Skip to comments.Upside the Head [Swing asks Bennison to resign]
Posted on 06/02/2006 7:01:44 PM PDT by sionnsar
You have to give California Episcopal Bishop William Swing this much. The man knows a public relations nightmare when he sees one:
Even though the Rev. John W. Bennison has had an honorable priestly career for the past 25 years, the Bishop of California, the Rt. Rev. William E. Swing, has asked for his resignation as rector of St. Johns, Clayton, because his previous history of sexual misconduct, including allegations involving the abuse of children from a previous parish in another diocese, is causing exponential damage to the Episcopal Church nationwide.
In a May 31 letter to the diocese, Bishop Swing praised Fr. Bennison and called for critics and supporters to cross the barriers and cooperate in a full investigation of previous behavior that led to a three-year deposition in the 1970s.
Not that Bennison's a bad guy, mind you. Far from it.
I have glimpsed something of the power of Jesus resurrection in the ministry of Father Bennison in the Diocese of California, Bishop Swing wrote. Statistics emphatically predict that he would never change. But he has. Ive witnessed it. I believe in his priesthood and have laid my name on the line for him. I have made the good name of the Diocese of California vulnerable because I have trusted him. And...he has not disappointed. Not once in a quarter of a century.
So you want Bennison to quit but not over what he did in Los Angeles and who he did it to. You want Bennison to quit because he's making ECUSA look bad. Hey, what do you want from me, demands Swing. Asking Bennison to quit is about all I can do.
According to Bishop Swing, the vestry at St. Johns remains fully supportive of Fr. Bennison and the parish is willing and ready to fight on. Aside from calling for his resignation, Bishop Swing said canonically there is little more that he can do.
But it is no longer up to the bishop, he said. The process has been democratized, and now the path is open for any three clergy of the Diocese of California or any seven laity to bring a presentment (charge) against Father Bennison if they note any behavior in the Diocese of California which puts teenage girls and young women at risk.
Which doesn't seem all that likely since Bennison's parish apparently still likes him.
In his letter, Bishop Swing denied participating in any cover up personally and explained that 30 years ago the disciplinary procedures for sexual misconduct were not nearly as stringent as they are now. Bishop Swing said the Rt. Rev. Robert C. Rusack, Bishop of Los Angeles, provided few details about the allegations before restoring Fr. Bennison to the priesthood and immediately transferring him to Bishop Swings predecessor in the Diocese of California.
A cover-up? The baneful influence of Charles Bennison Sr. and Jr.? Swing suggests the possibility.
Was that a cover up? Bishop Swing wrote. Johns father was a bishop and a colleague of the Bishop of Los Angeles. Johns brother was the rector of the parish where John started having sex with a teenager. Or did the Bishop of Los Angeles see a deep repentance and a restored life in John, and therefore he wanted to give this emerging priestliness an opportunity to express itself? That Bishop of Los Angeles died a long time ago, so we will never know his thinking.
As Swing himself knows, we will never know Bishop Charles Bennison Sr.'s thinking either. But why did Swing refuse to say or do anything at all until his recent letter?
Despite the deeply, deeply disturbing details that emerged from the investigation by another diocese in 1993, Bishop Swing said he refused to depose Fr. Bennison at that time because he had committed no offense in the Diocese of California.
His offenses happened in the Diocese of Los Angeles, Bishop Swing said. He had been deposed there. He had been reinstated there. If Father Bennison is to be deposed again for sexual offenses that happened in the Diocese of Los Angeles in the 1970s, shouldnt the Diocese of Los Angeles bring charges and start the ecclesiastical proceedings?
Great. Don't look at me, didn't happen here, happened in LA. If LA wants to do something about Bennison, let LA do something about Bennison. It's out of my hands. The trophy has officially been renamed the William Swing Award for Anglican Cowardice.
It may be true that Swing can't canonically do much more than this. But he's known about this case for thirteen years and could have asked for Bennison's resignation long before May 31, 2006. Which leaves only one inescapable conclusion: the current controversy is the only reason William Swing wrote this letter. ECUSA's reputation matters far more to Swing than do the lives of John Bennison's victims.
You should have never written that letter, Swinger. You should have just kept quiet and let GenCon blow this out of the headlines. Because you just violated the First Law of Controversy. When you're in a hole, stop digging.
Original post here.
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