Wheeling-Charleston diocese to release names of sexual abuse suspects

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston has announced it will release the names of all priests and deacons credibly accused of child sexual abuse since 1950.

The diocese did not state a precise timetable for the release but said it will be as soon as the information can be compiled and checked.

The release will include a list of the accused priests’ assignments during their tenure in the diocese.

Close to 800 priests have worked for the diocese over the period under review, officials said. None of the individuals who will be listed are currently in active ministry.

The announcement comes on the heels of the abrupt resignation of Rev. Michael J. Bransfield, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.

Bransfield’s resignation last month was accompanied by an order by the archbishop of Baltimore to investigate allegations that Bransfield sexually harassed adults.

Archbishop William E. Lori, apostolic administrator for the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, said today that releasing the names of others who are credibly accused will begin to restore trust.

“The trust of the people has been badly damaged. Disclosing the names of all those credibly accused of abuse is a critical step toward repairing that broken trust,” Lori stated.

“I pray this will lead toward healing and demonstrate the Diocese’s firm commitment to transparency and accountability.”

The period goes to 1950 because that’s as far back as the diocese has records.

The release will include a list of the accused priests’ assignments during their tenure in the Diocese. None of the individuals who will be listed are currently in active ministry, according to the announcement.

Lori has directed Bryan Minor, delegate of Administrative Affairs for the diocese, to oversee the process of reviewing files in preparation for the disclosure.

Minor spoke this afternoon with MetroNews.

He said the diocese began talking internally about the investigation and releasing the names two or three months ago.

“We wanted to look at what was expected of us as a church during this time when trust has been broken,” Minor said.

“When you read everything coming out of Pennsylvania, things coming out of other dioceses, we need to be more open, honest and transparent about our past.”

He said releasing the names will have several benefits.

“Number one, we become open and honest about it. Number two, it opens the door to people who may have been victims, and it gives them the opportunity to come forward.”

Minor said the work has begun. He said it includes a review of files kept by bishops, personnel managers, attorneys and others.

“We have begun the review of all available files and will create a list that is as comprehensive as possible,” Minor stated.

“For the sake of transparency and openness, we will release the list as soon as the preparatory work is complete and after it has been reviewed and confirmed by our independent Diocesan Sexual Abuse Review Board.”

Minor said that it is important to remember the victims of sexual abuse in prayer, particularly those harmed by those in the Church.

“We ask all West Virginians to join the faithful of the Diocese and remember in prayer all those who have been affected by sexual abuse,” he said.

When its list is published, Minor said, the Diocese will continue to support victims.

“The Diocese has a longstanding Victim Outreach program, and we will continue to make those services available to our local Church,” Minor stated.

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.

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