West Virginia Attorney General Sues Catholic Diocese

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Joshua Gill Religion Reporter
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The West Virginia attorney general filed a civil suit Tuesday against the Wheeling-Charleston Catholic Diocese and former Bishop Michael J. Bransfield, alleging they knowingly hired pedophiles.

Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, a Republican, claimed the diocese knowingly retained pedophiles and also failed to conduct thorough background checks on school and camp employees and to warn parents about the potential dangers to their children.

Morrisey’s lawsuit is the culmination of an investigation of the diocese that he began in September 2018. (RELATED: Cardinal George Pell Sentenced to 6 Years In Prison)

“Parents who pay and entrust the Wheeling-Charleston Diocese and its schools to educate and care for their children deserve full transparency,” Morrisey said in a statement. “Our investigation reveals a serious need for the Diocese to enact policy changes that will better protect children, just as this lawsuit demonstrates our resolve to pursue every avenue to effectuate change as no one is above the law.”

The suit alleges Bransfield and the diocese violated West Virginia consumer protection laws by failing to warn parents that confessed pedophiles like Father Patrick Condron had direct access to their children. The diocese reportedly sent Condron to rehabilitative treatment after he confessed to sexually abusing a student at St. Joseph Preparatory Seminary High School in Vienna, West Virginia. Afterward the diocese assigned him to Wheeling Catholic Elementary School from 1998 to 2001.

The lawsuit also alleges the diocese hired Victor Frobas, who was later convicted of and imprisoned for child sexual abuse, despite knowing that he had been credibly accused of abuse in the past; failed to conduct a background check on Ronald Cooper, who was convicted of statutory rape and robbery, before employing him as a school teacher; and hired another priest who admitted to having been accused of sexual abuse.

“Today is a sad day, but the Attorney General still believes there are so many priests and deacons in the Catholic church — who are good men — who will support this effort so we can really seek meaningful changes in how the church handles sexual abuse,” Morrisey said.

The diocese announced on March 11 it completed a preliminary investigation into allegations against Bransfield of abuse cover-up and that it restricted Bransfield from ministerial duties while the Holy See reviewed the completed investigation. Morrisey urged the diocese to release its findings to the public.

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