Philadelphia Man Denies Sex Abuse by Bishop

By Travis Crum
Charleston Gazette
July 23, 2012

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Philadelphia man denies that Bishop Michael Bransfield sexually abused him when he was a teenager in the late 1970s, according to a statement issued by the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston on Monday.

A man who alleged abuse by Stanley Gana, a former Philadelphia priest, testified in the city's Court of Common Pleas in April that Gana claimed Bransfield was having sex with a young boy.

The man testified he was on Gana's farm in upstate New York when Bransfield pulled up in a truck with several teenage boys inside. The man said Gana told him then-Rev. Bransfield had a sexual relationship with a teenage boy in his passenger seat.

The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston identified the boy in the passenger seat as Ronald Rock, a Philadelphia business executive, according to a statement. Rock was a Lansdale Catholic High School student at the time.

Rock said in the statement that Bransfield was "a guy's guy ... there was no inappropriate anything."

Bransfield, a former teacher at Lansdale Catholic, had been invited by Rock and a group of friends to a cabin Rock's family owned near Gana's farm.

Tim Love, another former student who had gone to the cabin that weekend, also confirmed no sexual abuse occurred, the statement said.

Bishop Bransfield, 68, a native of Philadelphia, was formerly a priest in the city's archdiocese. Grand juries in 2005 and 2011 said the church failed to stop the widespread abuse of children by its clergy. Bransfield was named the bishop for the West Virginia diocese in 2004. Bransfield has not been charged with a crime.

He denied abusing children in a statement on the diocese's website. He said he was "deeply saddened" by the allegation because he's an advocate for ending abuse.

"To be now unfairly included in that group and to hear the horrific allegations that are being made of me is unbelievable and shocking," he said. "I have never sexually abused anyone."

Gana also denied making the statements about the young boy's relationship with Bransfield during testimony.

The Philadelphia trial ended with Monsignor William Lynn convicted of endangering children as secretary of clergy, and the jury deadlocked on sex abuse charges against the Rev. James Brennan.

Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington disclosed in a sidebar conversation, made public after the June 22 jury verdicts, that Bransfield had been investigated in 2007 for allegations that he fondled a Lansdale Catholic student in the 1970s.

The church conducted an investigation and did not find the complaint credible at the time.

"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 diocese said Monday.

But earlier this month, church officials in Philadelphia announced that Montgomery County (Pa.) law enforcement had reopened an investigation into the complaint.

David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, criticized Bransfield for issuing written statements rather than taking questions openly.

"He refuses to give interviews. He hides behind his lawyers and his public relations staff," Clohessy said.

Clohessy said Bransfield spends too much time attacking the motives of the Philadelphia district attorney in order to distract from the serious allegations against him.



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