CNY Church Court Dismisses Case Against Priest
Tuesday, July 17, 2007
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Raymond J. Dague 315-422-2052
After an 18 month saga of temporary inhibitions and presentment by the Episcopal Diocese of Central New York and Bishop Gladstone “Skip” Adams, III of Syracuse charging a parish priest with financial misconduct at his former parish, the priest was exonerated today when the Episcopal Church ecclesiastical court dismissed all of the charges. That priest now has restored to him by canon law the right to celebrate the Eucharist and perform the other functions of a clergyman which were taken away from him by the bishop a year and a half ago.
Fr. David Bollinger defended the proceeding which resulted in the church court refusing to allow any evidence to be introduced against the priest or any witnesses to testify against him. The judge cited numerous procedural problems with the case brought by the bishop and the diocese against Fr. Bollinger. Carter Strickland, the judge in the ecclesiastical court, had previously directed the prosecutor, church attorney James Sparks, to give Fr. Bollinger copies of the evidence against him, but the diocese refused to release it to the priest. One of the pieces of evidence was the so-called Schafer Report. That was a report commissioned by the diocese and prepared by a previous judge of the ecclesiastical court. That report was believed to have contained evidence to the effect that Fr.Bollinger was not guilty of misconduct.
“One of the basic rules of due process of law is that someone accused of an offense should be able to see the evidence against him,” said Raymond Dague, the attorney for Fr. Bollinger. “The failure of the diocese and the bishop to disclose this evidence to Fr. Bollinger was the straw that broke the camel’s back in their case against this priest. We applaud the faithful judge who was able to stand up against a bishop and tell him that he was not above the law and rules of fair play.”
The bishop brought the charges against Fr. Bollinger after Bollinger publicly challenged the bishop. Fr. Bollinger had claimed that the bishop was covering up an alleged sex abuse of young boys by a retired priest at Bollinger’s Owego, New York parish. That retired priest, Fr. Ralph Johnson, renounced his orders as an Episcopal priest when later confronted by the allegations of the sexual abuse, but the bishop kept moving forward with the case against Fr. Bollinger despite that development.
When the diocese realized that the judge in the ecclesiastical court was directing the prosecuting church attorney to turn copies of evidence over to Fr. Bollinger, the diocese tried unsuccessfully to get the judge off of the case and to transfer the case to another church court.
“Ignoring the orders of Judge Strickland to show their evidence to Fr. Bollinger was the basis of the dismissal,” said Dague. “But I am sure that the challenge to the court by the diocese did not help their case much either.”