5/04/2010

Bennison appeal heard today.

Bishop Charles Bennison, inhibited bishop of Pennsylvania and under sentence of deposition, made his last appeal today before an appeals court of bishops in Wilmington, Delaware. The Court of Review for the trial of a Bishop will hear arguments for and against lifting the sentence of deposition against him.

Apparently the argument will be worked from both sides: (i) The charges were cold and old and the trial was badly conducted and (ii) even if both current and well done the punishment was too drastic.

The thing is, Bishop Bennison's real authority is not a matter of place, position or assigned power. It is a matter of the esteem given the office and the power that arises from trust and engagement. The costs, for better or worse, in all this is the that his authority on the basis of trust and engagement is gone. However the court decides, Bishop Bennison has had his day as bishop of Pennsylvania.

Now is a good time to pray for the Church, for Bishop Bennison and his family, and for the Diocese of Pennsylvania.

5 comments:

  1. Oh yes, we do need prayer, Mark. I needed it this morning, when I got lost in Wilmington. WHY do you guys have so many one way streets?

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  2. Wilmington? You got lost in Wilmington? Why would you go there anyway, Elizabeth? I say this as someone who loves Wilmington, of course.

    Regarding Bp. Bennison and the Diocese of Pennsylvania, I pray for them whenever I think of them and my one and only year serving as a priest there four and a half years ago. I pray for the diocese because they are so divided and Bp. Bennison for all his faults was not the cause, he was the lightning rod for a power struggle that will continue even when he's gone. I will never forget my first diocesan convention. Not a good experience.

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  3. Father,

    I take your point about trust, etc., but I tend to believe that we in the Diocese of Pennsylvania have a long ways to go before the matter is entirely resolved. Even if the current proceedings go against him, I am fairly certain that Dr Bennison is entitled to a final appeal before the entire House of Bishops. But even that wouldn't necessarily be the end of things, as he would almost certainly then proceed to a review by the civil courts, which would be able to rule on the question of whether the ecclesiastical courts followed proper procedures according to the canons. (And I suggest that there are sufficient grounds to find that they did not.)

    So I would think that we actually have many more years of this to look forward to, unless Dr Bennison simply decides to give up (unlikely) or runs out of money (even less likely).

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  4. "But even that wouldn't necessarily be the end of things, as he would almost certainly then proceed to a review by the civil courts, which would be able to rule on the question of whether the ecclesiastical courts followed proper procedures according to the canons. (And I suggest that there are sufficient grounds to find that they did not.)" from Paul Goings. I am confused by this statement. I am doubtful that a civil court would intrude on an ecclesiastical court's rightness or wrongness of procedure assuming that such intrusion would be challenged on constitutional grounds? By contrast, if the aggrieved party wants to take up the matter in civil court and the statute of limitations has not been passed, it would be another matter. I can imagine some sort of action against TEC under RICO laws but even that would be a huge stretch? Am ready to hear wise legal opinions here. Not my area of expertise, just interest. EmilyH

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  5. I think my post along similar lines to Emily's got lost in the nether voids.

    Anyway, what I said was that I think that there is sufficient precedent that US courts would not be inclined to wade into determining whether a church has correctly interpreted/applied its own canon law.

    The folks running away with TEC property have also tried that argument and the courts have said that they would not go there.

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