With the parish’s annual meeting now only a few days away, Grace church has said it hopes to begin the search for a full-time assistant rector shortly afterwards. With that in mind, and recognizing that this controversy likely will come up during the interview process (and should!), here are some insider’s questions that candidates can use when they meet with Bob Malm.
- Have you personally reached out to Mr. Bonetti and his family to resolve this conflict? Have you spoken directly with his mother about these issues? His spouse? How did that go?
- It looks like you made a settlement offer to Mr. Bonetti. If accepted, how would a settlement ensure your safety and that of the parish?
- I see that you refer to Eric as “dysfunctional,” “sick,” and “twisted” in your emails to the diocese. How does that comport with your vows as a priest and the baptismal covenant?
- You claim that random words, like “psychological torture,” taken out of context are a threat. Can you help me understand how these are threats?
- You included Eric’s spouse in your email instructing them to find a new church. Why was that necessary?
- It looks like Mr. Bonetti attempted to resolve this matter with you in January 2016. Why did you say no?
- I understand the church attempted to subpoena Eric’s mother, who is dying of COPD. Can you explain to me why that was necessary?
- You have stated on multiple occasions that you believe that Mr. Bonetti is mentally ill. If that’s the case, what steps did you take to get him help? Have you ever discussed your concerns directly with him?
- Do you think Grace Church’s internal dynamics are healthy? If so, why?
- Why did Fanny Belanger abruptly leave with two years left on her letter of agreement?
- How do your actions as rector reflect the baptismal covenant to members of the church?
- What effect has this conflict had on the church and its finances, and what is your plan for resolving these issues?
- The church has lost more than a 100 pledging units since this conflict arose. Why do you think that is and how do you plan to address those issues?
- How do you feel about the fact that Eric and his entire family have left the Christian faith over this conflict?
- What do you see as the ultimate outcome of this conflict?
Of course, some of these are tough questions to ask during an interview. But candidates who don’t ask these questions run the risk of being dragged into a situation that damages their careers and diminishes their own faith.
One further caution: If you interview for this position and choose to explore issues related to this conflict, make sure you get actual answers to your questions, then “trust but verify.” Don’t be taken in by Bob’s usual routines of denial, evasion and charm bombing.
My advice to candidates: Learn as much as you can, make your own decision, proceed at your own peril.