A panel of
bishops, priests, and church members is to decide whether
the sanctioned leader of the fifth-largest Anglican
diocese in the United States may resume his duties.
A church trial
was scheduled to begin Monday for the bishop of the
Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania, accused of concealing the
sexual abuse of a 14-year-old girl by his brother,
also a priest, in the 1970s. The U.S. Episcopal Church
is part of the 77 million-member Anglican
Bishop Charles E. Bennison Jr. was formally ''inhibited'' by
the diocese and was ordered to cease all ''ministerial and
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.''
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
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.
panel includes five bishops, two priests, and two lay
people. The trial is expected to last about four days.
diocesan standing committee has assumed Bennison's duties
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,
Calif., 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.
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. (Joann Loviglio, AP)