CHARLESTON — West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey believes former Bishop Michael Bransfield punishment by the Catholic pope is one step toward full transparency.
"The allegations against former Bishop Bransfield have caught the attention of nearly everyone in the Catholic faith, including the Pope himself, who has now given disciplinary measures for Bransfield," Morrisey said. "Pope Francis’ call for Bransfield to ‘make personal amends for some of the harm he caused,’ is a first step, but it is just that—only one step—since the public cannot know the full extent of harm caused by Bransfield’s actions until the Diocese fully complies with our subpoena and releases the full Bransfield report."
Morrisey said it's time for the Wheeling-Charleston Diocese to come clean.
"After decades of covering up and concealing the behavior of priests as it relates to sexual abuse, it is time for the Diocese to come clean with what it knows and release the Bransfield report and any other relevant materials," Morrisey said. "None of the allegations of financial improprieties and sexual abuse may have been revealed if not for our investigation – the public shouldn’t have to wait any longer for transparency."
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."