Episcopal Bishop Charles Bennison, of Pennsylvania, took the witness stand yesterday in his ecclesiastical trial and asserted he did not initially know that his brother, a priest, had sex with a minor.
Bp. Bennison’s trial will determine whether he can remain as the presiding clergyman in the five-county region. It concerns whether he violated the canons of the church by failing to report alleged knowledge of his brother John’s adulterous affair with an underage female parishioner at St. Mark’s Church in Upland, Calif., in the early 1970s.
Charles was rector of St. Mark’s at the time, and he hired his younger brother, a seminary student, to train Sunday school teachers and head the parish youth group. In 1971, the 24-year-old seminarian began his sexual advances toward Martha Alexis, a 14-year-old high school student, and intercourse eventually became frequent. She succeeded in ending the relationship after strenuous effort in 1974, before leaving Upland for college in Los Angeles.