PHILADELPHIA, PA: LETTERS REVEAL BENNISON KNEW OF HIS BROTHER'S SEX ABUSE
By David W. Virtue www.virtueonline.org
Letterswritten by Charles E. Bennison, the Bishop of Pennsylvania reveal thathe knew about his brother John's sexual abuse of a 14-year old girlwhen he was a parish priest in the Diocese of California and pleadedwith the mother of the abused girl not to say anything, and in a 1979letter to his brother's former wife, Bennison urged her not to visithis parish, fearing "a public scandal here which, I believe, could costme my job."
VOL has obtained these letters and you can read them at the conclusion of the story.
VirtueOnlinefirst broke the story about Bennison's brother John Bennison, a parishpriest in the Diocese of California when an organization called SNAPexposed his sexual misbehavior several months ago. A made for TV filmand constant picketing of Bennison's church led to John Bennison beingfired from his parish, St. John's Parish in Clayton, California (ContraCosta County). He was inhibited and deposed by J. Jon Bruno, Bishop ofLos Angeles after a copy of a 1993 letter from then Los AngelesEpiscopal bishop Frederick Borsch confirmed Bennison molested the teenin Upland.
In May of this year Joelle Casteix of Newport Beach,CA, Southwest Regional Director of SNAP (Survivors' Network of thoseAbused by Priests) accused the Episcopal Diocese of California of acover up in the Episcopal Church in California and wrote VirtueOnline.
SNAPofficials warned families of Clayton that there was an admittedmolester ministering to their families," said Casteix. CaliforniaBishop William Swing was reluctant to act against John Bennison becauseof his present record at the church, but under pressure locally andnationally to act, Bishop Bruno stepped in and removed the priest fromhis parish.
The sexual abuse occurred at a time when JohnBennison was living with his brother Charles who was a priest at St.Mark's parish in Upland, California in 1972 and Charles had hired hisbrother John, who was 25 as parish youth director. John Bennison wasmarried at the time when he started having an affair first with aparishioner and later in 1973 with a 14-year old girl. John Bennisonwas preparing for the priesthood.
According to a report in thePhiladelphia INQUIRER, the victim, now in her mid-40s and married withthree grown children, said she and John Bennison were twice interruptedduring sex by Charles Bennison's arrival at his brother's apartment.
Bennisontold the INQUIRER that he learned of his brother's sexual relationshipwith the teenager long after it was over. "I had no consciousness of ituntil the mother of the girl told me," he told the Inquirer.
Butthe letters of April 15 and 29, 1979 indicate that Bennison had fullknowledge of his brother's actions and repeatedly told John Bennison'swife not to go public or come around the parish fearing that if she didso he would lose his job.
Three months later, John Bennison leftSt. Mark's to become a curate in a Santa Barbara parish, where he lateracknowledged having other affairs.
His young victim visited himabout once a month before she discontinued the sexual relationship in1976, when she was 18 and starting college. It was not until Easter1978, when she was going through profound emotional distress that shetold her parents, the Inquirer reported.
In the handwrittenletters (see below) composed after being confronted by the girl'sparents, Charles Bennison acknowledged having known of the relationshipfor "months" but said that "to tell you... was out of the question."
Bennisonhas been denounced over the years by this writer as an apostate,heretical, sociopathic, venal, orthodox hating bishop who reneged onthe Parson's plan to allow oversight of seven traditionalist parishesin the diocese, denied the faith and proven himself so untrustworthythat the Standing Committee, which has repeatedly asked him to resign,has hired its own lawyer, Michael Rehill to go after Bennison to forcehis resignation.
In addition Bennison faces two lawsuits fromFr. David Moyer, the traditionalist priest of the Church of the GoodShepherd in Rosemont, for fraud and bad faith.
Bennison facesmore immediate negative exposure. A group calling themselves ConcernedPennsylvania Episcopalians, made up of diocesan laity and clergy whichformed about a year ago in response to Bennison's parish closings, willconduct three "forums" on the apparent abuse cover-up next weekend. TheInquirer reported that the Rev. Judith Beck, cochair of CPE andmoderator of the forums, said she hoped the revelations would compelthe bishop to resign "on behalf of his victims." Both John Bennison'sex-wife and the mother of his teenage victim say they plan toparticipate in the forums.
While it is virtually impossible tofire a bishop except for public immorality, there is historic precedentfor unloading bishops who do not measure up. Bishop Jo Mo Doss, Dioceseof NJ was fired with a generous payout after being accused of racismand more by his diocese.
The PA Standing Committee couldwithhold Bennison's salary, a tactic that was used by the vestry of hisformer parish, St. Luke's in Atlanta where Bennison ministered for ashort time before being dumped. A former parishioner told VOL that theissues were not theology, morality or stealing money, but simply thathe was totally disagreeable and alienated everybody personally.
Thevestry demanded his resignation and they were supported by therevisionist bishop Frank Allen. Bennison refused to go but waspersuaded by the withdrawal of his salary to accept a generousparachute, said the source.
There is no reason the PA StandingCommittee could not repeat that act and so humiliate Bennison that hewould be forced to resign before Diocesan Convention next week.
Ifnot, Bennison faces multiple lawsuits and is building a legal war chestfrom the sale of deconsecrated parishes to go after two orthodoxpriests, Fr. Eddy Rix of All Saints, Wynnewood and Fr. David Moyer,Church of the Good Shepherd.
Michael Rehill who has been employed by the Standing Committee will also go after him.
Hehas no shame; he has lost the trust of most of the diocese with theexception of a handful of liberal priests who depend on him forfinancial support for their ailing parishes.
It is time for Bennison to go.
You can read the hand written letters of Charles Bennison at the following link:http://www.virtueonline.org/portal/content/bennison-letters.pdf
You can read the Philadelphia INQUIRER story here: http://www.virtueonline.org/portal/modules/news/article.php?storyid=4916
for a listing of alternate locations.