CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston has released the names of clergy who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors.
There are 18 names on that list.
There are not many details about the accusations. Descriptions include labels such as inappropriate touching of a minor, solicitation of a minor and abuse.
The oldest cases date to the 1950s. The most recent was from 2012. Several of the priests listed went from assignment to assignment, including both parishes and Catholic schools.
Eleven of those accused are dead. One was deported from the country. The 2012 case of Brother Rogers Hannan in McDowell County resulted in his conviction for solicitation of a minor.
Also released was a list of accused priests from other regions or Dioceses who have served within the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, but for which no claims have been filed in the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.
There are 13 names on that list.
“This list undoubtedly reveals the failings of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston to fully protect young people within the Church,” stated Archbishop William E. Lori, apostolic administrator for the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.
“Rightly, many have a cause for anger and pain. I offer my sincerest apologies to all victims of sexual abuse and vow to strive to take proper action to ensure the safety of children and others in our care.”
The period goes to 1950 because that’s as far back as the diocese has records.
Close to 800 priests have worked for the diocese over the period under review, officials said. None of the individuals who were listed are currently in active ministry, officials have said.
More than 2,000 files were reviewed, containing tens of thousands of documents.
Church officials said a “credible” accusation indicates reasonable cause to believe that an offense has occurred considering all factors — time, place, age of the parties, background and history available, personnel files, and any other pertinent facts.
Church officials said the list does not include those cases where an accusation was not credible.
They defined that as meaning an accusation which, after review by law enforcement and/or other civil, lay, and church officials, was not supported by evidence or there is no reasonable probability that the accused committed sexual abuse of a child.
The released list does not differentiate between criminal or non-criminal misconduct committed by priests of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.
Instead, it refers specifically to violations of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.
Some of the claims do not involve criminal conduct as determined by public authorities or do not involve actual physical contact with the victims, such as soliciting, nonetheless, they are considered violations of the Charter.
“We hope the release of this list will be one of many steps taken to restore trust with parishioners and the broader community in West Virginia,” Lori stated.
“We hope people see the release of this list as a sign of good faith that the diocese is committed to transparency, accountability and to providing a safe environment for children and adults.”
The list was developed with the assistance of outside counsel and was reviewed by the Diocesan Lay Review Board, to include an in-depth examination of the facts and documentation for each case.
The board is comprised of lay members with an array of professional experience, including child and adolescent health care, the treatment of abuse survivors, and human resources. Board members volunteer and function independently of the Diocese.
The Diocese has said it reserves the right to update the list should more information become available as time goes on.
Bryan Minor, delegate of Administrative Affairs for the diocese, was directed to oversee the process of reviewing files in preparation for the disclosure.
Minor has said the diocese began talking internally about the investigation and releasing the names almost six months ago.
The announcement that the names would be released came after the abrupt resignation of Rev. Michael J. Bransfield, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.
Bransfield’s resignation this fall was accompanied by an order by the archbishop of Baltimore to investigate allegations that Bransfield sexually harassed adults.
The diocese encourages anyone who may be the victim of abuse by any member of the Church to contact civil authorities or the Office of Safe Environment at (304) 233-0880.
“As we continue to pray for all victims of sexual abuse, let us also recommit ourselves to do everything we can to ensure the protection of all who are entrusted to our care,” Lori stated Thursday.