For that reason, while we agree with the Trial Court that Appellant was guilty of conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy, those actions do not constitute sexual abuse and, therefore, a Presentment for that offense cannot be made because it is bared by the applicable statute of limitations. The Trial Court was clearly erroneous in failing to apply the statute of limitations and, therefore, its judgment against Appellant on the First Offense is hereby reversed.Key question: Is the definition of sexual abuse too narrow?
It appears obvious Bennison should step down. It appears unlikely he will without a buyout. A buyout would be appalling.
4:36 pm - Philadelphia Inquirer
Bennison said in a teleconference call from Michigan, where he is vacationing, that he will return to his duties as bishop on August 16.
"I hope I am a changed person," he said, and that he had no immediate goals other than to listen to the men and women who have led the diocese since he was suspended in October, 2007.
5:15 pm - Mark Harris provides his analysis. An excerpt:
Bishop Bennison's argument that those bringing charges against him were doing so for reasons other than the content of the charges seems to have made some impression on the Court of Review.Harris identifies another key passage of the ruling:
So apparently Bishop Bennison is reinstated, the inhibitions against him lifted and no court determined punishment against him. But the stinging condemnation remains: The Court of Review found that he had indeed engaged in conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy and that he had impaired judgment.
The tragedy of this conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy is exacerbated by the fact that, during the trial of the case, Appellant testified that, upon reflection on his failure to act, he concludes that his actions were "just about right." They were not just about right. They were totally wrong. Appellant's testimony on this subject revealed impaired judgment with regard to the conduct that is the subject of the First Offense and that is clearly and unequivocally conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy.The actions refer to his failure to provide pastoral care for the victim. The court also said Bennison showed poor judgment in not confronting his brother who was a staff member under his supervision in his parish. His brother later became a priest himself.
8:00 pm - Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests has a statement. An excerpt:
This is yet more proof that internal church processes are highly flawed and that it's best to report child sex crimes and cover ups through the criminal and civil justice systems. It's also more proof that statutes of limitations only protect wrong-doers and should be abolished.The Episcopal Church has adopted that policy. Go to the civic authorities immediately. The Bennison case illustrates the wisdom of this policy.
ENS report here. ENS goes over the tensions in the diocese apart from the charges:
The Pennsylvania Standing Committee has been at odds with Bennison since the mid-2000s over concerns about how he has managed the diocese's assets and other issues.
More than once in the past, the Standing Committee has called for his resignation.
The diocese referred media inquires to its chancellor, Michael Rehill.
When asked what the transition might look like, Rehill told ENS, that people in the diocese had had strong feelings about the bishop and that the leadership was clearly divided between those who supported Bennison and those who questioned his leadership and his care of the finances. Rehill said that Bennison took one of the wealthiest dioceses in the Episcopal Church and made it one of the poorest.
* Philly Episcopal bishop's church conviction overturned says the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
*The AP also has a brief report.
Previous stories from The Lead on the Bennison case here.
As the Diocese of Pennsylvania website indicates Bennison has remained bishop in title if not authority throughout the trial period. The Standing Committee has been in charge since his conviction.
The bishops composing the Court of Review for the Trial of a Bishop in the Bennison case are Michael Curry (North Carolina), Clifton Daniel (East Carolina, president), Duncan Gray (Mississippi), Mary Gray-Reeves (El Camino Real), Don Johnson (West Tennessee), Chilton Knudsen (Maine, retired), Bruce MacPherson (Western Louisiana) and Todd Ousley (Eastern Michigan). Delaware Bishop Wayne Wright recused himself.
From the Diocese of Pennsylvania website July 7, 2010:
Governance news posted Wednesday, July 07, 2010 A Letter from the Standing Committee
Dear Diocesan Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
As we await word from the Court of Review for the Trial of a Bishop, we would like to share some thoughts with you. Last week the Standing Committee sent an invitation to you to gather at the Cathedral on the Sunday afternoon following the announcement of the Court of Review.
Our intention is to provide an opportunity for those who wish to gather together, to share concerns or hopes, to ask questions and to answer them to the best of our ability, and to offer our prayers for Bishop Bennison, for all who have participated in or been affected by this trial, and for the people of this Diocese. We will begin our gathering with Evening Prayer and conclude with refreshments.
We do not know how the Court is going to rule, neither do we know when the Court is going to rule, nor do we know if the Court’s ruling will be the last word on this trial. But we do know that when the Court rules – whatever that ruling may be – it will be good for the faithful people of this Diocese to have an opportunity to come together in mutual support, in Christian love for one another, and in prayer.
In addition to this initial gathering, the Standing Committee is planning several gatherings to be held this fall at different venues around the Diocese. In consultation with the Presiding Bishop’s office and with full support from Bishop Michel, the Standing Committee has been mapping out several paths for us to take as a Diocese, depending upon the verdict of the trial. We have spoken with members of Standing Committees in other dioceses that have gone through challenging chapters to learn from their experience. We are meeting with the Executive Committee of Diocesan Council, with the Chairman of the Diocesan Planning Commission, and with others in positions of diocesan leadership.
As soon as the trial has concluded, we will be inviting all who wish from through-out the diocese to help shape and plan our mission and ministry together. Our hope and intention is that working together to shape our future will be an opportunity to address some of our differences and seek reconciliation; to share grievances and forgiveness, to share vision, to build hope, and to discern together the leadership needs we face as a Diocese in these times.
We certainly thought we would have heard from the Court of Review by now. As soon as we receive word, we will forward that to you, and with it a date certain for the opportunity to gather at the Cathedral – the first of several gatherings to come.
Please keep us in your prayers as we keep you in ours.
Samuel Adu-Andoh, Christopher Hart, Jo Ann Jones, Ledlie Laughlin, Glenn Matis, Norman MacCausland, Arlene McGurk, Isaac Miller, Joy Segal, and D-L Wormley