Ex-Baltimore bishop barred from ministering in Catholic archdiocese following harassment allegations

Baltimore archdiocese officials say Bishop Gordon Bennett was accused of sexual harassment and have decided on punitive action against him

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A former bishop of the Archdiocese of Baltimore has been barred from taking part in any ministry activity in that jurisdiction after allegations of sexual misconduct surfaced against him, according to church officials.

Bishop Gordon Bennett, who was auxiliary bishop in Baltimore from 1998 to 2004, will not be allowed to participate in ministerial activity within the archdiocese, Archbishop William Lori announced Monday, according to The Baltimore Sun.

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Lori’s decision to remove the Jesuit priest from the Archdiocese comes from allegations made back in 2005 that Bennett, then a bishop of Mandeville, Jamaica, sexually harassed a young adult. While the alleged assault took place in Jamaica, Bennett was said to have met the person in Baltimore during his time as a bishop there, said Sean Caine, vice chancellor and spokesman for the archdiocese, according to the Sun.

Caine says the person reached out to the Baltimore archdiocese in 2006 to report the harassment, however, because Bennett was already working in Jamaica, the case fell outside of Baltimore’s jurisdiction.

Then-acting archbishop of Baltimore, Cardinal William Keeler, reported the allegation to the apostolic nunciature — the Vatican’s diplomatic mission to the United States — in Washington.

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According to the newspaper, in a 2009 statement, Tracey Primrose, a representative for Jesuits West (the jurisdiction of Jesuit Society covering the West Coast), said that the Vatican cleared Bennett of his former allegations, however, restrictions were placed on his ministry, limiting him to carry out a small range of duties, and only under the supervision of other bishops.

More recently, however, Lori decided to take another look at the Bennett case within the framework of the newer, stricter protocols on reporting sexual misconduct that the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Within those guidelines, created as of January of this year, archdiocesan leaders judged the allegations against Bennett to be credible. Lori then imposed the penalty, which was approved by the Vatican.

Bennett left the Mandeville diocese in 2006 for health reasons. Bennett, now 72, lives in a Jesuit retirement community in California and has engaged in no public ministry since August, Primrose said.

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