West Virginia bishop denies sexual abuse allegations

Bishop Michael J. Bransfield .
Bishop Michael J. Bransfield .

.- Bishop Michael J. Bransfield of Wheeling-Charelston, W.Va. denied allegations of sex abuse against him during April 18 court proceedings in the criminal trial against a Pennsylvania priest.

“To now be unfairly included in that group and to hear the horrific allegations that are being made of me is unbelievable and shocking,” Bishop Bransfield said in an April 19 statement.

A witness in the trial against Monsignor William Lynn – who is accused of covering up sex abuse accusations within the Philadelphia Archdiocese – told the court that he was sexually abused by Philadelphia priest Fr. Stanely Gana on property belonging to Bishop Bransfield over 30 years ago.

The same witness, a 48-year-old man identified as “John,” claims that Bishop Bransfield brought several teenage boys to a farm owned by Fr. Gana, who told “John” that the bishop was having sex with one of them, reported the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Bishop Bransfield, a 68-year-old native of Philadelphia, said in his statement Thursday that although he is subject to criticism as a public figure, these allegations “go way beyond any sense of fairness and propriety.”

“I have never sexually abused anyone,” he said.

As Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston since 2004, Bishop Bransfield said he has “openly been an advocate for the eradication of abusive priests in every diocese.”

The news of these allegations reached him while he was attending meetings at the Vatican. “To say I was shocked and saddened would be an understatement,” he said.

When he first heard of the child sexual abuse case involving his former colleagues from St. Charles Borromeo Seminary in Pennsylvania, he was “deeply saddened.”

“Over the years, I have felt devastation for both the victims and the church as I learned about the terrible actions they took with innocent victims.”

He also said the statement that the witness made about the abuse taking place in a home that he owned is “misleading” because it fails to mention that he allowed many people to use his home and that he was neither present nor aware of the incident.

Bishop Bransfield asked for prayers for himself, the parishoners in his diocese and Philadelphia and all those “who have been affected by sexual abuse.”