Showing posts with label allegations of sexual harassment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label allegations of sexual harassment. Show all posts

Thursday, March 28, 2019

Still More Disturbing Correspondence from Tenth Presbyterian

Recently I received additional emails and correspondence relating to the debacle at Tenth Presbyterian in Philadelphia. The debacle includes multiple allegations of sexual misconduct; a seeming lack of accountability by the pastor, Liam Goligher; and possible efforts by the church and its law firm to suppress criticism by former member Phil Snyder. Most importantly, I believe that the church evinces an appalling lack of concern for those hurt by these actions.

In the first email, posted below, Frank Pulcini, who appears to be a member of Tenth Presbytrerian, discusses the allegations of sexual misconduct in the church’s basement, which it refers to as “the catacombs.” To Frank’s credit, he urges a engaged approach to the issue, including stepping up security and notifying others about the issue, as well as providing care for the alleged victim and pulling in the police. I also am grateful that Frank contemplated the safety of children—an issue too often overlooked.

At the same time, there are some disconcerting aspects to Frank’s message. For example, he urges church leadership not “to keep this hushed,” further noting that no one called 911 at the time of the alleged incident. Moreover, it appears that no one had notified the police. The notion that the church can handle this incident — which sounds like a case of sexual assault — is shocking and appalling, and sounds very much like the Catholic Church and its efforts to handle its own sexual abuse issues internally. The results of the latter are well-known, and should have been enough to make any reasonable clergyperson think twice before trying to handle things personally.

Here is the content of Frank’s email:



The second email, while brief, is equally troubling. An exchange between Phil and Liam Goligher, it shows that Goligher was personally aware of the allegations of sexual misconduct. But what is truly telling is the suggestion that they catch up after Sunday services.

I don’t know about you, but the time after services at every church I’ve ever attended has been a whirlwind of little kids, coffee, small talk, and people coming and going. It’s a great place to find out how elderly friends are doing, or if those who are sick and shut in need anything. But as a place to address  allegations of sexual misconduct, it is about the worst possible place and time imaginable. Thus, unless I am mischaracterizing life at Tenth Presbyterian, Goligher’s follow-up suggests a shockingly cavalier approach to a potentially devastating issue, particularly for the woman who allegedly was assaulted. In other words, yikes. Just yikes.

Here’s the email:




The third email I’m posting today is an email sent to various people following Phil’s loss of his defamation case in the Philadelphia courts. When reading it, keep in mind that these are allegations, and to my knowledge, nothing has been proven in a court of law. 

That said, I believe Phil. Issues involving sexual misconduct and the safety of church members should have been handled with dispatch. There’s no reason this should have been acrimonious, difficult, or divisive. Yet even in these cursory emails, it looks very much like church officials are trying to sidestep and downplay the matter.

Of course, that raises the question why. Why would the church not want the police involved? Why would it not want transparency? I don’t know the answer, but my gut instinct is that it has something to hide, and that there’s more to this than meets the eye.

I’d also like to add that I admire Phil’s tenacity. In my dispute with Bob Malm, I know what he’s experiencing, and I am willing to bet he’s been called everything from insane to a stalker and more. Been there, done that. Churches know no bounds when it comes to ad hominem attacks on those who challenge the status quo, in my case even urging me to commit suicide. I hope that true Christians will offer support, encouragement and prayer on Phil’s behalf.

Apropos the issue of defamation, I no longer practice law, having happily retired, and no longer am licensed to practice law. That said, it’s a basic notion of defamation law that substantial truth is a defense. Thus, while Phil may have used inaccurate legal terminology, it appears that some sort of involuntary sexual misconduct did occur. I therefore believe Phil to be correct when he says that it is not slander, horrible or otherwise. I express no opinion as to whether Goligher indeed has engaged in criminal activity.

Of course, as a practical matter, if you are a church official, is it in your best interest to discourage reporting of misconduct? Of course not. If you do, you run the risk of potential personal and organizational liability, as well as devastating reputational damage. The fact that Tenth Presbyterian appears to be rabidly doing so again suggests to me that something is seriously wrong at the church. Moreover, if Phil’s conclusion that the church is blaming the victim is accurate, then things really are ugly at Tenth Presbyterian.

Lastly, we see the most recent correspondence from Gary Samms, the attorney for Tenth Presbyterian, in which he attempts to persuade Phil to quit communicating about this situation. While I appreciate its professional tone and demeanor (versus that of a certain government contracts attorney in Washington, DC), as a former attorney I find it noteworthy that it doesn’t claim that Phil is engaging in defamation. My guess is that Gary knows that Phil’s assertions are accurate, and far from defamatory. This, combined with the fact that an inflammatory letter would simply result in further criticism, suggests to me that the church knows that there’s not much it can do to shut down criticism.

