A court of the Episcopal Church USA has rejected a request from deposed Bishop Charles E. Bennison Jr. for a new church trial.
Bennison, head of the five-county Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania since 1998, was suspended from his duties nearly two years ago on charges that he had concealed his brother John Bennison's sexual abuse of an underage girl about 35 years ago in California. At the time of the abuse, Charles Bennison was pastor of a parish outside Los Angeles, and John Bennison was his youth minister.
Last year, after a four-day trial here, the church court unanimously found the bishop guilty on two counts and ordered him deposed, or removed, from all ministry.
In April, Bennison, who is appealing that decision to another church court, requested a retrial on grounds that newly discovered letters written by the victim decades ago contradicted some of her testimony at the trial.
The trial court ruled that the letters were not material and "would not have changed the outcome of the trial."
The Diocese of Pennsylvania has about 55,000 members and comprises Philadelphia and the four surrounding Pennsylvania counties.
No date has been set for the appeals hearing. That panel, composed of bishops, could reverse the court's decision or uphold the decision but a impose a milder sentence. That could include suspension, by which Bennison would retain his bishop's title, or reinstatement as diocesan bishop with reprimand.
Since Bennison's suspension, or "inhibition," as bishop in October 2007, the diocese has been administered by the 10-member diocesan standing committee.