[Updated Sept 21, 2010]
On December 28, 2008, the New York Daily News broke a story featuring Gregory Malia. The headline: Episcopal priest makes a name for himself in New York City nightclubs. Later that day, Bishop Paul Marshall released the statement below. He then replied to reporters' questions prompted by the statement. Farther below is a list, with links, of the developing story as it has played out in the media.
Bishop Paul Marshall's statement, Sunday, Dec. 28, 2008:
I read the Daily News article with deep distress and know its contents will trouble many parishioners. The allegations made in the article, if true, constitute a serious violation of ordination vows to be "a wholesome example" to a priest's people. If true, they may also violate other canonical provisions and certainly portray an unacceptable idea of Christian stewardship.
The Episcopal Church provides due process when such issues arise, however, and no summary judgment can be made by me unilaterally. During the time that the Standing Committee is investigating Fr. Malia's activities, I am removing him from his appointment as my vicar at St. James in Dundaff, and will be inhibiting him from the exercise of priestly ministry. The conservative group he has gathered around himself will be traumatized, and I will ask two priests in the locale to minister to them.
I can assure the diocese that neither the Daily News reporters nor our internal figures suggest that any church funds were misappropriated –– St. James is a summer chapel open approximately ten Sundays a year, and has no significant financial resources.
Daily News reporters did not contact me or my communications representative prior to publishing this article, and have not done so since then, although my home and office telephones are not unlisted.
Bishop Paul V. Marshall
Diocese of Bethlehem
The following are Bishop Marshall's responses to specific questions asked by one or another reporter after they received his statement:
Related to the Standing Committee -- How long will the investigation take? What could be the possible outcomes of the investigation?
That is up to them. Our process is modeled on (and created by some of the same people who wrote) the US Constitution (with touches from the Uniform Code of Military Justice), so we always have checks and balances. In the present instance, my job is to report the possible facts to the Standing Committee and to take such immediate ameliorative steps as seem appropriate (e.g., temporary inhibition). Theirs is to investigate and determine if there is probable cause to make charges and hold a trial--in short, they work like a grand jury, and may engage outside investigators without my participation.
When was the last time a vicar or rector in the diocese was investigated? Results of investigation?
In 2001 a man named Dane Bragg was brought to trial for immorality. He was deposed (defrocked), after appealing his conviction to the regional appellate court (again, the similarly with standard US justice).
In your statement you write, " If true, they may also violate other canonical provisions and certainly portray an unacceptable idea of Christian stewardship." Can you expound on that statement? What are the other canonical provisions?
The national canons, available through our web-page, diobeth.org, describe in Title IV, the offenses for which a priest may be tried. These are numerous, including immorality and conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy (which is defined at length). It is up to the Standing Committee, not me, to determine what fits. Again the similarity with American law: because ultimately I would have to be the judge who imposes any sentence, I cannot bring specific charges or be part of the investigation or trial.
After gathering all documents, I will lay the matter before the Standing Committee on the 2nd of January. The President of that group is Mr. Robert Wilkins. Once the matter is in their hands, I am required to maintain a strict boundary.
What is an acceptable idea of Christian stewardship?
Thank you for asking about Christian Stewardship. The Episcopal Church teaches that all of our assets are to be received as gifts from God and managed in an appropriate way for our own good and for the good of those who live around us as we each attempt to live out our relationship with Jesus. The minimum standard of giving is 10% of one's income, although it cannot be said that this principle is universally honored. The last time I looked, Episcopalians are the highest main-line givers per capita, while Roman Catholics are the lowest. Outside of the mainline, I believe the Mormons are by far the overall best givers on the American scene.
If what is being reported about Fr. Malia is true we would have a problem: Along with our vigorous evangelism program, I have called the entire Diocese of Bethlehem (14 counties in NE PA) to adopt a lifestyle significantly lower than that of our peers so that together we can make significant changes in the life of our partner diocese in Southern Sudan and among the poor of NE PA. I have tried to set an example in this matter, living in a very small house, and giving 20% of my own (public information) salary to various church charities. A few years ago our small (15k people) diocese, many of them poor people in depressed ex-mining towns, undertook what has become a 4.1 million dollar campaign for the poor locally and in our African partner diocese. What Fr. Malia is reported to have spent on a single evening would build and equip an African school or totally underwrite the homeless shelter we are building in Scranton--this is the technical meaning of "scandal," that which alienates people from the core convictions of their faith. Thus it is a matter of the gravest concern for the church and its witness to the world. Our present project notwithstanding, the facts as reported would be a remarkable departure from normal standards of modest living to which the Gospel calls us. I am acquainted with a billionaire who would not behave in the way that is alleged in the Daily News, so again, we have a potential departure from the standard of the Church.
