybe someone with greater expertise in those matters can clear that up.

In any case, the law in the United States as to church property is pretty clear–it relies on the established practices and canons of each denomination.

evensongjunkie
evensongjunkie
9 years ago

Uh, RIW, do you think for a minute that France, (in which the national or local government owns the churches) is any better?

EmilyH
EmilyH
9 years ago

For Cynthia …On the issue of Falls Church and Truro. Would it not be SCOTUS that would rule whether or not there were any constitutional issues involved? I would think that it would be they that would decide if they were were willing to grant cert.? I really don’t know and would appreciate a response and reference to the documents?

EmilyH
EmilyH
9 years ago

On Falls Church Truro…my recollection is that the appeals court never dealt with the issue of the constitutionality of 57-9 because, assuming it validity, Truro and Falls Church did not meet its standard. The statute required that the entity which they joined be a “branch” of the church that experienced a “division”. Even assuming that the Anglican communion is a “church”, the branch that they joined, CANA of Nigeria, was not a branch of TEC. I believe they remanded the case back to the trial court for disposition of the property issues and that is what is coming? My memory… Read more »

Cynthia Gilliatt
Cynthia Gilliatt
9 years ago

I am no lawyer, but I think that the ruling of the VA Supreme Court precludes appeal to the Supremes. Since the matter has gone to the VA Supremes and been sent back down, I think there is no appeal beyond the local court. The thieves have run out of tricks, I think. And I think it quite possible that between now and then, some of the smaller bands of thieves may come to settlement, as happened earlier this year with one of them.

Richard Grand
Richard Grand
9 years ago

To RIW-please stop. The laws of England, such as they were in the 16th Century would not have prevented the action of the Monarch. The question of who “owned” them didn’t exist in the legal sense. Besides, the “split” had nothing to do with the congregationalism we see in ACNA. Remember that Henry did not intend to actually found a new Church, but after Mary the Pope decided to excommunicate Elizabeth and say that killing her would be an act approved by God. Not a situation in which property issues have a lot of importance.

Peter Edwards
Peter Edwards
9 years ago

How do I put this charitably? This is a site for Thinking Anglicans. IF, unlikely, it were to attract members of ACNA or FiF, despite the occasional appearances of Fr Ed, now of blessed memory and Ordinariate membership, and gone from our midst but for his faithful adherence to BCP 1662, would we not feel that we had somehow been intruded upon? There, the emphasis would be on the interpretation of the word ‘Thinking.’ We’re not required to disclose our credentials (but I would do so happily, as on the SCP site where our Chapter allegiance is required to be… Read more »

Cynthia Gilliatt
Cynthia Gilliatt
9 years ago

To clarify the question about the U S Supreme Court – the VA Supremes simply did not rule one way or anohter of the constitutional issue, but only on Virginia law. Since no constitutional issue was ruled on, there is no appeal the the Supremes. I think I got that right.

Cynthia Gilliatt
Cynthia Gilliatt
9 years ago

One final comment on the Virginia case: the final hearing is scheduled for April 24.

EmilyH
EmilyH
9 years ago

Yes Cynthia, I agree there was no ruling on the constitutionality of 57-9. It would seem, to me, that VA congregations are caught in a no win position. If 59-9 is constitutional, they lose because they did not meet the conditions of the statute. If it is not, then the issue becomes hierarchical preference vs neutral principles and they lose?

Andrew
Andrew
9 years ago

If TEC prevails in these very old Virginia parishes, would that put an end, everywhere in the US, to the efforts of schismatics to take property? Or would the precedent only apply in Virginia?

Lapinbizarre
Lapinbizarre
9 years ago

This ruling does not concern ownership of the property of parishes which seceded from the diocese of Pittsburgh, let alone the ownership of parish property in other dioceses. It relates only to assets – property and financial – of the Episcopal Diocese of Pittsburgh. A few years ago, Bishop Duncan signed a legally-binding agreement which pretty-well ruled out any future claim to diocesan property in the event of his leaving TEC to form a parallel diocese. He tried it anyway, but obviously hadn’t a leg to stand on.

Robert ian Williams
Robert ian Williams
9 years ago

The legal system in Canada seems far quicker, fairer and efficient than the US.

