WHEELING, W.Va. — At a press conference on Tuesday in Wheeling, West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said he has filed an amended complaint in his lawsuit against the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.
The new claims include a count of unfair competition and evidence of the church’s alleged failure to conduct background checks and report abuse.
Morrisey said on Tuesday that since filing his lawsuit against the Diocese for failing to protect children from sexual abusers, more people that have been involved with the Diocese have came forward.
“There experiences confirm what we have alleged,” he said. “That the Catholic church has been covering up, concealing, and denying information that it has harbored child molesting priests for a long time.”
The amended complaint details allegations the Diocese chose not to publicly disclose a report of child sexual abuse by a teacher in 2006 in Kanawha County.
The claims allege the Diocese relied upon Bishop Michael J. Bransfield’s policy of nondisclosure when it failed to publicly report those allegations.
The amended complaint also includes new allegations against Victor Frobas during an assignment in Weirton from 1980 to 1982 at St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Church, where he allegedly pulled kids out of class using video games to gain the trust of the abused in an on-site residence.
More details in the amended complaint allege priests credibly accused of sexual abuse were also allowed to work in the Diocese without adequate background checks.
“Although we know that every potential abuser can’t be stopped through the hiring process, you can’t say one thing to the public if you’re going to perform background checks and not follow through. That is not acceptable,” Morrisey said.
Morrisey said the unfair competition claim alleges through the concealment and cover-ups that the schools and camps in the Diocese received an unfair advantage over competing schools and camps in the area.
According to Morrisey, there are new claims in the amended complaint that allege misconduct as recently as 2016.
“For all the effort that has been put in to say that these are old allegations, it took a subpoena from our office to help forge the process by which a list of 31 credibly accused priests had to come forward,” he said.
“I would say these are ripe issues and it is appropriate to continue.”
A motion to dismiss the case was filed by the Diocese in late April.
The Diocese released a statement Tuesday on Morrisey’s new claims:
“The Diocese learned from media sources today that the Attorney General of the State of West Virginia has filed a responsive pleading in the Circuit Court of Wood County, West Virginia. The new pleading is in response to the Diocese’s own motion to dismiss the Attorney General’s complaint, as submitted last month.
The new allegations filed today contain factual inaccuracies that are not included in the Attorney General’s prior complaint but which are, however, based in large part on information that the Diocese previously provided the Attorney General’s office. In the strongest terms, we deny the allegation that initial background checks were not conducted on school employees, as the amended complaint contends. We can only surmise that the Attorney General’s office has not thoroughly reviewed the information which has been provided by Diocesan officials to his office. As noted previously in the Diocese’s motion to dismiss the Attorney General’s lawsuit, it is our view that the West Virginia Consumer Credit Protection Act does not pertain to issues outlined in the complaint, and that the action is outside the jurisdiction of the Attorney General.
As legal counsel for the Diocese has made clear, we categorically reject the lawsuit’s assertion that the Diocese is not wholly committed to the protection of children, as reflected in our rigorous Safe Environment Program. The Diocese has a zero tolerance policy for any cleric, employee or volunteer credibly accused of abuse and it is the policy of the Diocese to report any accusation of this nature immediately to civil authorities. Moreover, the Safe Environment Program of the Diocese employs mandatory screening, extensive background checks and training for all employees and volunteers who work with children. Diocesan policy may be accessed here.”
Morrisey filed the amended complaint in Wood County Circuit Court and encourages anyone with information on this case to come forward.
“It’s going to allow us to address this issue, and then to move forward and to heal,” he said.
“But the only way we heal is through transparency and by right the wrongs of the past.”