Norristown, Pa: the Trial of Charles E. Bennison - Day Two

Virtue Online
October 21, 2008

Charles E. Bennison, the deposed Bishop of Pennsylvania took the stand in the second day of his trial today and adopted what has became famously known as the (Alberto) Gonzales Defense.

On innumerable occasions, while being grilled by Fr. David E. Moyer's attorney John H. Lewis, Jr., Bennison replied, "I don't recall," "I don't remember," or "I don't know."

In 2002, Bennison inhibited and later deposed Fr. Moyer, rector of the Church of the Good Shepherd, Rosemont, PA using the Episcopal Church Canon Law [Title IV, Canon 10, Sec. 1], barring Fr. Moyer from serving his congregation and exercising his ordained ministry.

Fr. Moyer accepted the inhibition and stood down from his ecclesiastical duties for the six-month period.

The bishop cited "abandonment of Communion" as grounds for his action, a charge Fr. Moyer consistently denied. Under cross examination, the Anglo-Catholic priest turned the tables on Bennison saying it was Moyer, not the bishop who was upholding the faith, saying the bishop could not defend Jesus as "the way, the truth and the life," the deity of Christ or traditional views of the sacredness of marriage between a man and a woman.

Judge Joseph E. Smyth incredulously asked, "I can't believe that a bishop of the Christian church believes that Jesus could only be 'a way'." Moyer responded saying that he felt angry and betrayed by Bennison. The inhibition and later deposition cost him dearly in friends, suffered personal rebuffs, was left alone and was snubbed, and was financially strapped as he had been a priest for over 25 years.

As a result of the deposition, Moyer suffered a number of physical ailments, including severe back aches. At times he was reduced to tears by Bennison's actions.

Under relentless examination by Lewis, Bennison admitted that he had visited the Church of the Good Shepherd some 10 times from 1997 to 2004. Moyer and the vast majority of the congregation graciously accepted Bennison each time.

Lewis: Did you worship in the congregation?

Bennison: I worshipped and met with the vestry.

Lewis: Were you given communion?

Bennison: Yes.

Lewis: After you attended a church service did you talk with congregation? Were you ever offered the opportunity to address the congregation?

Bennison: I don't recall.

Lewis: Did you ever offer an opportunity to Fr. Moyer for Presiding Bishop Frank Griswold to make an official visitation?

Bennison: I did not.

Lewis: Did you have a Public Relations program designed to get Fr. Moyer?

Bennison: I did not. I did it for the entire diocese.

Lewis: What was the strategy of the PR program?

Bennison: Because of the worldwide publicity we needed to inform members of the Anglican Church globally what we were doing to effect reconciliation.

Lewis: Did you edit a background paper against Fr Moyer?

Bennison: I did participate in the authoring of the paper. Lewis: Did you edit it?

Bennison: I don't recall.

Lewis: There was a background paper on the discipline of Moyer. Was it revised and edited by you? Were these your views?

Bennison: It is not one particular view. The conversation sought wisdom from the most prudent people we could find.

Lewis: There was a signed off on it. Is this your signature?

Bennison: I suppose so.

Lewis: Did you have a conversation with Moyer about the Parsons Plan for visitation by a traditionalist bishop for traditional parishes instead of yourself?

Bennison: I said I would have no problem with the Parsons Plan.

Later, when he took the stand, Fr. Moyer said Bennison reneged on the Parson's Plan that he promised the eight traditionalist priests at the time he ran for bishop. He was elected with the help of these priests. Moyer said he felt betrayed when Bennison halted the plan.

Asked by Lewis if he was photographed joking with the Rev. Bill Wood, president of the Standing Committee at the signing of the deposition, Bennison replied that he had no recollection of any humor.

Lewis: What witticism or joke did you tell? Bennison: It was one of the bleakest days of my episcopacy, an incredibly dark day.

Lewis: You held two meetings (there were four) around the diocese following the deposition of Moyer.

Bennison: I can't recall.

Lewis: In October 2002? Bennison: I don't recall. I did not make any statement. Lewis: Did you have to depose Moyer since the Presiding Bishop had asked you not to? Did you ever think to give him a trial? Bennison: We initiated a delay in order to avoid a trial. Lewis: Did you think of giving Moyer a trial rather than deposing him under Canon 10?

Bennison: Canon 10 seemed less draconian and would give him more time to respond. I did not want to put ourselves into a polarized situation. I did not want to go there.

The trial will continue tomorrow.


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