Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Bishop of Pennsylvania Inhibited

From Episcopal Life:

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori on October 31 inhibited Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania Bishop Charles Bennison from all ordained ministry pending a judgment of the Court for the Trial of a Bishop.
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 an affair 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 affair, 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 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...
If the details contained in the presentment are accurate, one would hope that Bp. Bennison will removed from the ordained ministry.

This response is about thirty-four years too late to avoid the damage already done. It raises difficult questions about some of the church leaders involved in this. A predator was allowed to be reinstated to the priesthood? He was able to move to another diocese without any red flags being raised?

If the Church is to be a safe place, a sanctuary in this fragile and dangerous world, those who prey on the innocent, and those who cover up such horrendous acts, must be removed quickly, and turned over to the civil authorities so that they can restrained from creating any new victims.


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