Wheeling-Charleston Diocese wants Lawsuit Alleging it Hired Pedophiles Thrown Out
CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — West Virginia’s attorney general on Thursday discounted an effort by a Catholic diocese and its former bishop to quash his lawsuit claiming they knowingly employed pedophiles.
The motion to dismiss the lawsuit, filed by the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston and former Bishop Michael Bransfield, lacks merit, Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said in a statement.
Morrisey brought the suit last month under the state’s consumer credit and protection act, which several attorneys said is a first-of-its kind move. Its filing came about a week after church officials barred Bransfield from priestly duties following an investigation into claims that he sexually harassed adults and committed financial improprieties.
The lawsuit alleges the diocese and Bransfield chose to cover up arguably criminal behavior and says the diocese employed admitted sexual abusers and priests credibly accused of child sexual abuse without adequate background checks.
“Those who pay tuitions to fund the Diocese’s schools and camps deserve a safe learning environment just as the Diocese advertises — not years of cover up and concealment as detailed in our lawsuit,” Morrisey said.
A statement from the diocese after the suit was filed said the allegations do not “fairly portray its overall contributions to the education of children in West Virginia nor fairly portray the efforts of its hundreds of employees and clergy who work every day to deliver quality education in West Virginia.”
In their dismissal motion, lawyers for the diocese and Bransfield argued that the attorney general failed to show they violated the consumer credit and protection act.
Among its allegations, the lawsuit alleges that the Rev. Victor Frobas, who was forced out of the Philadelphia seminary system because of a credible accusation of child sexual abuse, was made the director of a summer youth camp owned by the diocese. Frobas was then accused of sexually abusing children at that post and, following a leave of absence, was later assigned to work as a chaplain at Wheeling Central Catholic High School, the lawsuit said.
In 1987, Frobas was indicted for molesting two boys at a parish in suburban St. Louis. He pleaded guilty, served about two years and then died in 1993, according to the lawsuit, which seeks a court order to stop the diocese from continuing what the suit says is a practice of employing admitted abusers and trying to cover them up.
“The Diocese should come clean with what it knows and focus its efforts on restoring the public’s trust, and that begins with transparency,” Morrisey said.