The Episcopal Church has defrocked a Pennsylvania bishop for failing to disclose his brother's sexual abuse of a minor in the early 1970s.
A nine-member panel of bishops, priests and laypeople has ruled that Charles E. Bennison, the bishop of Philadelphia since 1998, should no longer serve as a church clergyman.
"Even today (Bennison) has not shown that he comprehends the nature, significance, and effect of his conduct and has not accepted responsibility and repented for his conduct," the panel said in documents released Oct. 3 describing the ruling they reached Sept. 30.
Bennison was found guilty last June of "conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy" for not reporting that his brother, John Bennison, sexually abused a teenage girl in his California parish for three years in the 1970s.
Charles Bennison was rector of St. Mark's Church in Upland, Calif., at the time of the sexual abuse. The victim, now 50, testified that Charles Bennison witnessed two sexual encounters between her and his brother. Still, Bennison presented his brother for ordination to the Episcopal priesthood, and did not tell the girls' parents or the police about the abuse.
The former bishop "was found to have engaged in a course of conduct over a period of more than 25 years of failing to disclose and acknowledge his knowledge of John's conduct and his own actions, or failure to act, after he discovered the abusive relationship, and failing to minister to the people injured by such conduct," the panel said.
Bennison's removal from ministry was praised by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).
"We believe this is a first in U.S. history: a clergyman defrocked for concealing a pedophile priest's crimes," said SNAP president Barbara Blaine. "We believe it should happen far more often."