West Virginia bishop: “I have never sexually abused anyone”

After yesterday’s bombshell, here’s the statement today from Bishop Michael J. Bransfield of Wheeling-Charleston:

I have been deeply saddened by the priest child abuse scandal that has been connected to a handful of my former colleagues and friends from St. Charles Seminary. 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.

To now be unfairly included in that group and to hear the horrific allegations that are being made of me is unbelievable and shocking. As a native of Roxboro, I consider Philadelphia my home. I have openly been an advocate for the eradication of the abusive behavior of priests in every diocese, and have demonstrated this in the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, where I now live and serve.

I have never sexually abused anyone.

I understand that I am a public figure and therefore subject to public criticism. The nature of these statements and the manner in which they were released however go way beyond any sense of fairness and propriety. This case has gone on for seven years or more and simple facts like whether I own, or owned, a farm in the Scranton area were easily determinable. Contrary to the statements, I do not own, and never owned a farm in the Scranton area, upstate New York, or anywhere else for that matter.

The statement that a former seminarian of mine, Stanley Gana, abused a minor at a home which I owned on the shore and at which I permitted numerous friends and priests to use is misleading. What did not get released was additional information available to the Prosecutor that I was not aware of the incident and was not present at the house at the time. Gana has confirmed those facts in prior reports.

I was in Rome attending meetings at the Vatican when this false story about me was publicly released by the media without my knowledge or input. To say I was shocked and saddened would be an understatement.

I ask you to pray for me and the parishioners of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston as well as the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. At the same time, please join me in prayer for all those who have been affected by sexual abuse.


  1. “I have never sexually abused anyone.” Reminds one of “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.”

    A PR expert should have been used as the public may view that as a qualified statement.

    A better response is “I never had sex with anyone during the course of my priesthood, ever.”

    Sex with a willing participant is not legally qualified as abuse if the subject is above the age of consent even though it may be viewed as amoral.

  2. There’s a lot of shocked going around today.

  3. pagansister says:

    And the moon is really made of green cheese—the government just lied to us. Perhaps he actually didn’t abuse anyone sexually, but did he do know it was happening in his area? Did he call the secular authorities if so. All I see in the above is that he denies everything including what may have happened in the house he owns on the shore. Prove it, Dude. Prove your innocence. Right now I don’t think anyone will believe him due to the amount of men who have claimed innocence in the past—who weren’t innocent.

  4. Deacon Steve says:

    Let’s see his statement makes it clear that the situation in which he was supposedly condoning the behavior, could not have happened because he did not own any property as was claimed in the accusation. I’d say that is fairly clear proof that the allegation was false, and that he wasn’t party to what was going on. There is no proof that he was involved in covering anything up, and your attack on him is just as bad as the lies that were told from the witness stand.

  5. Maybe I can explain it this way:

    I go to court, and I testify under oath that pagansister told me that “the moon is made of green cheese.”

    1) My testimony is not really true — pagansister’s statement was a rhetorical flourish not meant to be taken literally. Whether I have committed perjury or not really depends upon my verbal sophistication. For example, if I don’t speak English well or I have an autistic spectrum disorder, I may not be able to recognize when statements are not meant literally.

    2) Even if pagansister literally meant that the moon is made of green cheese, and sincerely believes that it is true, it is obvious that she has no basis upon which to base such a belief. I’m pretty sure that she has never been to the moon, and that would be a heck of a big chunk of cheese, and cheese is a manufactured product from cows milk — where are the lunar cows, milking equipment, not to mention air for the cows to breathe?

    We can judge the INTERNAL logical consistency of the accusation itself. The basic facts are that some guy said something under oath while the rest of his testimony explained that he had no knowledge of whether what he said is true or false.

    I could write in this combox “pagansister tortures kittens and puppies” and then later some random person could take the stand and say “I read on the internet that pagansister tortures kittens and puppies.” That random witness would be telling the literal truth — someone (me) wrote it, and if Deacon Greg allows it to pass moderation, then it would be “on the internet.” But the notion that this has any relation to truth or fact about pagansister and kittens and puppies is utterly ludicrous.

  6. Jack B. Nimble says:

    I find myself agreeing with “George” above. This statement was written by the “well known” (per press reports) criminal defense attorney retained by the Diocese of the bishop in question. Why an unindicted Diocese and bishop need a criminal defense attorney is one question. The other questions are these: why not say “I have never broken my vows with any person in a sexual manner, child or adult”. Simple. Clean. Not parsed or legalistic. Why not say, the testimony in the trial by a prosecution witness that I engaged in a lewd phone conversation with a teenage male is untrue.

    The final question, Bishop [and to your defenders (Legal team??) leaving comments] is why not direct the canonical judge who is under Penn. subpoena to testify? Why hide him away in W. Virginia if it’s all about justice, the victims and the kids? It’s not personal to me, a non-RC but a close relative Catholic had to deal with this priest- pedophile horror.

  7. The Bishop has every right to publicly deny the specific allegation made in Commonwealth Court and we should not expect him to get into a list of every sin he may or may not have committed unrelated to the matter at hand.

    “I have never sexually abused anyone.” is not parsing words as it relates to what was alleged.

    A different question, not addressed here but perhaps it will be asked later, is if as a peer or as an administrator he became aware of or had reason to suspect any such abuse of minors and if so when and what did he do about it.

    Who here, if named in public testimony as a pedophile would not not seek legal council to attempt to clear our name.?

    Now my beef with the Bishop and his lawyers– saying the story was “publicly released by the media without ( his) knowledge or input” is pure ‘blame the media’ hogwash. They know full well it was stated in open court in one of the most closely watched and covered court trials in the country. Hardly a whisper down the lane or something that would not be covered.