Of course, that begs the issue: If people at Tenth Christian really are Christians, why did they try to get an injunction against Phil in the first place? It seems clear that he was neither violent, nor threatening. As such, the church appears to have borne false witness. The fact that the church pursued such a course of action yet again leads me to conclude that it is hiding something—possibly something quite serious. Otherwise, why would the church engage in what appears to be profoundly unethical behavior? And behavior that is so very damaging to its reputation? Moreover, its actions suggest this is not an emotionally or spiritually safe church, nor one that is safe against sexual abuse. If nothing else, it’s profoundly stupid for Liam to announce his decision that the incident at a pastor’s home was a “cultural misunderstanding.” The appropriate response was to notify the police immediately, and possibly to hire independent counsel to investigate the matter and notify the deacons, staff and congregation of its findings. Beyond that, a visit from a law enforcement crime prevention expert or a consultant in church security would have been a wise move. There is simply no reason for Liam Goligher to play junior police officer.

That said, Gary talks about facts not at Phil’s disposal. If the former can prove that the church handled allegations of sexual misconduct appropriately, I am, of course, more than happy to publish that information. Same goes for evidence that Phil indeed was violent and threatening. Or if Gary or the church wish to refute my belief that there’s more to this sordid tale than meets the eye, I am happy to hear them out. Somehow, I have the feeling the phone’s not going to be ringing off the hook any time soon.

In the meantime, I am looking forward to receiving more information on this case, and am committed to publishing this information as I receive it.

Until then, my advice to Tenth Presbyterian is this: Don’t pull a Bob Malm aka be stupid. Act like Christians and make things right. Just as Bob’s efforts have done nothing to shut down criticism of him (indeed, Bob’s conduct has exacerbated his reputational woes) so too will Tenth Presbyterian only compund its problems if it continues down its current path.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Commenter on Episcopal Cafe Confirms That TEC #Metoo Efforts a Crock

I recently posted a comment on Episcopal Cafe, pointing out that coming suspension of the canon law statute of limitations for clergy sexual misconduct is largely bogus. Specifically, the diocese of Virginia, the largest in The Episcopal Church, still insists that clergy retaliation for filing a Title IV case is acceptable. Thus, anyone who complains internally of clergy misconduct is at risk.

Not surprisingly, others agreed; see below.

Meanwhile, Dysfunctional Bob continues as clergy, Susan Goff continues to ignore the issue, and to my knowledge, nothing has been done about the allegations that bishop Shannon Johnston covered up the sexual harassment of a female church employee.

My advice: Do NOT pursue an internal complaint if you experience clergy misconduct. If you do, get the hell out of Dodge and leave the Episcopal Church before you do.


Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Rumors About Bishop Shannon

Someone recently asked me about +Shannon, and rumors swirling about the abrupt news of his departure, as well as the recent departure of other key personnel in the diocese. Specifically, I was asked if the allegations about +Shannon potentially covering up a case of sexual harassment have anything to do with another recent departure, presumably that of Pat Wingo.

By way of clarification, the allegations to which I am referring do not in any way suggest that Pat Wingo engaged in sexual harassment. 

More than that I cannot say, except that +Shannon has a dubious track record when it comes to dealing with clergy misconduct. That includes his whole approach of, “tell the wardens about it.” But as anyone who ever worked in HR knows, there are times when, for a variety of reasons, those experiencing abuse or harassment simply cannot deal with the issue locally, or with these directly involved. In those situations, it is highly inappropriate to insist that they do.

In my case, I can also say that +Shannon has turned an appallingly blind eye to Bob Malm and Jeff Chiow’s actions, and the damage they are doing to The Episcopal Church. As a result, it is fair to ask, “Why even have a bishop if he or she won’t deal with clergy misconduct? In what sort of sick religion is it okay to bully the dying? In what sort of church is it okay for clergy to refer to their own parishioners as “sick,” “twisted,” and “dysfunctional,” as Bob Malm has done?”

Indeed, per the diocese, bullying, workplace harassment, and deliberate misuse of church funds are not of weighty and material importance to the ministry of the church. I have it in writing, reviewed and approved by Bishop Shannon personally.

My opinion is that all of this points up a larger truth, which is that we are really seeing just how troubled the Diocese of Virginia and Grace Episcopal church have really become. And no wonder Bob Malm doesn’t want to tell parishioners that this sort of thing is inappropriate—it’s his modus operandi, even if done behind the scenes. Something about a house divided....


Monday, June 25, 2018

Unsubstantiated Allegations of Sexual Harassment by Bob Malm Emerge

There’s an old saying among activists that, if you protest long enough, you will see and hear everything. Today proved that to be the case.

While I was out protesting today, a woman pulled up, insisting that we needed to talk. Initially, I ignored her, as I was surrounded by bustling traffic.

Eventually, we did strike up a conversation, during which she asserted that, while a member of the church, Bob sexually harassed her.

The conversation was somewhat disjointed, and by her own statement, the woman in question suffers from mental illness. As a result, I am not convinced that her depiction of events is accurate. That said, she was able to provide names, dates and places.

Overall, I would say her allegations are not convincing. But they raise troubling possibilities, and the one thing that is very clear is that the diocese is incapable of evaluating allegations of this sort in a fair and impartial manner.

Based on her story, it also appears that she did at one point receive pastoral care via the parish, but has since fallen through the cracks. Perhaps that is the real story in all of this, which is a lack of follow-up by the parish.

To be clear, these are unsubstantiated allegations. Nothing has been proven in a court of law, and there are reasons to doubt the accuracy of the story. But the lack of a meaningful mechanism with the diocese to investigate concerns such as this means that this is a loose end that will never be resolved.