Thus what the Diocese asked Judge Bellows to do is precisely what Judge Bellows did, and now the Diocese has to admit that it will have to sell some of the properties in order to pay off its debts. This is not acting prudently, or even out of a sense of fiduciary duty — a fiduciary acts to conserve assets, and does not sacrifice them to solve troubles of one’s own devising. This is more the story of the dog in the manger, only written on a truly grand scale. Nevertheless, like the proverbial dog, the Episcopal Diocese will now pretend that it really wanted that hay all along, even though it can make no use of it.
And what, in the end, has Judge Bellows accomplished? Did he uphold Virginia law and precedent? Yes, he certainly did — once he was instructed by his superiors that the division statute did not apply to the facts of this case. But by awarding all the property to the people least able to maintain it and keep using it for church purposes, he took “neutral principles of law” to a truly Pyrrhic level. And in the process, the decision makes a mockery of all the hundreds of years of tradition which it claims to honor and uphold….