Speaking of rehabbed bishops…
In light of the earlier post on the two rehabilitated Irish bishops, it might be tempting to view the Vatican and Catholic upper management as uniquely benighted.
But the other day the Episcopal Church announced that a bishop, Charles Bennison of the Diocese of Pennsylvania, had been restored to office by an appeals court that overturned two charges that in 2008 had led to his deposition. Bennison was convicted for failing to act in the 1970s on information that his brother, while youth minister at his parish, was sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl in the congregation.
The appeals panel overturned one charge and ruled that the 10-year statute of limitations had run out on the other.
Bennison, 66, says he feels vindicated and after a nearly three-year hiatus from office he plans to return to lead the diocese until the mandatory retirement age of 72.
I wrote about the episode at PoliticsDaily, and it is a case with some complexities, as Bennison was already deeply unpopular with many clergy and laity in the diocese for reasons ranging from poor financial decisions to crackdowns on conservatives. He feels that was behind the initial trial, though even the appeals court thought Bennison was “totally wrong” on the second charge and was guilty of “conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy” but was spared by the SOL. (It’s an interesting charge; I don’t know of an analogous law in the Catholic code).
In any case, reaction has been much like that of Catholics to the Walsh/Field decision. So even different processes, with explanations, don’t always make for justice, or popularity.