Scenes from the Armstrong sentencing.
Here are some excerpts from what members of Grace and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church had to say to Fourth Judicial District Judge Gregory R. Werner during the sentencing hearing Friday for the Rev. Donald Armstrong, the former rector of the Colorado Springs church. I’ve also included some comments from Armstrong’s attorney.
(A former senior warden of the church, who served as co-chair of the committee that helped put together a victim impact statement.)
“…How could a man who was our pastor and priest for 20 years do such a shameful and hurtful thing to us? What sense of entitlement could motivate his theft of money from friends, colleagues and the flock that he was ordained to lead as their spiritual shepherd? But the sharpest blow of all to the members of our parish and the one that forces us to recognize the complete callousness of this man, is his lack of contrition for his actions. His lack of remorse was expressed so clearly in his public misrepresentation of the terms offered to him in the plea agreement shortly after the agreement was reached and was intended to humiliate and embarrass the parish, the Bishop, the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado and not least of all the Colorado Springs department of financial crimes, the Special Prosecutor and this Court.”
Larry R. Hitt II
(Chancellor of the Diocese of Colorado, lawyer for the Bishop and the Diocese)
“This matter was never a dispute over theology – it was about a common theft. In fact, your honor, even that doesn’t accurately describe it. It was not a common theft, it was a betrayal of the trust of hundreds of members of his congregation, a trust he had sworn to keep the day he was ordained as a priest of the church.”
The Rev. Stephen Zimmerman
(Priest-in-charge of Grace and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church since November 2009)
“The most painful, lasting and costly effect of Father Armstrong’s crimes has been the pain and suffering caused to individuals who have been betrayed by their priest and pastor. His exploitation of differences has also caused divisions between long time friends and neighbors and even between spouses. Parents also have told me of the anguish they felt as they tried to defend the Church and its clergy to their disillusioned children when the defendant’s crimes became known. Although it is too soon to know how deep or how lasting these wounds will prove to be, or ever accurately measure the effect of the defendant’s breach of trust will have on annual giving or bequests, there can be no doubt that emotional and spiritual harm has been done to numerous members of the parish and to the community of the church as a whole that will have lasting and material consequences.”
(Defense attorney for Armstrong)
“It was a theological battle from the get-go.”
Hartley said a majority of the congregation chose to leave with Armstrong. He said the blogs from Grace Church are filled with animosity toward Armstrong.
Of Armstrong’s critics, he said, “their overblown victimization is just that.”
He called the charge of misdemeanor theft that prosecutors added in September as “mere window dressing to the deferred sentence.
In his 40 years as an attorney, Hartley said “I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody go to jail on a plea to a fiction.”
When the judge offered Armstrong a chance to speak on his own behalf, he declined.