Monday, March 3, 2008


Really, what a disgrace.

The trial of inhibited Diocese of Pennsylvania Bishop Charles E. Bennison Jr. will begin June 9 in Philadelphia.
A February 29 news release posted on the diocese's website said the trial will be open to the public. The location has yet to be decided. The release outlines the procedure for the trial and its possible outcomes.

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori inhibited Bennison on October 31 after the Title IV Review Committee issued a presentment for conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy against Bennison on October 28.

The two counts of the presentment center on accusations that Bennison, when he was rector of St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Upland, California, did not respond properly after learning sometime in 1973 that his brother, John, who worked as a lay youth minister in the parish, was having a sexual relationship with a 14-year-old member of the youth group. John Bennison was also married at the time, according to the presentment.

The bishop is accused of not taking any steps to end the relationship, not providing proper pastoral care to the girl, not investigating whether she needed medical care, taking three years to notify the girl's parents, not reporting his brother to anyone, not investigating whether his brother was sexually involved with any other parishioners or other children, and seeking no advice on how to proceed. The presentment says Charles Bennison reacted "passively and self-protectively."

The second count of the presentment accuses Charles Bennison of continuing to fail in his duties until the fall of 2006. John Bennison became ordained during this time and the bishop is accused of not preventing his brother's ordination, or his ultimately successful application to be reinstated as a priest after having renounced his orders in 1977, or his desire to transfer from the Diocese of Los Angeles to the Diocese of California. John Bennison was forced in 2006 to renounce his orders again when news of his abuse became public.

Why do we not see sexual abuse as a disgusting crime that deserves the harshest response? Why are excuses so often made for the abuser, and why don't we lock these monsters up so that they will never ruin another person's life forever?

1 comment:

Widening Circles said...

Yeah, this one's more complicated than it might appear. Not that I don't agree with you about sexual abuse, of course. But Bennison is a very liberal bishop and much of the trouble is being stirred up by very conservative folks who seem to have been looking for a way to bring him down for a long time. (And they may well have found it.) These are very sad times for my diocese; pray for us.