Part of the surprise of all this is that he has a very conservative view of the Bible, is opposed to all expressions of homosexuality (let alone ordination), and doesn't believe in the ordination of women. He has been known to speak in tongues. He has pretty much stayed away from diocesan events since Robinson. While I have always known him to be wealthy, he has always seemed to be the wealthy conservative. He has been generous to the churches he has served. The behavior described in the News takes me completely by surprise.
The little church he serves, St. James in Dundaff, (not Carbondale, as the News has it), opens for about ten Sundays a year. Malia's health has made it possible for him to attend only about 50 to 60% of services. The parish has a budget of about $16k for those weeks, doesn't have running water, heat, or inside plumbing--it's just a summer chapel. To my knowledge it has never had significant resources.
St. James, Dundaff, is on Crystal Road, Route 247, Dundaff, PA (Susquehanna County, Clifford Township)
The developing story, as it has played out in the media:
NY Daily News, Dec. 28
Episcopal priest makes a name for himself in New York City nightclubs
VirtueOnline, Dec. 29
Episcopal Bishop inhibits and removes vicar in partying scandal
Times-Tribune, Scranton, Dec. 30
Alleged partying priest ousted
Citizens' Voice, Wilkes-Barre, Dec. 30
Episcopal Diocese of Bethlehem removes 'party priest' from parish
NY Daily News, Dec. 30
Church defrocks club-hopping priest, Rev. Gregory Malia
Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, Dec 31
Priest: NYC news accounts 'twisted'
NY Daily News, Dec. 31
Church boots club-hopping priest, Rev. Gregory Malia, from post in Pa. hamlet Carbondale
Phila Inquirer, Dec. 31 (AP)
Priest denies impropriety for NYC club outings
WPVI/Channel 6, Phila (AP)
Vicar ousted for living high life
Morning Call, Allentown, Jan. 1, 2009 (AP)
Priest denies allegations in NYC club outings
But Bethlehem bishop prohibits him from duties in Luzerne
Citizens' Voice, Wilkes-Barre, Jan. 1
Episcopal priest defends his nightlife in the Big Apple
Times-Tribune, Scranton, Jan. 1
Priest disputes partying claims
NY Daily News, Jan 2
Bishop seeks probe of hard-partying priest
NBC10.Philadelphia, msnbc.com, Jan. 5
Episcopal reverend may be quite the balla?
RalphieReport, The Weekender, Wilkes-Barre, Jan. 6
Partying priest leads to Daily News collab
NY Daily News, Gossip, Jan. 6
The evolution of a partying priest
Susquehanna Independent Weekender, Jan. 7
Episcopal Diocese investigating ...
NBC Philadelphia, Jan. 8
What's your priest doing after hours?
Palm Beach Post, Jan. 8
Pray like a saint, party like a rock star
NY Daily News, Gossip, April 21, 2009 ... Priest Greg Malia's still a faithful clubgoer
NY Daily News, July 9, 2009 ... Partying priest Gregory Malia pulled a gun on his own daughters during bar fight
Times-Tribune, Scranton, July 11, 2009 ... Partying priest faces charges for incident with gun
NY Daily News, August 15, 2009 ... Straighten up or get lost, diocese tells party priest
Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, August 19, 2009
Episcopal Clergyman criticized
NYC paper describes lavish lifestyle of Gregory Malia, a priest from the Bethlehem Diocese.
NY Daily News, August 26, 2009 ... PA Pharmacy owned by party-loving priest Gregory Malia faces fraud investigation
The Morning Call, Allentown, August 27, 2009 ... State probes Gregory Malia, the partying priest
Deposition of Gregory Malia, Feb. 15, 2010
New York Daily News, April 6, 2010 ... Bar-hopping Episcopal priest, ex-Rev. Gregory Malia, is defrocked ... "He is therefore deposed from the ordained ministry, released from his obligations and deprived of the ...
Times Leader, Wilkes-Barre, Sept. 21, 2010 ... Former Episcopal priest pleads no contest to gun incident
Citizens Voice, Wilkes-Barre, Sept. 21, 2010 ... 'Partying priest' pleads no contest to assult charges