Posted by Christopher Johnson | Thursday, August 5th, 2010 | Uncategorized | 28 Comments
Charles Bennison has been reinstated as the head of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania following a church court ruling overturning his conviction on charges of covering up a sexual relationship between his brother, also a priest, and a 14-year-old girl in California more than 30 years ago.
Bishop Bennison was tried before a church court in June 2008 and charged with conduct unbecoming a clergyman. He argued that he didn’t know about the sexual relationship, but the lower court determined otherwise.
He appealed. In May, the bishop appeared before the church court of appeals, composed of eight bishops from around the nation. Last night, the bishop was informed that court members had reversed the lower court’s decision.
On the fourth and final day of the trial earlier this month, Bennison told the court that he would do nothing different than what he did when he learned that his younger brother seduced the 14-year-old girl in his parish. He testified that he was made aware of the situation shortly before John’s ordination as priest. He said he confronted him but John denied repeatedly any improper conduct. The bishop said he ordered John to leave the church, but it was two more months before his brother departed, while continuing his abuse of the girl.
Bennison admitted under cross examination that he felt “a little bit” uncomfortable, but maintained that he knew of no impediment or criminal action to prevent John’s ordination. As a result, he testified, he presented his brother for ordination by his father, Bishop Charles Bennison Sr., at a service in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
UPDATE: Doug LeBlanc has posted the court’s complete ruling at The Living Church.
UPDATE: Chuckie B., bringin’ people together. They’re sick about it over at Naughton’s.