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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Case Dismissed

Note: The above image is from the webpage of the Diocese of Central New York.

Presentment Charges Against Fr. David Bollinger Dismissed
The Living Church

The Rev. David Bollinger, former rector of St. Paul’s Church, Owego, N.Y., was exonerated of presentment charges today after an ecclesiastical court in the Diocese of Central New York dismissed all counts against him. The verdict cannot be appealed, according to canon law.

After six fruitless hours yesterday in which the church attorney for the diocese unsuccessfully attempted nine times to introduce witnesses and evidence previously excluded by the court, the hearing today required only about an hour.

Fr. Bollinger, acting as his own lawyer, began his defense this morning by submitting one piece of evidence verifying that he had paid taxes on income the diocese had accused him of failing to report. After that was admitted, Fr. Bollinger noted that the prosecution had offered no evidence to support its allegations against him and made a motion for dismissal. After a brief recess for consultation, the panel of five judges returned and granted the motion.

Prior to the July 16 start of the trial, Presiding Judge Carter had ruled inadmissible the prosecution’s list of witnesses and nearly all of its evidence against Fr. Bollinger because the diocese missed the discovery-phase deadline by more than two weeks. In lengthy closing remarks, Judge Strickland repeated the reasons why the diocese’s evidence and witnesses had been excluded. He also strongly criticized the diocese’s handling of the case, stating that it was required to abide by the same rules of procedure as everyone else.

The Rt. Rev. Gladstone “Skip” Adams, Bishop of Central New York, had inhibited Fr. Bollinger in 2005, accusing him of financial misconduct and disobedience. Fr. Bollinger contended that the charges were part of an attempt to punish him after he continued a public campaign to have sexual misconduct allegations against a previous rector of St. Paul’s investigated by the diocese. The previous rector voluntarily renounced his orders in April 2006 after a diocesan review panel recommended that presentment charges be prepared.

The trial attracted about 10 spectators, eight of them priests of the diocese. After the court adjourned, one of them asked Bishop Adams if he was now prepared to release the so-called Shafer Report, a document commissioned by the diocese to investigate allegations that a former diocesan employee had improperly accessed Fr. Bollinger's personal financial information. Release of the Shafer Report had been requested in a resolution proposed during the 2005 diocesan convention, but the resolution was tabled.

The court ordered the diocese to make the report available. It was considered relevant because one of the presentment charges against Fr. Bollinger states that he falsely accused Gael Sopchak of illegally accessing his personal financial information. In a pre-trial conference last month, James Sparkes, the church attorney for the diocese, said the diocese would never make the report public.

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Caminante said...

That Christ is in the church of San Marcos (built with ERD and UTO funds), Izalco (45 miles to the west of the capitol), and is the work of the Very Rev'd Luis Serrano, dean of the pro-cathedral, San Juan Evangelista, in San Salvador. It is one of my favourite images that P. Luis has done.

Muthah+ said...

What is sad about this whole case is that it never had to have happened. If there had been a proper investigation of the sexual misconduct of Ralph Johnson, the investigation would have shed light on the financial irregularities that have been with the parish since the Johnson tenure.

Now two careers are ruined, a priest's health compromised, and a diocese reeling with the knowledge that their bishop has the character of one who would play unfair in the face of justice and truth. Please pray for the people of the Diocese of Central New York. We have much to do to heal our church.