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Church trial starting for US Anglican bishop accused of covering up sex abuse

Church trial starting for US Anglican bishop accused of covering up sex abuse

A church trial began Monday for the bishop of the fifth-largest U.S. Anglican diocese, who is accused of concealing the sexual abuse of a teenage girl by his brother, also a priest, in the 1970s.
A panel of bishops, priests and church members will decide whether Bishop Charles E. Bennison Jr., the leader of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania, may resume his duties. The U.S. Episcopal Church is part of the 77 million-member Anglican Communion.
Bennison, 64, was ordered to cease all "ministerial and canonical acts" in November.
"(He) didn't put a stop to it ... and didn't alert the church," church lawyer Larry White said in his opening statement Monday. He said the sexual relationship started when the girl was 14 and continued for five years.
"(She) wanted to be rescued from abuse she was powerless to stop," White said.
The church indictment, called a presentment, charges that Bennison reacted "passively and self-protectively" and "failed to take obvious, essential steps to investigate his brother's actions, protect the girl from further abuse, and find out whether other children were in danger."
The church indictment also charges that Bennison continued to "fail in his duties" by knowing about the abuse but not stopping his brother's 1974 ordination. John Bennison, who never faced criminal charges, left the priesthood two years ago.
A special Court for the Trial of a Bishop was chosen to hear the evidence and announce within 30 days its verdict on whether the bishop may resume his duties.
The nine-judge panel includes five bishops, two priests and two lay people. The trial is expected to last about four days.
A 10-member diocesan standing committee has assumed Bennison's duties since November.
Charles Bennison, 64, was chosen in 1998 to head the Pennsylvania diocese, which has 53,000 members in Philadelphia and four suburban counties. At the time of the reported 1973 abuse, he was rector of St. Mark's Church in Upland, California, in the Diocese of Los Angeles, and his brother was a married lay minister there.
In 2006, Charles Bennison apologized to the diocese for "lack of action on my part." He told The Philadelphia Inquirer that he did not report the matter to civil or church authorities because the girl's parents had not chosen to do so.
Diocesan conservatives have long criticized Bennison's liberal stances on gay marriage and gay ordination. The diocesan standing committee has sought his removal for several years, accusing him of misusing diocesan assets.
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On the Net:
http://www.episcopalchurch.org/documents/Bennison_Presentment.pdf
http://www.diopa.org


Updated : 2021-08-02 21:08 GMT+08:00