Man Sues W.Va. Diocese over Alleged Abuse by Priest

Associated Press, carried in Charleston Daily Mail
February 8, 2008

WHEELING -- A Clarksburg man who claims he was sexually abused by a priest as a teenager is suing the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.

The lawsuit filed Thursday in Ohio County Circuit Court accuses the diocese of negligence. It also claims church officials covered up the alleged sexual abuse by the late Rev. Charles E. McCallister.

"At all times material, the Diocesan Defendants knew (or had constructive knowledge) that Father McCallister's conduct constituted a breach of duty and was harmful, yet the Diocese Defendants assisted and encouraged Father McCallister to maintain his activities as a priest, including working with directly with children, by assigning him to serve at parishes and/or schools, and encouraging him to conceal his pedophiliac propensities by their actions," the lawsuit said.

In a statement issued Thursday night, the diocese denied the allegations. It said it immediately reported the alleged abuse to authorities after learning of the allegations on March 2, 2007. The diocese said it also suspended McCallister, who died in October as the police investigation was ongoing.

"The Complaint alleges facts which are substantially embellished, exaggerated and inconsistent with Diocesan policies, Diocesan action in the case, the details and investigation of this claim and the actual conduct and history of the alleged victim," the statement said.

"The documented response of the Diocese in this case is clearly not accurately and factually reflected in the allegations of the Complaint."

Pittsburgh attorney Alan H. Perer and Weirton attorney Michael G. Simon filed the lawsuit on behalf of a 19-year-old Clarksburg resident identified only as John Doe. The lawsuit claims McCallister sexually abused the plaintiff for three years, starting in 2003 when he was 15, while serving at the Immaculate Conception Church in Clarksburg.

"At all times material, the Plaintiff believed that it would be sinful or wrong to make any kind of accusation against a priest or bishop; and that priests and bishops could not and would not engage in conduct considered evil or wrong or illegal," the lawsuit said.

McCallister was not assigned to the church but often performed mass and other duties there. The alleged abuse occurred at the church and other places, both in Clarksburg and out of town, the lawsuit said.

Because of the alleged abuse, the plaintiff suffered from depression after he began college in September 2006. He was hospitalized in March 2007 and withdrew from college. He also attempted suicide on several occasions, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

Also named as defendants are Bishop Michael J. Bransfield, former Bishop Bernard Schmitt and Barbara Jane Arbogast, the executor of McCallister's estate.


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