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Gov't Sues Catholic Church for Covering Up Sex Abuse

The lawsuit alleges that the church knowingly employed priests who had been accused of abuse.

THE WEST VIRGINIA attorney general on Tuesday filed a lawsuit against the state's Catholic diocese and a retired bishop, alleging that they knowingly employed pedophiles and failed to conduct adequate backgrounds checks on those working at the diocese's schools and camps.

The civil complaint alleges that the Wheeling-Charleston Diocese and former Bishop Michael J. Bransfield covered up and concealed sex abuse, and employed admitted sexual abusers and priests who had been credibly accused of child sex abuse.

In one case mentioned in the complaint, the diocese ordained a priest despite knowledge of a credible sex abuse allegation against him and later named him the director of a camp. The priest was then accused of abuse at the camp but, after "treatment," was employed at a high school, after which he received more treatment and then went on to plead guilty to abusing children in Missouri.

In another case, a priest who admitted he had sexually abused a boy at a high school was later reassigned to an elementary school where he worked for three years.

"As in other Dioceses in other states, the Wheeling-Charleston Diocese engaged in a pattern of denial and cover-up when it discovered that its priests were sexually abusing children, particularly in schools and camps," Attorney General Patrick Morrisey told reporters at a press conference.

In an unusual approach, the lawsuit charges that the diocese and the bishop violated the state's consumer protection laws and alleges that the diocese was not transparent with parents who paid for their children to attend the schools and camps.

Morrisey said his office was taking a consumer-protection approach to the lawsuit because parents paying for their children to attend schools and camps deserved to know that their children were safe. If the attorney general's office had jurisdiction to hold the priests criminally accountable for their conduct, it would, Morrisey said.

Bransfield served as the bishop of the Wheeling-Charleston Diocese from 2005 until his resignation in September. Church officials earlier this month announced they were imposing ministerial restrictions on Bransfield after an investigation probed allegations that Bransfield had sexually harassed adults. Morrisey said he is urging the church to publicly release the findings of the investigation.

The lawsuit comes after the August 2018 release of a Pennsylvania grand jury report that identified hundreds of Catholic priest who had been credibly accused or found guilty of abusing children in Pennsylvania. At least one of the priests identified in the report had also been employed in West Virginia, according to the complaint.

Soon after, the state initiated an investigation to determine if priests who were or had been employed in West Virginia had been accused of sexually abusing children. The investigation is not yet complete, in part because of a "lack of cooperation from the Diocese," the complaint says.

The diocese currently operates six high school and 19 elementary schools in the state, and some parishes also operate pre-kindergarten day care facilities, according to the lawsuit.

Gov't Sues Catholic Church for Covering Up Sex Abuse Gov't Sues Catholic Church for Covering Up Sex Abuse Reviewed by AsianPolicy.Press on 10:36:00 PM Rating: 5

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