Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Sordid Affair

The trial of Charles Bennison, bishop of Pennsylvania is over. The judges have retired to their homes and a verdict should come down sometime in July, we are told. The smart money is on the bishop being deposed.

I've been thinking about the trial. I haven't posted much about it other than the usual snarky comments, but over at Chris Johnson's blog Perpetua asked why a trial? Here are my thoughts.

If they depose Chuck, then when they go after +Duncan they will have accomplished much to set the stage.

First, as we all know depositions of bishop by trial have been rare. So to go after +Duncan after this sordid affair means that they can spin it to the press and the pew potatoes as going after another 'bad egg' and that all they are doing is 'cleaning house'

Second, and most of y'all will disagree with me on this, but Chuck's role in all this was over thirty years ago. John is the true culprit here. But they are attacking Chuck with John's evil. On first blush, it shouldn't be necessary. Chuck has run a diocese into the ground, whether through active fraud or gross negligence, it really doesn't matter. Pennsylvania is missing a whole bunch of dough that they had before Chuck became bishop. Losing money is just about the only sin the Episcopal Church recognizes anymore, but it isn't sensational, and it won't get folks energized. So, they stress the sex and hope to impugn subsequent defendants with the same sort of depravity. It's guilt by association.

Third, no one really likes Charles Bennison. He was rector here in Atlanta and his legacy was division. I doubt he has changed since. He also has a reputation as a loose cannon. With a much more important trial looming, a loose canon (mispelling intentional) is the last thing the party faithful want. Going after Chuck really won't hurt 815's voting strength.

Fourth, it sends a message to any waverers. Fall into line or we will go as far back as we have to and dig up the dirt against you. We will hold you culpable for any wrongs you may have committed, no matter how ancient.

The main point is number one. We convicted a sleazoid. He was the first bishop convicted of anything for quite a while. Therefore anyone who gets convicted is obviously a sleazoid.

The problem is that all the evidence weighs against John. Chuck behaved as an ambitious priest would. He is slimy, but I don't think that what he did, given when it happened, amounts to anything he ought to be deposed for. Because of all things he is accused of, which of them occurred when he was bishop?

If we are to hold men accountable for the entirety of their lives, what should we make of St. Augustine? He was largely blameless as a bishop, but was not before he became one. For the record, I do not believe that Charles Bennison is fit to tie the shoes of St. Augustine, but what specifically did he do as a bishop to deserve this? And of those acts, what evidence of the same was presented at trial?

And finally, isn't it convenient that all of the hierarchy involved, with the exception of Charles Bennison, are dead or retired?

1 comment:

Perpetua said...

I do agree with your point that this creates the precedent that those convicted are sleaze.

I am wondering if another reason to go after Charles Bennison at this time is that this creates an opening that could be filled by a gay or lesbian just in time for the approval to be given at General Convention 2009.

The GLBT lobby was disappointed not to fill the California position and Philadelphia is so liberal they might be sure they can pull it off.