Retired W.Va. Bishop Named in Sexual Assault Suit

Mar 27, 2019

retired Bishop Michael Bransfield
Credit Catholic News Agency

The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston is facing new litigations this week. A former seminarian has stepped forward with details about abuse he says he experienced while working for the recently retired bishop of the diocese.

A former seminarian, identified only as J.E., filed suit against the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, the recently retired Bishop Michael Bransfield of that diocese, and 20 other unnamed defendants. The civil complaint was filed in the circuit court of Ohio County, West Virginia. It contains explicit details about encountering Bishop Bransfield while he was intoxicated and asserts that he sexually assaulted the plaintiff, J.E.

A spokesperson from the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, Tim Bishop, said the diocese could not offer any comment on ongoing litigation. 

Bishop Bransfield is the subject of other investigations as well, including one by the Vatican in Rome, which was launched last year, and one by West Virginia’s attorney general announced earlier this month. The internal Catholic investigation looked into allegations of sexual assault and financial improprieties. That investigation is complete and is waiting to be adjudicated in Rome, though details have not been made available to the public.

In a recent report the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston did release a list of all of the known allegations the church has been made aware of in the last 70 years. That list named 18 former clergy members or staff, but did not include Michael Bransfield. When asked, diocesan spokesperson Tim Bishop repeated that the list of released names included only names of the "credibly accused" when allegations involved minors.