Diocese Calls US Clergy Abuse Trial a 'Circus'

By Maryclaire Dale
April 18, 2012

PHILADELPHIA -- PHILADELPHIA (AP) A man who spoke of "an emptiness where my soul should be" following years of sexual abuse testified Wednesday that a priest raped him at a home owned by the current West Virginia bishop and that he was told the bishop also sexually abused a boy.

The 48-year-old man also testified in a landmark clergy abuse trial that he saw the bishop, Michael Bransfield, with a car full of boys. The man said his abuser told him Bransfield was having sex with the boy in the front seat.

Bransfield's diocese called the trial "a circus" and said Philadelphia prosecutors are trying to smear people never charged with a crime.

"They seem to want to bludgeon witnesses, smear individuals not on trial, anything to bolster their persecution of the church," the Wheeling-Charleston diocese said in a statement. "The trial appears to be evolving into a circus with no rules and boundaries."

The diocese issued the statement Tuesday, after a prosecutor told of problems in getting a Wheeling priest to come and testify. Monsignor Kevin Quirk is an aide to Bransfield.

The diocese was simply asking prosecutors "to comply with the law in requiring his appearance," the statement said.

Quirk served as a canonical judge at a church trial of the Rev. James Brennan, who's on trial in Philadelphia for an alleged 1996 child sex assault.

His co-defendant, Monsignor William Lynn, is the first U.S. church official charged with child abuse and endangerment for allegedly protecting predators. Lynn served as secretary for clergy from 1992 to 2004, mostly under the late Cardinal Anthony Bevilacqua.

The witness Wednesday told jurors that a priest, Stanley Gana, rotated teen victims at his farmhouse, and abused him on trips to Disney World, Niagara Falls and Bransfield's beach house in New Jersey.

The Associated Press does not generally identify people who say they have been sexually abused.

The man went to the Philadelphia archdiocese in his 30s to seek counseling, money and a meeting with Bevilacqua. He said he didn't get his meeting for five years and came to believe "the cardinal himself was the ringleader of the whole damn thing."

Bevilacqua retired in 2003, and died this year.

The Associated Press could not locate a phone listing for Gana.

Lynn's lawyers have pointed out that Lynn quickly met with those who filed complaints, confronted the alleged abuser and typically recommended the priest be sent for evaluation or treatment.

A colleague of Bransfield called the accusations Wednesday "beyond belief."

"Everything I know about him, he's a perfect gentlemen and he's been very thorough in seeing to it that we observe all the (child protection) procedures that come up," said Monsignor Edward Sadie, rector of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Charleston, West Virginia.


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