Diocese responds to AG’s amended lawsuit

West Virginia Headlines
Attorney General Morrisey reveals new evidence in lawsuit against Wheeling-Charleston Diocese

STATEMENT OF THE DIOCESE OF WHEELING-CHARLESTON

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 volunteers 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. The diocesan policy may be accessed at the following website

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Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced an amended lawsuit Tuesday against the diocese and former Bishop Michael Bransfield, who resigned last year.

The amended complaint details allegations the Diocese chose not to publicly disclose a report of child sexual abuse by a teacher in 2006 and permitted several individuals to work or volunteer at Catholic schools without adequate background checks.

“How can anyone reasonably argue that these allegations are old when the Church refused to release its list of credibly accused priests until after the issuance of our subpoena in the fall of 2018?” Attorney General Morrisey said. “The Church needs to come clean and end the secrecy.”

The amended complaint alleges the Diocese relied upon Bishop Michael J. Bransfield’s policy of nondisclosure when it failed to publicly report allegations of a Catholic school teacher abusing a teenage student in Kanawha County. An internal investigation in 2006 alleged the teacher gained the student’s trust with alcohol and prescription drugs, before multiple instances of sexual abuse on and off school property.

The amended complaint also includes new allegations against Victor Frobas during an assignment at St. Paul’s Roman Catholic Church in Weirton from 1980 to 1982. There the now-deceased priest pulled elementary school children out of classes and is accused of using video games to gain the trust of those who were then abused in an on-site residence.

The Attorney General, who initiated the investigation in September 2018, brought the action against the Diocese and Bishop Bransfield for violations of the state’s consumer protection laws, in addition to seeking a permanent court order blocking the Diocese from the continuation of any such conduct.

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West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey will be in Wheeling Tuesday with a big announcement.

Morrisey will disclose several new developments in his lawsuit against the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.

The lawsuit is based on information included in the Diocese’s November 2018 public disclosure of clergy credibly accused of child sexual abuse.

The announcement will be made 10 a.m. at the Ohio County Courthouse.

Stay with 7News for updates.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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