Unedited: July 24, 2012 News Release from the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston
July 25, 2012
A STATEMENT FROM THE DIOCESE OF WHEELING-CHARLESTON
Two witnesses whose testimony in a recent trial in Philadelphia led to speculation that Bishop Bransfield may have abused minors in the late 1970s have clarified that they have no such knowledge or information.
In addition, two Philadelphia men have come forward to strongly refute the speculation, and it has been confirmed that the Archdiocese of Philadelphia declared such an allegation unfounded after conducting an investigation when the allegation was first reported in 2007. The details of each of these developments are provided below.
According to Rock, Bransfield was "a guy's guy. . . . There was no inappropriate anything." Rock currently lives in the Philadelphia area, is married, and has children. Another former student who accompanied Rock and Bransfield that weekend, Tim Love, has also confirmed that there was no inappropriate conduct.
- At the recent Philadelphia trial of two clerics, a man who was the victim of sexual abuse by another priest, then-Father Stanley Gana, was permitted to testify that on one occasion when then-Father Michael Bransfield visited Gana's farm outside Philadelphia, Gana told him that Bransfield had been sexually abusing the boy in the front seat of his car. The boy in the front seat of Bransfield's car on that occasion at Gana's farm has now been identified as Ronald Rock, a Philadelphia business executive who was a Lansdale Catholic High School student at the time. Rock has confirmed that he was the boy in the front seat of the car and that Bransfield never engaged in any improper conduct of any kind. Rock has explained that his family owned a cabin near Gana's farm, that he invited then-Fr. Bransfield, a teacher at Lansdale Catholic, to accompany him and a group of his friends to the cabin on one weekend, and that they had visited Gana's farm that weekend.
- The witness who testified at the trial about Gana's purported statement to him about Bransfield has recently confirmed that he has no knowledge of any abuse by Bishop Bransfield at any time. The former priest, Stanley Gana, has also confirmed that to his knowledge Bishop Bransfield had never acted improperly.
- During the trial in Philadelphia, prosecutors also mentioned an allegation that then-Fr. Bransfield had fondled a student at Lansdale Catholic High School outside Philadelphia in the 1970s. That allegation was investigated thoroughly by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia when it first surfaced in 2007. At the conclusion of the investigation, which was conducted by outside investigators, Cardinal Justin Rigali issued a formal determination that the allegation had not been substantiated. The allegation was also reported at the time to local prosecutors, who declined to bring charges.