Friday, August 6, 2010

Episcopal Church reinstates Diocese head after abuse cover-up case

From Philadelphia via Kansas City-

Nearly three years after the Episcopal Church suspended him for covering up his brother's sexual abuse of a minor girl, Bishop Charles E. Bennison Jr. has been restored as head of the Diocese of Pennsylvania.

In a ruling released Thursday, a church appeals panel reversed a lower church court's 2008 order that Bennison be defrocked and permanently removed from the helm of the 55,000-member diocese, comprising Philadelphia, Montgomery, Bucks, Delaware, and Chester Counties.

Although Bennison badly mishandled his brother's prolonged sexual abuse of a teenager in his California parish during the 1970s, the appeals court concluded, the church's statute of limitations on such wrongdoing had expired after 10 years.

"We find that (Bennison) committed conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy," the eight-member panel of bishops wrote. But "because the statute of limitations has run out ... we have no choice under the canons of the church but to reverse the judgment of the trial court that (he) is guilty."

Bennison, 66, described himself as "very gratified" in a teleconference call from Michigan, where he is vacationing. He plans to return to his duties as bishop Aug. 16.

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