SODOR AND MAN: Bishop Pursues Witch-hunt against Former CofE Priest
Rt. Rev. Robert Paterson leaves office in ten days
By David Virtue DD
October 18, 2016
A witch-hunt against former Canon Theologian Dr Jules Gomes is being pursued by Bishop Robert Paterson ten days before the bishop’s farewell service in the Diocese of Sodor and Man.
But last month’s Church of England ruling on freemasonry could undermine the tribunal since one of the tribunal members is a freemason and one of the allegations against Dr Gomes is his opposition to freemasonry during his time in the Diocese of Southwark.
The only cleric from the diocese, Rev Clive Burgess, has already withdrawn from the tribunal and no other cleric from the diocese is willing to replace him.
Last month, Dr Gomes and his wife were forced to call the police complaining of harassment after they continued to receive letters at their new home sent by registered post and hand delivery from the Bishop’s Office.
The crisis facing the tribunal when it sits from October 19-21 is the presence of Nigel Cretney, a diocesan Reader, who is a freemason. Last month, Chancellor Geoffrey Tattersall, who is also the judge on the tribunal against Dr Gomes, refused to grant a faculty for the addition of a Masonic symbol to a memorial.
In his ruling he quoted a General Synod report stating that it was ‘clear that some Christians have found the impact of Masonic rituals disturbing and a few perceive them as positively evil.’ Tattersall agreed that General Synod ‘decided that there were a number of very fundamental reasons to question the compatibility of Freemasonry and Christianity.’
“If this is what he has ruled, how can he permit the presence of a freemason on the tribunal and that too when he would clearly be biased against me because of a charge that I was opposed to freemasonry?” Dr Gomes told VOL.
Dr Gomes argues that since he is no longer a member of the Church of England and since he holds holy orders from the Church of North India, the tribunal has no jurisdiction over him. He has refused to attend the hearing on these grounds.
Sources estimate that over £20,000 has already been spent by the cash-strapped diocese on the dispute which Bishop Paterson and Archdeacon Andie Brown have insisted on continuing 10 months after Dr Gomes resigned from his position as Vicar of Castletown and Arbory.
A number of prominent lawyers have voiced serious concerns about the nature of the Clergy Discipline Measure against Dr Gomes. Paul Beckett, the Isle of Man’s leading advocate on human rights, had earlier raised concerns of breaches of human rights, which were dismissed out of hand by the church authorities from the outset.
Christopher Kinley, another leading Manx advocate, said that the public would be surprised to learn that the church had spent many thousands of pounds out of the collection plate pursuing Dr Gomes, even though he had left the Church of England, and the tribunal in practice had no sanction against Dr Gomes in the event it did find against him.
Dr Gomes claims that the bishop and archdeacon filed the CDM against him to scupper Dr Gomes’ own petition of doleance to Tynwald from going ahead. Dr Gomes had petitioned Tynwald in July 2015, calling for an investigation into allegations of racism, bullying and harassment. If Tynwald had proceeded with the petition, Bishop Robert Paterson might have had to face a select committee.
“The timing is carefully calibrated to coincide with the bishop’s departure so there will be no possibility of Tynwald appointing a select committee to investigate charges of bullying and harassment against Bishop Paterson,” said Dr Gomes.
The CDM filed by Archdeacon Andie Brown contain allegations against Dr Gomes of losing his temper with the church cleaner Andrea Quine; doing ministry while a full-time PhD student at Cambridge University without Permission to Officiate; making allegations against the Bishop and Archdeacon in the media, accusing another priest of using ‘racist epithets’ and allowing his wife and others to develop an online petition against the bishop and archdeacon. Two of these allegations have since been dismissed.
“The allegations are so trivial that the entire procedure is Kafkaesque,” said Dr Gomes. “If the church is seen to be doing justice, other people who have committed similar offences need to be brought to book. Why was no action taking against the bishop for losing his temper at Synod? Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, lost his temper with me and shouted at me when I was serving under him at Liverpool Cathedral. We were good friends after that,” Dr Gomes told VOL.
VOL has discovered that the CDM filed against Bishop Paterson by senior Manx priest Fr Robert Ferguson accused the bishop of ‘aggressive gestures, verbal threats and intimidation’ after Bishop Paterson lost his temper at a meeting of the Diocesan Synod on May 11, 2010. The CDM describes how Churchwarden Teresa Wills said she thought the bishop was going to hit her after he ‘slammed his papers down and shouted at us a series of abusive comments.’
A senior lawyer from England who has seen the CDM against Dr Gomes referred to the complaint as ‘a trawl to find things to complain about.’ ‘Almost the entirety of this complaint is hearsay. Almost the entirety of this complaint relates to people who do not think that it is sufficiently important to complain themselves,’ he observed.
Dr Gomes said he wished to express his profound gratitude to all who have supported him through this traumatic time, the Management Team and members of St Augustine’s Church and especially Paul Beckett and Christopher Kinley, “my advocates who have offered much of their time pro bono and are exceptionally talented lawyers.”
When contacted by the local newspaper on the Isle of Man the Bishop’s Office declined to comment.