Members of a sex-abuse victim support group picketed the headquarters of the Episcopal Diocese of Pennsylvania Tuesday to protest the reinstatement of Bishop Charles E. Bennison Jr., who had been suspended nearly three years for concealing his brother's sexual abuse of a minor.
"It's heartbreaking that he has been returned on a technicality," said Karen Polisir, president of the Philadelphia area chapter of the Survivors' Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP). She was joined by two SNAP members from Lancaster County who were abused as youths by Roman Catholic priests.
In 2008, a church trial court ordered Bennison defrocked and removed as head of the five-county diocese for mishandling abuse by his brother about 35 years ago. However, an appeals court ruled last month that the church's statute of limitations had expired on the matter, and ordered Bennison restored to his position.
Todd Frey, 42, of Ephrata, and Paul Hearn, 57, of Lititz, said the Bennison reversal was particularly frustrating because Pennsylvania's civil statute of limitations had frustrated their efforts to bring their abusers to justice.
A spokeswoman for Bennison said Tuesday that the bishop maintains - contrary to the findings of both church courts - that he handled his brother's abuse of a teenager girl appropriately and noted that he was "not the abuser."
Bennison, 66, was suspended in October 2007. He is due to resume his duties as diocesan bishop Thursday.