Montco DA Taking Second Look at Alleged Cleric Misconduct
By Margaret Gibbons
July 10, 2012
The Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office is taking a second look at information first received in 2007 concerning alleged inappropriate conduct by a priest with a student at Lansdale Catholic High School in the 1970s.
The information alleging inappropriate contact between a student and the Rev. Michael J. Bransfield, who is now bishop of the Wheeling-Charleston Diocese that serves all of West Virginia, had been provided to the DA’s office by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, according to Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman.
“Based on the statute of limitations and the victim’s unwillingness to talk to investigators, we did not have a sufficient basis at that time to move forward,” said Ferman. “Within the last month, new information has come forward to cause us to re-examine the older complaint. We are in the process of doing that now.”
Ferman repeatedly declined to answer further questions on the matter.
Bransfield, a Philadelphia native who began his pastoral service in Huntingdon Valley after he was ordained a priest in 1971, served as a teacher, chaplain, chairman of the religion department and vice principal at Lansdale Catholic High School from 1973 into 1979.
Bransfield’s name first surfaced publicly in this year’s trial of two priests, one charged with sex abuse and the other charged with participating in the coverup of sex abuse allegations against multiple priests while they were affiliated with the archdiocese.
During the trial, two alleged abuse victims in April testified that their alleged abuser, Stanley Gana, told them that Bransfield, Gana’s friend and seminary classmate, also was having sex with adolescent boys, according to trial testimony reported by The Philadelphia Inquirer.
Responding to that testimony, Bransfield immediately issued a statement saying, “I have never sexually abused anyone.”
“... to hear the horrific allegations that are being made of me is unbelievable and shocking,” the bishop said in his statement.
Bryan Minor, Wheeling-Charleston diocesan spokesman, issued a statement this week in response to reports that Montgomery County investigators are reviewing the 2007 complaint.
In that statement, Minor said that Bransfield stands by his earlier comments.
“The diocese’s stance is that this is old news,” said Minor in the statement.
Margaret Gibbons: 610-279-6153; firstname.lastname@example.org