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Plaintiff Denounces Episcopal Church’s Handling of Abuse, Warns Victims Not to Contact Church

Sep 6, 2021

Alexandria, VA (Law Firm Newswire) September 6, 2021 – Eric Bonetti, plaintiff in a series of lawsuits against the Episcopal Church and the former rector of Alexandria VA-based Grace Episcopal Church, Robert Malm, today blasted the Episcopal Dioceses of Massachusetts and VIrginia for refusing to address his allegations of illegal conduct on the part of Robert Malm, a priest canonically resident in Virginia who now serves as interim rector of St. Peter’s on the Canal in Bourne Massachusetts. He also warned victims of abuse against contacting the Episcopal church for help.

“I have repeatedly complained to the Episcopal Dioceses of Virginia and Massachusetts about my former rector, Bob Malm, and what I allege are his perjurious statements to the Virginia and Massachusetts courts. Yet in both cases, I have been told that the dioceses will not get involved and that the the courts will resolve the matter.

“That is a shocking and appalling proposition, as Title IV of the church canons expressly forbids clergy from engaging in ‘dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation.’

“Moreover, Malm’s fabrications are facially obvious. In his initial sworn statement, Malm states that Sigrid Yahner, my late mother, ‘time after time’ contacted him to set up appointments, only to cancel.

“Later, he told the Massachusetts court that this was not perjury, and that he didn’t even know my mother’s name. Yet the initial perjury does exactly that — reference Mom by name, Sigrid Yahner.

“Nor is this the only fabrication. For example, I discovered that Malm withheld a document in our initial discovery, in which he falsely claimed that I embezzled from a previous employer, and lied about the timing of my arrival at Grace Church.

“In both cases, it would be remarkably easy to prove that Malm lied by simply asking him for proof of his written statements. There is none, and he knows it.”

“The irony is that, over the past several years, the larger Episcopal Church has repeatedly invoked church canons to support its claim that dissident groups cannot take church property with them when they leave the church. Yet the church displays equal alacrity in ignoring the canons when doing so proves convenient for the denomination.

“Of particular note is the conduct of intake officer Starr Anderson, who did not even have the courtesy to contact me before denying my Title IV complaint. Nor did she provide the pastoral response mandated by church canon any time a complaint is made to the intake officer. Thus, I consider her to be a hypocrite of the worst sort.

“My advice to anyone facing abuse in the Episcopal Church is this: The church does a poor job of addressing sexual abuse. And it does a horrific job of addressing non-sexual abuse and rarely even recognizes it. If you have been abused sexually, physically, emotionally, legally, or in any other manner, my advice is to immediately remove yourself from the situation, then contact the police. Bringing the Episcopal Church into the mix will only result in you being victimized a second time and likely being blamed for your own victimization.

“Simply put, the church is stuck in a 1960’s time warp in which the only abuse that counts is sexual; where clergy are above reproach, no matter how egregious their conduct; where laity does what it is told; and where the church will circle the wagons to protect its reputation, while ignoring you, the victim. You deserve health, happiness and wholeness — not the church’s childish games.”

Bonetti is part of the first same-sex couple married at Grace Church in Alexandria VA. A retired attorney, he is proceeding pro se in the litigation.

His dispute with Malm arose in 2015 after he contacted the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia to ask that it mediate a dispute with Malm involving workplace harassment of church employees, allegedly missing money, and a variety of questionable HR, cash management, and financial reporting practices. The diocese declined his request and ignored Malm’s subsequent retaliation.

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