CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The attorney general of West Virginia has brought
a civil suit against the Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston and
its former bishop, Bishop Michael J. Bransfield, citing provisions of
the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act.
says that based on its investigation, the state attorney general’s
office claims that the diocese and Bishop Bransfield in past years
violated the consumer law by failing “to disclose to consumers of its
educational and recreational services that it employed priests and laity
who have sexually abused children.”
The suit defines “educational
and recreational services” as the Catholic schools, summer camps and
other entities in the statewide diocese.
A spokesman for the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston said a statement about the lawsuit would be forthcoming.
William E. Lori of Baltimore has been apostolic administrator of the
diocese since Sept. 13, 2018. The Vatican named him to the post the same
day it announced the retirement of Bishop Bransfield as head of the
The Vatican gave Archbishop Lori a mandate to investigate
allegations of sexual harassment of adults and financial improprieties
made against Bishop Bransfield.
On March 11, Archbishop Lori
announced that a preliminary investigation into the allegations had been
completed and the findings were being forwarded to the Vatican for
final judgment. At the same time, the archbishop announced restrictions
on the bishop’s ministry.
A news release from the Archdiocese of
Baltimore March 11 noted that the preliminary investigation took place
over five months. Archbishop Lori conducted the investigation with the
assistance of a team of five lay experts.
The investigative team
examined multiple allegations of sexual harassment of adults and
financial improprieties, according to the news release. It involved
interviews with more than 40 individuals, including Bishop Bransfield.