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Woman says abuse disclosures long overdue

PARKERSBURG — A disclosure by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston of those “credibly accused” of abusing children should have been done years ago, a representative of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said.

Archbishop William E. Lori, the apostolic administrator for the diocese, on Wednesday said the diocese will compile and release the names of all priests, deacons and others who are credibly accused of child sexual abuse since 1950, which is as far back as records exist.

“Releasing of the names of credibly accused priests, etc. should have been done years ago,” Judy Jones, Midwest regional leader of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said.

Jones, a former resident of Southeast Ohio, joined the network after her brother was abused by a priest, she said. She has said the church is incapable of policing itself.

“Hopefully the West Virginia attorney general is doing an investigation into the Wheeling-Charleston diocese,” she said. “He should subpoena all the ‘secret archives’ of the diocese.”

Jones also recommended a hot line be established for victims, which was done in Pennsylvania.

“The church officials can not be trusted to do the right thing and be honest,” Jones said. “Outside law enforcement needs to get involved.”

Anyone who may be the victim of abuse by any member of the church can contact civil authorities or the Office of Safe Environment at 304 233-0880, the diocese said.

Jones also questioned whether Bishop Michael Bransfield, the former bishop of the diocese who resigned in September, will be included in the disclosure. Bransfield is suspected of the sexual harassment of adults.

Lori was appointed apostolic administrator in September by Pope Francis, who accepted Bransfield’s resignation and ordered Lori to conduct an investigation into Bransfield.

The disclosure list will include the assignments during the accused priests’ tenure in the diocese, but none of those who will be listed are in active ministry, according to a release from the diocese on Wednesday.

“The trust of the people has been badly damaged. Disclosing the names of all those credibly accused of abuse is a critical step toward repairing that broken trust,” Lori said. “I pray this will lead toward healing and demonstrate the diocese’s firm commitment to transparency and accountability.”

Bryan Minor, the delegate of administrative affairs for the diocese, will oversee the review of files for the disclosure.

“We have begun the review of all available files and will create a list that is as comprehensive as possible,” Minor said. “For the sake of transparency and openness, we will release the list as soon as the preparatory work is complete and after it has been reviewed and confirmed by our independent Diocesan Sexual Abuse Review Board.”

Victims of sexual abuse, particularly those harmed by those in the church, should be remembered in prayer, Minor said. After the list is published, the diocese will continue to support victims, he said.

“The diocese has a longstanding Victim Outreach program, and we will continue to make those services available to our local church,” Minor said.

Standards set in 2002 by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops for the protection of children and youth have been implemented by the diocese, he said. Since 2002, the diocese has remained compliant with the standards and is audited each year to ensure implementation of the standards, Minor said.

“As of 2017, more than 7,800 children and youth received awareness training coordinated by the diocese, and more than 109 priests, along with deacons and seminarians, are in compliance with Safe Environment protocol and received ongoing awareness education,” Minor said.

Nearly 7,000 employees and volunteers in West Virginia also are in compliance with the protocol, including Catholic school principals, teachers and volunteers in parishes, schools and charitable agencies, Minor said.

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