No Bible was used to swear in witnesses on Day 2 of the church trial for the leader of Pennsylvania's Episcopal Diocese, who is accused of turning a blind eye to his brother's alleged abuse of a young parishioner.
Instead, the holy book was referred to during questioning about Bishop Charles E. Bennison Jr.'s handling of the 35-year-old sexual-abuse case.
"We look at our Lord Jesus as the model for good pastoring . . . he keeps away the wolves," said Bishop David E. Richards, who was in the office of pastoral development at the time of the abuse.
But Bennison did not act as a "good shepherd" when he served as rector of St. Mark's Church in Upland, Calif., Richards said in a four-hour video played yesterday for the trial, being held at the Center City Marriott.
After witnessing his younger brother, John, engaging in sexual relations with a 14-year-old girl in the church, Charles Bennison did not notify the girl's parents, try to counsel her or immediately fire his brother as youth-group leader, Richards said.
"Even in a confession, if you hear something that is life-threatening, you're obligated to do something about it," Richards said.
The abuse that started when the girl was 14 and continued until she was 19 qualified as "life-threatening" because of the irreversible mental effects it could have on the victim, said Richards.
The victim, Martha Alexis, who has changed her name since the abuse, explained how she had considered killing herself when she was in college.
With her back to the small crowd, she also talked about her discomfort when Charles Bennison officiated at her wedding.
"It was very awkward," she said. "It was very uncomfortable. There was this huge, unspoken secret."
Bennison has led the Episcopal Church in Pennsylvania since 1998. He was suspended in November by the presiding bishop of the national church with support from the standing committee of the state diocese, based on allegations brought against him in 2006.
If found guilty of "conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy," he faces removal from the ministry or a warning. If vindicated by six of the nine judges, his ministerial powers can be restored.
The trial is open to the public and should last through tomorrow. *