Bishop Michael Bransfield of West Virginia has denied accusation of abuse of a high school boy in Pennsylvania in the 1970s, when he was a young priest teaching at a Catholic high school, saying he was cleared after a “full investigation” by Philadelphia archdiocesan authorities.
But the investigation, in 2008, was short-circuited by the then archbishop, Cardinal Justin Rigali, the Phildelphia Inquirer reports:
In a break from practice, the accusation against Bransfield bypassed the archdiocese’s civilian review board, according to a source briefed on the case but not authorized to publicly discuss it. The board was formed to conduct independent examinations of abuse claims and assesses priests’ suitablility for ministry.
Instead, Rigali acted after reviewing the reports of an investigator who interviewed Bransfield, his accuser and others.
After this four-month process, he pronounced Bransfield not guilty of the accusation.
And though the archdiocese routinely publicly identifies and suspends priests as it reviews allegations against them, four years passed before the complaint against Bransfield came to light, and then only in passing at the landmark clergy-sex abuse trial [just completed in Philadelphia].
The Philadelphia archdiocese has reopened the case, reporting it to local authorities, who will be investigating the matter further, Montgomery County District Attorney Risa Vetri Ferman said, adding that it was “unlikely” her office would charge Bransfield over the allegations.