WHEELING, W.Va. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A second seminarian is suing the disgraced former bishop of Wheeling-Charleston, Bp. Michael Bransfield, alleging Bransfield sexually abused him while under the bishop's authority.
News broke on Monday of a second lawsuit filed in Ohio County Circuit Court in mid-September by a former seminarian named V.G.D. in the lawsuit. The seminarian alleges that while studying for the priesthood under Bransfield, the bishop:
The seminarian notes one incident occurred in December 2017 after he was unexpectedly asked to drive the bishop from Washington to the diocese's Priestsfield Pastoral Center in Kearneysville, West Virginia. The abuse, according to the lawsuit, happened that evening following a private dinner in which alcohol was served.
"Bishop Bransfield repeatedly and inappropriately touched, caressed and stroked V.G.D., kissing him on the face and mouth," asserts the lawsuit.
The alleged abuse grew worse when in March 2018 the seminarian was invited to stay overnight at Bransfield's residence in Wheeling.
"V.G.D. was plied with alcohol, touched inappropriately, kissed and subjected to pornographic images at the insistence of Bishop Bransfield," reads the lawsuit.
According to the seminarian, this abuse allegedly occurred at the bishop's residence on two occasions. The first incident was occasioned by the seminarian being invited to serve the bishop's Mass at the Cathedral of St. Joseph in Wheeling. The second incident was when the seminarian came to Wheeling to receive what's called candidacy to the priesthood.
When the seminarian was invited to overnight with the bishop again in May 2018, he declined. It was then that he was told the invitation "was not actually a request ... it was basically an expectation," according to the filing.
The sexual harassment ceased in September of that year with Bransfield retiring in disgrace just five days before reaching the mandatory retirement age of 75. It was then that Baltimore's Abp. William Lori was appointed by Pope Francis to oversee an investigation into Bransfield's scandal-ridden diocese. The list of scandals involving Bransfield is rapidly growing.
This recent case of a seminarian accusing Bransfield of sex abuse comes on the heels of a similar lawsuit filed by a former seminarian alleging Bransfield also sexually abused him while he studied for the priesthood under the bishop. That seminarian, named J.E. in his lawsuit, described one incident of alleged abuse that occurred while traveling with Bransfield to nearby Charleston.
Bransfield was apparently drunk, claimed J.E., and was locked out of the parish. When J.E. let the bishop in, Bransfield allegedly "grabbed J.E. from behind, pulled J.E. against him, running his hands down J.E.'s chest and over his genitals."
This lawsuit by J.E. was abruptly settled outside of court in August. But in the lawsuit now playing out, V.G.D. explains that Lori offered him no assistance in healing nor in seeking justice. He says he can't even approach the diocese without being met with hostility.
"Despite the public invitation by the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston inviting anyone who has been victimized by a priest to report their experiences, V.G.D. has been met with hostility in his attempts to communicate with the investigator regarding the abuse he suffered at the hands of Bishop Bransfield," reads the lawsuit.
He was never allowed to meet with the archbishop, who was appointed to run the investigation, he said.
"The meeting to discuss needed and promised healing never occurred," says the complaint.
The suit states V.G.D. later was approached by Quirk while celebrating Mass and allegedly was told not to talk to Lori.