Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston Seeks To Dismiss Attorney General Lawsuit

The attorney general of West Virginia lacks the authority to bring a lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, according to a motion from the church to dismiss a lawsuit against it.

The lawsuit by Attorney General Patrick Morrisey was filed in March in Wood County and claims the diocese and former Bishop Michael J. Bransfield knowingly hired pedophiles, failed to perform employee background checks and didn’t make any such disclosures to parents in violation of West Virginia consumer protection laws.

“The (attorney general) fails to allege that the (diocese) violated the (West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act) as it pertains to credit sales, consumer loans and consumer leases,” claims the motion for dismissal, filed on behalf of the diocese and Bransfield. “Rather, the AG’s allegations relate to the language on (diocese’s) website stating that it provides a safe school environment.”

The diocese in November issued a report of priests who had been credibly accused of sexual abuse against minors or who had other credible allegations regarding the Charter for Protection of Young People.

In September, the Vatican accepted Bransfield’s resignation and Pope Francis appointed Archbishop William E. Lori of the Baltimore Diocese as apostolic administrator of the diocese with the assignment to investigate allegations against Bransfield.

The investigation into sexual harassment and financial improprieties concluded earlier this year and was forwarded to the Vatican, but did not conclude a crime was committed, a diocese spokesman said in March.

The motion to dismiss was filed in April 18 in Wood County where Morrisey alleged several incidents occurred.

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