Morrisey: Diocese lawsuit must go on

Weirton Daily Times

Sept. 6, 2019

By Steven Allen Adams

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey announced Thursday that his office filed a response to the Diocese of Wheeling Charleston’s motion to dismiss a civil case calling for more transparency regarding abuse of children.

The Attorney General’s Office filed their response to the diocese’s motion to dismiss in Wood County Circuit Court Wednesday. A hearing on the motion to dismiss was scheduled for 1:30 p.m. Tuesday.

“The diocese’s motion to dismiss is yet another attempt to duck our calls for transparency,” Morrisey said in a statement Thursday. “Our response proves the strength of our case and why it should be decided in court. The decades-long pattern of cover-up and abuse must end and public trust must be restored.”

The original lawsuit, filed in March in Wood County, accuses the diocese of violating the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act by not disclosing incidents of sexual misconduct involving school and camp employees with minors to parents. The suit alleges that the diocese and former Bishop Michael J. Bransfield knowingly hired pedophiles and did not conduct background checks on employees for schools and camps operated by the diocese.

The diocese filed an amended motion to dismiss the civil suit in July, arguing that Morrisey has no authority to file a civil suit and accuses Morrisey of using the Consumer Credit and Protection Act to violate the separation of church and state.

In Wednesday’s filing, Assistant Attorney General Douglas Davis said the state is in no way trying to violate the diocese’s religious beliefs and practices but force it to comply with state consumer protection laws for the paid services the church provides, such as education.

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