  8. pagansister says:

    Paragraph 5 in the article above, Deacon Steve, states the priest we are discussing, has a home on the shore by his admission and he said he allowed ‘folks to use it. That is the one I was referring to—I never mentioned land/home he never owned in PA or NY or where ever. He said he wasn’t at the home on the shore when the “alleged” abuse by a former seminarian took place—apparently confirmed by Gana, the seminarian. Another case of “he said/he said.

  9. pagansister says:

    WOW! cathyf, I’m impressed with your explanation. Well done. BTW I don’t abuse kittens and/or puppies in case someone decides to take what you said literally. :o)

  10. Don’t you see how unreasonable it is do demand that Bishop Bransfield PROVE that something didn’t happen decades ago? The bishop doesn’t claim that the abuse didn’t happen at his house — he claims merely that he doesn’t know one way or another because he wasn’t there.

    You have mentioned many times that you were a schoolteacher for many years. You realize, of course, that statistically speaking, it is pretty near certain that there were girls, students in your school, who were being sexually abused by their fathers/stepfathers? What did you do about it? Why didn’t you call the police? “Prove your innocence” you say — ok, how can you prove that you didn’t know — or didn’t know which girls were being abused?

  11. So, PS, I can tell all my puppy and kitty friends that they can call off the protests picketing your house? ;-)

  12. Yes, good thing we have that whole “guilty until proven innocent” thing. Sheesh.

  13. Judy Jones says:

    A man has given sworn courtroom testimony in Philly sex abuse trial that:
    –Bransfield, took boys to farm in northeastern Pennsylvania and
    –a Philly priest told him Bransfield was abusing one of them.
    And years ago, the friendship between the Philly priest and the West Virginia bishop was noted in a grand jury report.

    In Bransfield’statement defending himself about these allegations, he attacks the judicial system, the judge, and the prosecutors in Philadelphia

    Also, Msgr. Kevin M. Quirk has sworn obedience to Bransfield who can order Quirk to appear in court. Bransfield should not stop him from testifying in the philly trial because it only adds to the doubts about Bransfield.

    If anyone has knowledge about this, please report it to the police.

    [Note: the original comment appeared with a phone number. I don't, as a policy, publish phone numbers in the blog that I have not authenticated and verified. Dcn. G.]

  14. George,

    As I understand, the accusation was that the bishop had been having sex with a minor male. Therefore, the statement, “I have never sexually abused anyone” is a full and appropriate denial of the accusation. The bishop was not accused of having sex with an adult which, by Christian standards, is immoral (not amoral), but is not illegal, which is the concern of a civil trial.

    Regardless of what the bishop says or does, there will always be those for whom it will not be enough. I think if God Himself proclaimed from heaven, “He is not guilty!” there would be those who point out, “Yes, but He didn’t say he was innocent!”

  15. I’m sure it was a slip, Judy, but perhaps a Freudian one: instead of a period after, “If anyone has knowledge about this, please report it to the police” you placed a comma, then continued with “July Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director …”

    So, SNAP is setting itself up as the police when it comes to these sort of cases?

    I think SNAP has lost all integrity on these matters, what with recent developments: David Clohessy falsely accusing a day care owner of having an abusive priest work at her daycare (thereby pretty much ruining her business); Clohessy’s own abuse story being based on so-called recovered memories, a psych theory that has been discredited; Clohessy warning his brother, who was an abusive priest, about the authorities coming down on him; SNAP defending an attorney with a credible history of abuse; and the recent court order demanding that SNAP hand over files they tried to keep under wraps; SNAP’s practice of keeping priests on their list of abusers even after they’ve been exonerated; Clohessy’s lies about Bp. Burke “inviting and welcoming” abusive priests to St. Louis.

    SNAP’s goal is not to protect children, but to destroy the Church.

  16. pagansister says:

    IF there had been signs that any of the children we had were being abused, then the authorities would have been called.(actually it was a law in all the states I taught in). In fact, there was one child who did mention to a volunteer that her father was mistreating her—and the authorities were called, and things were checked out. He had NOT been abusing her. She was a student in the last school I taught in, a 7th grader. The last school was a Catholic school. I was a teacher in kindergarten. At that age they are open books, and we heard many stories—”Daddy hit mommy today”, and funny ones as well. So, you’re right—many children in the public schools and the one Catholic school I taught in may have been mistreated by an adult in authority—parent/priest/ other family member. Would I have known? Probably not. However in the younger kids, we were taught some signs that may indicated sexual mistreatment. As to the priest mentioned above—-I personally think he may not have known what went on in the shore house, but was he aware of things happening in the parish? As a aside—-one of the teachers I worked with said that if she complained (no she wasn’t abused by a priest) to her parents about something a nun may have done to her, her parents would take the side of the nun. So, many folks never considered that nuns/priests could do bad things—they represented something Holy and could do no wrong, apparently.

  17. pagansister says:

    Yes, cathyf, call off the protesters as all is well in my house and no animals have been harmed in the writing of this post. :o)

  18. SNAP’s goal is not to protect children, but to destroy the Church.

    I tend to think of SNAP as disinfectant on an infected wound. And your comment is akin to complaining that the disinfectant burns too much.

    SNAP has been proven to be a necessary evil as evidenced by this case in Philadelphia where church leadership engaged in a conspiracy to hide abuse.

    If you can not trust your bishops and priests to do the right think when no one’s looking, who can you really trust in the Church? I just trust the Gospel these days and keep my kids away from the clergy.

  19. More reading here:

    “Immaculate Deception
    Some dirty little secrets followed Archbishop Raymond Burke from Wisconsin to St. Louis”


Leave a Comment