A special committee of the Episcopal Church USA has found no basis to try Bishop Charles E. Bennison Jr. for allegedly misappropriating assets of the Diocese of Pennsylvania.
In November 2006, the diocesan standing committee filed a formal complaint with the presiding bishop's office in New York alleging that since 2000 Bennison had used millions of dollars without canonical authority or the required consent of the standing committee. It asked for a church trial to remove Bennison as head of the five-county diocese.
However, the attorney for the review committee concluded that "Bishop Bennison committed no offense in these matters," and the committee voted at its May 21 meeting not to issue any indictment. That decision was announced yesterday.
Bennison's lawyer, James A. Pabarue, yesterday hailed the committee's decision, calling it "an important step in the process of vindicating Bishop Bennison and returning him to the service of the Diocese of Pennsylvania."
The money Bennison was alleged to have misappropriated came from diocesan endowment funds and other assets. Most of it was used to finance the creation of diocesan summer camp or to pay diocesan operating expenses. He was never accused of taking diocesan money for his own use.
Last week, Bennison faced a four-day church trial in Center City on charges that he knowingly concealed his brother's sexual abuse of a minor while a rector in the 1970s.
Bennison was suspended, or "inhibited," as diocesan bishop in October pending that trial, and is awaiting a verdict. If found guilty of "conduct unbecoming a member of the clergy," he could be removed permanently as bishop.