The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston Releases Names of Accused Priests
We appreciate this move by church officials in West Virginia, especially for including the names of priests who served in West Virginia but were accused of abuse in dioceses outside Wheeling-Charleston. However, we cannot help but note the omission of Bishop Michael J. Bransfield, who has been accused of abusing at least one minor and resigned in September over allegations that he had sexually harassed a number of adults.
The omission of Bishop Bransfield has us wondering what other claims were deemed by the diocese to not be “credible.” Only independent law enforcement professionals can truly determine when an allegation is “credible” or not, especially given that we have seen church officials deem accusations not credible only to be proven horribly wrong later.
For that reason, if Archbishop Lori is confident in the veracity of his list, we believe he should urge an independent investigation into the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey that has full access to diocesan records and would do a full review of all personnel files and abuse records.
We also believe that Archbishop Lori should publicize this list permanently on the diocesan website and run it at least quarterly in every parish bulletin. It should include every single proven, admitted and accused church employee: bishops, priests, seminarians, brothers, nuns and lay people, no matter who supervised or ordained them, and no matter where they originated. In this list, Archbishop Lori should also put by each name the date when he or his staff first learned of the allegation against that person, and when they removed from their position. It is important for accountability to find out who knew what, when they knew it, and what they chose to do with that information.
Finally, we encourage anyone who may have seen, suspected, or suffered abuse at the hands of church officials to contact law enforcement to make a report and not the Diocese directly.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)