(RNS) The Episcopal bishop of Philadelphia was reinstated after a church court dismissed charges that he had failed to act on allegations that his brother, a fellow priest, was engaged in sexual abuse of a minor in the 1970s.
The Episcopal Church’s Court of Review for the Trial of a Bishop ruled July 28 that Bishop Charles Bennison committed conduct inappropriate for a clergy member, but charges had to be dismissed because the offenses occurred too long ago.
Because the statute of limitations has run on that offense, we have no choice under the canons of the church but to reverse the judgment of the trial court finding, the appeals court said.
Bennison, 66, told a media teleconference Thursday (Aug. 5) he was thankful for the ruling.
I am very gratified by the decision of the court; I always thought the charges were without merit, said Bennison, according to Episcopal News Service.
The 39-page ruling detailed how Bennison’s younger brother, John Bennison, carried on a lengthy affair with an underage female parishioner, starting at the church where Charles Bennison was the pastor.
A lower court found Charles Bennison guilty of conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy in 2008 of failing to investigate or discipline his brother.
The Diocese of Pennsylvania’s Standing Committee, which has a long history of tense relations with the bishop, announced the court’s decision on Thursday (Aug. 5) on the diocese’s website.
Accordingly, the inhibition of Bishop Bennison has been dissolved, and he is free to resume his role as Bishop of Pennsylvania, it said.