Bishop Sends E-Mail Apologizing for Handling of Brother's Case

Associated Press, carried in International Herald Tribune
November 1, 2006

Philadelphia: The leader of the Episcopal Church's Diocese of Pennsylvania sent an e-mail to clergy and lay leaders apologizing for failing to properly investigate or report allegations of sexual abuse by his brother who was a parish youth minister during the 1970s.

"I sincerely apologize if any lack of action on my part 30 years ago has caused hurt or distress," Bishop Charles E. Bennison Jr. wrote.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Sunday that while he was a young rector in a California parish, Bennison failed to contact law enforcement or church officials when he discovered that his brother, a parish youth minister, had sexually abused a 14-year-old girl.

Bennison said in an e-mail Tuesday that "to the best of my memory," he learned of the abuse in 1974 when the girl's mother informed him. He said he confronted his brother and "told him to leave the parish's employ." He said he did not report the abuse to civil or church authorities because the girl's parents had not chosen to do so.

The Inquirer reported Wednesday that the victim's mother challenged what she called "disparities" and "lies" in the bishop's apology. She contended Tuesday that Bennison learned of her daughter's abuse before her family found out but chose not to inform them, the Inquirer said.

Critics of the bishop have said his handling of the situation was one of a number of reasons they say he should step down. A diocesan standing committee has also called for his resignation, citing his spending of millions of dollars from endowment funds to develop a camp and retreat center on Chesapeake Bay.

Ray Kraftson, of Villanova, an attorney and venture capitalist leading an effort to force Bennison's ouster, said the bishop's e-mail amounted to "an apology without an apology."


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