CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey urged again for the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston to release its report on former Bishop Michael Bransfield, calling the Diocese's attempt to dismiss his suit an attempt to conceal the report.
"The Diocese’s latest motion to dismiss represents yet another attempt to sidestep transparency as it continues to conceal its investigative report on former Bishop Bransfield in hopes to distract public attention from allegations that it employed pedophiles, failed to conduct background checks and condoned Bransfield’s alleged sexual harassment of employees and others," Morrisey said in a statement. "The Diocese did not issue its list of credibly accused priests until after issuance of our first investigative subpoena in fall 2018, and continues to demonstrate a pattern of concealing information until external pressure from our office and the media forces its hand."
Morrisey said his office's lawsuit against the Diocese chronicles its decades-long pattern of concealing criminal behavior of priests as it relates to sexual abuse of children, while it advertised its schools and camps as safe learning environments.
"It is past time for the Diocese to come clean," Morrisey said. "We reiterate our call for the Diocese to release all relevant materials, including the Bransfield report. Not only will this allow us to move this matter toward resolution; it is essential for the Church to restore public trust."
Morrisey filed suit against the Diocese and Bransfield in March alleging the Diocese knowingly employed pedophiles and failed to conduct adequate background checks for those working at the Diocese’s schools and camps, all without disclosing the inherent danger to parents who purchased its services for their children. The complaint was amended in May to include several more counts and new evidence.
The updated complaint, filed May 21 in Wood Circuit Court, includes a new count of unfair competition and new evidence of the church's failure to conduct background checks and report abuse. The amended complaint also includes allegations the Diocese chose not to publicly disclose a report of child sexual abuse by a teacher in 2006 and permitted several individuals to work or volunteer at Catholic schools without adequate background checks.
The count of unfair competition in the amended complaint alleges the Diocese omitted the fact that it knowingly employed priests who had admitted to or been accused of sexually abusing children in advertising materials for prospective students. It says those materials also didn’t mention the Diocese didn’t do background checks on its employees.
In April, the Diocese filed a motion to dismiss the AG’s lawsuit. Attorneys for the Diocese and Bransfield say the AG’s office failed to show a violation of the consumer credit and protection act, which was in the original complaint.
A statement from the Diocese after the suit was filed dismissed the allegations, saying the suit does not "fairly portray its overall contributions to the education of children in West Virginia nor fairly portray the efforts of its hundreds of employees and clergy who work every day to deliver quality education in West Virginia."
Morrisey said the Diocese’s motion to dismiss lacks merit, and he said his office will respond in court.