Leonardo Ricardo
9 years ago

By St. George, I think I´ve got it: No wonder Archbishop Nicholas Okoh/Nigeria has distanced himself from Nigerias very own +Martyn Minns and tossed/passed him and the ¨Virginia Caper¨ onward to the ¨continuing¨ ACNA — apparently CANA doesn´t live at Falls Church or Truro anymore–no need to pack up and find alternative Church of Nigeria/Anglican Communion properties– presto/changeo–back to pretending noth´n happened at all.

Pat O'Neill
Pat O'Neill
9 years ago

Andrew:

Any ruling in Virginia state courts applies only in Virginia…though the precedent can be pointed to in other states as justification for making similar rulings in similar situations. If the issues were to be ruled upon in federal district court, any ruling would apply within that district. The next step, then, would be an appeal by the losing party to the Supreme Court…whose ruling, if any, would apply nationwide.

Robert:

Quicker and more efficient, perhaps….but fairness is in the eye of the beholder, isn’t it?

Cynthia Gilliatt
Cynthia Gilliatt
9 years ago

The Virginia ruling will apply not only to the Truro and The Falls Church properties,but several others whose congregations joined the Nigerians and stole property. The hearing in April may last several days, and there’s no knowing how long it will take the court to rule. Not knowing squat about the Canadian system, I will leave that debate to others. Since the VA Supremes declined to make a constitutional finding, there is nothing in this case that could go to the Big Supremes.

Dirk Reinken
Dirk Reinken
9 years ago

From Cynthia Gilliatt:

“One final comment on the Virginia case: the final hearing is scheduled for April 24.”

Easter?

Richard Grand
Richard Grand
9 years ago

As a Canadian, I can’t figure out what RIW is getting at. Our system, like all others, works according to the issues and the evidence. No “schismatic” Anglican parish in Canada has won their case and taken the property. They have lost every time in the courts. The “exception” in Ottawa happened because the Diocese allowed a congregation to purchase the property, but not to keep their endowments. The Diocese had little use for the building, probably due to its condition. However, the Diocese did “win back” another building (there were two congregations that joined ANiC-the Anglican Network in Canada).… Read more »

EmilyH
EmilyH
9 years ago

On the Nigeria CANA connection and ACNA. I have the following from an interview of David Virtue with newly appointed/elected Bishop Dobbs http://www.virtueonline.org/portal/modules/news/article.php?storyid=14076 “DOBBS: The Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) continues to endow the Convocation of Anglicans in North America with a great gift – direct and unimpeachable membership in the Anglican Communion. As, the Communion does not yet recognize a 39th Province in North America and the other constituent jurisdictions of the ACNA are not members, only the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion) through CANA offers an authentic, orthodox connection to the Anglican Communion. We hold two passports; remain… Read more »

EmilyH
EmilyH
9 years ago

To follow up on the CANA Nigeria situation and Bishop Dobbs’s comments below…. In the litigation and briefs filed, CANA attys argued that there were two branches of the Communion, one led by Canterbury, the other Nigeria. They used the substantial changes made in the Nigerian church constitution deleting references to Canterbury and, the following: “As a result of these recent changes, the Anglican Communion is now divided into two “branches”—those that relate to all provinces that relate to the See of Canterbury, and those that relate only to those who are understood as adhering to the historic faith, doctrine,… Read more »

robert ian Williams
robert ian Williams
9 years ago

In the Pawleys Island case, TEC lost because the propperty had been deeded by the diocese to the parish in 1900.

Could Bishop Lawrence deed all the parishes to his suporters and then leave TEC?

Cynthia Gilliatt
Cynthia Gilliatt
9 years ago

The hearing must of course NOT be on April 24. I suspct the 25th but will try and find out. Sorry for the confusion.

Lapinbizarre
Lapinbizarre
9 years ago
Laurence Roberts
Laurence Roberts
9 years ago

Dobbs sounds cynical to me. What a shame. Disappointing in one so Biblical and conservative in doctrine.

High ground occupied by cynics.

Makes me wonder, why bother ?

Jeremy
Jeremy
9 years ago

He could, but he would then face lots of lawsuits for breach of fiduciary duties (and aiding and abetting same).

And any aiders and abetters (“his supporters”) would not likely keep the fruits of their malfeasance.

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