Dear Bishop Bransfield:
We belong to a support group called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. Our mission is to heal the wounded and protect the vulnerable and expose the truth about clergy sex crimes and cover ups.
As you know, it’s been six months since you were accused of child sex abuse during a landmark clergy sex abuse case in Philadelphia. We are disappointed that you’ve done little to address these allegations in an honest, straightforward way.
“Open and transparent.” That’s how America’s bishops promised, a decade ago in their belated, first-ever national child sex abuse policy, to handle accusations of child sex crimes involving clergy. That’s the promise that you and your colleagues have relentlessly repeated for ten years now.
But issuing one written denial and refusing to take questions from the press, the public or your parishioners about these serious accusations is far from being “open and transparent.”
West Virginia citizens and Catholics need and deserve to hear from you and question you directly about these allegations. That’s especially true since you remain in your position today, despite that same national abuse policy which calls for clerics who are credibly accused of child sex crimes to be suspended.
Let us remind you of a few simple facts.
--The man who testified about you did so under oath.
--He was deemed credible enough by prosecutors to put on the stand.
--Another priest he accused, Fr. Stanley Gana, was suspended, defrocked and named in a grand jury report as a credibly accused child molester.
--Another man testified that you had a lewd conversation with him.
--The Philadelphia prosecutor said that you had been accused, in a separate instance, of fondling a minor in 1970s.
--Philly law enforcement officials have opened an investigation into the allegations.
--That investigation is ongoing.
In light of these facts, and your promises, we urge you, Bishop Bransfield to hold a public Q&A session to address and take questions about these allegations and the abuse and cover up crisis in the church in general. If you are innocent, you should have nothing to hide.
We also call on you, for public safety and victims’ healing, to post the names of all credibly accused priests within your diocese on your website, in his diocesan newspaper, and in parish bulletins. This is “one of the simplest, quickest and cheapest ways to keep kids safe.”
Roughly 30 US bishops have posted the names of their predator priests, usually after considerable public pressure. It’s the bare minimum every bishop should do.
In 2002, Tucson and Baltimore became the first US dioceses to disclose predators’ names. More recently, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia has created a database on its website which includes priests with credible child sex abuse accusations against them. (A full list of all the dioceses that have disclosed names is available here: http://www.bishop-accountability.org/AtAGlance/lists.htm)
We look forward to hearing from you.
David Clohessy, Director
Barbara Dorris, Outreach Director
I was nice to meet you today and receive your letter. I’ll be certain to take your letter to Bishop Bransfield.
Although we share a common passion to protect children and defend those who are abused, the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston does disagree with SNAPâs assessment of how our Bishop handled the hearsay allegations coming out of Philadelphia.
As responsible neighbors and Church leaders, the Diocese and our Bishop engaged in-house and secular media to spread the news regarding Bishop Bransfield’s responses to rumors and allegations of abuse when this news broke in Philadelphia in April and later recycled in July. Letters were sent home to each Catholic household via our Catholic newspaper, and letters were provided in parishes, either at the back of Church or in bulletins. We used electronic media to also post and send messages from the Bishop, particularly to the priests of the Diocese so they could also answer parishionersâ questions. Finally, each household for which we have an email address on file received a message from Bishop Bransfield discussing the hearsay allegations made against him.
I know that you believe more live media and Q and A should have been offered, and we will not reach common ground on that matter, unfortunately. It’s just something we didn’t do. You also mention that making public commentary about the court case would hinder an abuse victim from coming forward. That’s troubling. Please know that would never be our intent, and I hope that is not the case. Are you aware of anyone harboring those fears?
The people of this Diocese are good, God-fearing people who would never settle for anything less than the total protection of our children and justice for the abused, regardless of faith or background. We have that in common with your organization, and I’m glad I had a chance to communicate that with you in person today.
I wish you well in your endeavors to protect children and victims. I also wish you Christ’s peace.