Singh complaints are the norm, not exception

Anglican Watch [Alexandria, VA]

January 12, 2024

Per the Episcopal News Service, the family of Bishop Singh is calling for an independent investigation of Bruce Curry and Todd Ousley over their purported mishandling of their complaints of abuse involving Singh. Unfortunately, the church is handling this case better than most. And, regrettably, it’s unlikely we will see any accountability.

First, a disclaimer: We stopped covering the Singh case after we received requests from the family to edit our coverage. “Nothing about us without us,” was the request. Obviously, that flies in the face of our commitment as an independent source of news and perspective on the church, so that one went nowhere fast. 

In addition, the Singhs stated that they didn’t like our sometimes incendiary tone. Fair enough, but if they think being all churchy nice will get them anywhere, it hasn’t yet worked in 2,000 years, so it’s not likely to work now.

And the Singhs didn’t care for our reference to Singh as a pig. To be clear, that’s not an entirely unfair complaint, but someone who allegedly beats their wife and kids might well come in for more vigorous criticism. Maybe even Jesus’ thing about a nest of vipers.

In other words, even as liberal as we are, spare us another dose of Uber Crunchy for breakfast. We’ve had our fill.

At the same time, we are not unsympathetic. The experiences of the Singh family are the norm rather than the exception. The only difference is that the Singhs have gotten some media attention. After all, where would TEC be without the tokenism of an Indian bishop?

Most of those in the situation in which the Singh family finds itself are either ignored outright by Curry or brushed off by Todd Ousley with “this remains a diocesan matter.”

Particularly pernicious is when Ousley brushes off a complaint on a pretextual basis. 

In other words, if the bishop diocesan sends a notice of dismissal that says something like, “It’s Tuesday, and diocesan policy is that all complaints filed on Tuesday get dismissed,” Todd Ousley will posture it as “you’re unhappy with the decision you got,” and brush you off. 

But since Title IV contains no provision dismissing all Title IV complaints filed on Tuesdays, Ousley is willfully ignoring the underlying misconduct of the bishop diocesan, which is that they have violated Title IV by not cooperating in a Title IV case.

Ousley even took that approach in the case of Jack, a friend of ours allegedly raped by priest Richard Losch in the mid-1970s. That raises the question: What kind of a-hole ignores child rape? Nor did he comply with mandatory reporting, which is troublesome, as we are confident other victims will emerge.

In other words, Ousley appears to be bereft of any meaningful ethical reference point. Hardly reassuring when he is the clown in charge of the office of pastoral development.

Nor are things any different with Barb Klempf as intake officer for bishops. Complainants get no pastoral response, no acknowledgment of the complaint, nothing. Indeed, most of the time, complainants never hear back.

This criticism of Klempf is not one we make mindlessly. Months later, she is sitting on top of complaints against the following bishops, with no sign of any action.

  • Shannon Johnston.
  • Susan Goff.
  • Alan Gates.
  • Glenda “Bad Witch of the South” Curry.
  • Chilton Knudsen.
  • George Sumner. (This one should be particularly appalling, as it involves sexual harassment of an adult woman and retaliation against the whistleblower by George Sumner. Sumner should have been suspended immediately and defrocked in a matter of days or weeks.)

Meanwhile, Klempf just shot down a case against Chilton Knudsen. 

Her doing so was wrong. While she relied on a technicality, the reality is that church must hold Knudsen and Paula Clark accountable when they ruled that perjury by a priest (in this case, Will Bouvel) is not actionable under the canons. 

And no, “I thought what I said was accurate,” doesn’t cut it. 

The victim in that case, a friend of ours, either threatened Bouvel or he didn’t.

As to that issue, saying he objected to the ordination on the basis of Bouvel’s sexual orientation was not a threat within any legitimate meaning of the term. Since the diocesan chancellor and bishop were involved, both need to be held accountable. And even if Bouvel really believed that objecting to his ordination was a threat, priests are allegedly held to a higher standard, and this conclusion isn’t even rational.

Specifically, while we hold to a profoundly different view than does the victim in the Bouvel case, the church is broad enough to encompass a variety of opinions, and we will defend to the death the victim’s right to disagree with us.

Meanwhile, Klempf remains spectacularly uncommunicative, which only adds to the trauma of victims.

Turning to Curry, he has ignored numerous cases, including the case of Jack, whom Richard Losch allegedly raped. 

Similarly, he ignored pleas for assistance in the case of Yale Divinity classmate perjuring priest Bob Malm. And there’s reason to believe he’s ignored other complaints as well,

So what do we mean by ignore? 

We mean no response to the complainant, no effort to provide a pastoral response, nothing. 

Like the rich man in his palace who ignores beggars at the gate, Curry and his minions can’t be bothered with the little people. He gases on about love, but the last place you’ll find it is in Curry’s conduct.

Thus, we think the best way to understand the Singh complaints is to view them as a tiny ice cube, adrift in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic. Yet beneath that tiny, innocuous piece of frozen water is a vast mountain of ice, dangerous to all who approach.

In other words, as bad as it is, the Singh case is, in many ways, the Episcopal Church at its finest when it comes to clergy discipline. Not only did Curry eventually deign to answer, but Singh stepped down. Most Title IV cases are like a wheel in a hamster cage–designed to keep the complainant busy until they run out of steam.

As for chances the Singh family will see results from their campaign, Anglican Watch’s vote is for option D: “Chances are slim to none.” Curry these days is a lame duck who spends most of his time shuttling back and forth to the hospital, even as he gases on about the Way of Love. 

So, no one’s going to bother, and Ousley probably will fade off into the sunset when a new presiding bishop gets in. And things will continue, just as they have, as the Episcopal Church as we know it races towards its demise.

That said, we fully support an independent investigation. We just know the church well enough to safely predict that dog won’t hunt. If nothing else, a real investigation would quickly flag the fact that, compared to most cases, Curry was spectacularly responsive.

Let’s face it: When it comes to clergy discipline and ethics, the Episcopal Church just doesn’t care.