West Virginia AG accuses church leaders of withholding info in sex abuse investigation


West Virginia AG accuses church leaders of withholding info in sex abuse investigation
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West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey (R) said church leaders in his state “can and should do better” in producing documents his office has requested in relation to a sexual abuse investigation.

Morrisey told ABC News in an interview released Thursday that the diocese of Wheeling-Charleston has yet to produce several documents that he has requested through both two subpoenas and a lawsuit.


“That’s not the kind of transparent process that West Virginians deserve, and the church can and should do better than that,” Morrisey told the network. “Those are actions that disappointed me. It disappointed me as the state’s attorney general, and it disappointed me as a Catholic.”

Morrisey’s office has requested medical records for all priests accused or suspected of sexual abuse, including whether they were sent to “treatment facilities,” which many diocese have historically used as a method of sidelining accused priests, ABC News reported, citing a source familiar with the case. Morrisey’s office also reportedly has not received all copies of complaints against priests.

In a statement, Morrisey’s office claimed the Diocese did not issue a list of 40 “credibly accused priests” until the attorney general’s office issued its first subpoena last fall. Morrisey added that Thursday’s disclosure came roughly two weeks after his office filed an amended complaint.

“Now is the time for full disclosure. I repeat my call for the Diocese to stop fighting our efforts to get to the bottom of the sexual abuse scandal, come clean and end the secrecy — including release of the full Bransfield report,” his office said.

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A spokesperson for the diocese told The Hill later Thursday that it denied the allegations against it.

“The new allegations filed contain factual inaccuracies that are not included in the Attorney General’s prior complaint, and which distort information that the Diocese willingly provided to the Attorney General’s office in a spirit of full cooperation,” the spokesperson said.

The spokesperson denied allegations that the diocese did not conduct initial background checks on school employees.

Fifteen states and the District of Columbia are investigating clerical abuse and potential church coverups in the wake of a Pennsylvania grand jury report that detailed sexual abuse by hundreds of priests in six dioceses and church leadership’s failure to act on it.

While several of the other states have said they cannot launch statewide investigations and only act on referrals from local prosecutors, Morrisey has filed a consumer protection complaint against the diocese in his state, alleging it “engaged in unfair or deceptive acts or practices by failing to disclose to consumers of its educational and recreational services that it employed priests and laity who have sexually abused children.”

The attorney general’s office is also seeking the release of the full report by Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore, who oversees the diocese, concerning Bishop Michael Bransfield, who resigned from the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston amid sexual misconduct allegations, according to ABC.

On Wednesday, The Washington Post reported that Bransfield sent expensive gifts, including one as large as $15,000, to members of the clergy who accused him of harassment.

“Everybody’s trying to destroy my reputation,” Bransfield told the Post when asked about the allegations. “These people are terrible to me.”

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Updated 2:31 p.m.

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