FINALLY, we're getting to our evaluation of the Our Lady of Hope court case.
Judge Ponsor addressed 8 of the 12 counts from the original complaint of Bishop McDonnell. The other 4 counts were not relevant for various reasons.
I title the coming essay "Holy Smoke" because that's just about what the arguments of the Bishop amounted to.  He got creamed!  Absolutely killed.

So, look for this analysis. In OLOH there were many interesting references to the Bishops of Springfield and their past brushes with the law: Mintz, Desilets and Library Assn., for example.  All of these have relevance to how the head of the RCB (the Roman Catholic Bishop of Springfield) sees himself.

If you're thinking "chief shepherd?" or "servant"?.....not exactly. I honestly think it's more like Bishop McDonnell gets up in the morning, looks in the mirror, and says "I'm Lee-Freaking Iococca! Make way for the CEO!"

We ponder, among other things, how the heck a supposedly meek and mild Christian outfit centered on gospel values has become a lawsuit-happy, nasty, bare-knuckled enforcer* . . . and what the consequences are.

Meanwhile, I encourage readers to wade through the original complaint, City defense, and judicial remedies. Do you see what I see? The Bishop's lawsuit is long on "poutrage" and practically devoid of  substance.

Poutrage: false or fake outrage; pretense.

It fascinates me that all of the 8 claims failed as a matter of law.  Amazing. It makes me wonder what the threshold is for a so-called "frivolous" lawsuit, and what part the evaluation of sincerity plays when reaching this judgment.

The only thing I learned for sure in exploring this area is that it IS proper for a court to inquire into a religious leader's sincerity (not the tenets of  the religion, but whether the religious leader really believes in them). To be sure, United States vs. Ballard is far different than OLOH.  One is criminal, one a civil case. In Ballard, the government was the plaintiff, while in OLOH, the Bishop was the plaintiff.

The Ballard case was about fraud and became a federal case only because money was sent through the US mails, whereas OLOH became federal because of the 1st amendment issues. No money changed hands in the lead-up to the OLOH suit.

And yet, an important part of the OLOH suit, like Ballard, was the pretense that religious values were at stake.  All along, both sides must have known that it was the property value of the OLOH site that was driving the lawsuit. The Bishop's complaint was based on his beliefs — but not with religious beliefs. It was based on his belief that he is above the law.

Because of this, I propose that the two cases are not that far apart.

United States v. Ballard, after all, was about the fraudulent collection of donations on the basis of religious claims that the defendants themselves did not believe.

Here's a spiritual exercise. Read through the charges again. Tell me if you feel the Bishop really believes what he is saying. If he does not, how is he different from the Ballard defendants?

Here's another question, and this one is for the Catholics. In our church, no one is more baptized than anyone else. Theologically, we're all on the same footing. Do you share the Bishop's belief that he is above the law? Are you above the law?

* how different this leadership model is from one of this week's gospel readings:
“You know that those who are recognized as rulers over the Gentiles
lord it over them,
and their great ones make their authority over them felt.
But it shall not be so among you.
Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant;
whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all.
For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve
and to give his life as a ransom for many.”