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Bransfield accuser issues statement on Bransfield’s apology letter

MORGANTOWN — A seminarian in the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston who is pursuing a sexual harassment suit against former Bishop Michael Bransfield has issued a statement regarding Bransfield’s apology letter made public last week.

“Michael Bransfield’s attempt at apology and reconciliation is, in our Catholic Tradition, inadequate and unsatisfactory,” wrote the seminarian, identified at VGD. He supplied his full statement to The Dominion Post. The Dominion Post generally does not publish the names of people identified as victims of sexual assault.

Bransfield admitted no wrongdoing in his letter, instead apologizing for how his actions were perceived. He wrote, “I am writing to apologize for any scandal or wonderment caused by words or actions attributed to me.” He also wrote that there were allegations that some of his words and actions “caused certain priests and seminarians to feel sexually harassed. Although that was never my intent, if anything that I said or did caused others to feel that way, then I am profoundly sorry.”

He wrote that he hopes his letter “will help to achieve a kind of reconciliation” with the people of the diocese.

VGD’s suit is filed in Ohio County Circuit Court. His attorney also filed and settled a prior suit last year in the same court. That suit named Bransfield, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Diocese of Wheeling Charleston, and 20 “John Does.” Settlement terms were not disclosed.

VGD’s suit remains active and according to reports he has requested a year of discernment away from seminary. He identifies himself as “a victim of former bishop Bransfield’s abuse.”

The Dominion Post contacted the diocese about VGD’s statement. It replied, “The diocese cannot comment due to pending litigation.”

VGD in his statement alleges Bransfield’s letter doesn’t meet the basic conditions of Catholic contrition, or apology. “In the Catholic tradition, we do not apologize for actions ‘attributed to’ us or for hypothetical ‘ifs.’”

VGD also says Bransfield never contacted him privately to apologize.

“Statements of apology and promises of accountability for clergy sex abuse more generally only further prove empty and disingenuous when Bishop Brennan, Archbishop Lori, and collectively the members of the congregation of bishops at this very moment oppose all the way to the Supreme Court simple accountability and justice for my own victimization by Bransfield, as they have others.”

VGD discusses the reasoning behind his lawsuit then returns to Bransfield.

“I appreciate Michael Bransfield’s efforts and sincerely encourage him to continue making progress towards true Catholic contrition and reconciliation, and I am hopeful for the healing this might bring. … it is alarming in that Bransfield and the bishops involved continue to not only disregard, but openly flout the Catholic Church’s efforts to bring accountability for clergy sexual abuse, especially of high ranking prelates.”

VGD expresses concern that Bransfield still uses the title of Bishop although the report by by Metropolitan Archbishop Lori directed that the title be used for him or by him.

He asks, “Why investigate clergy sex abuse if high ranking clerics will so blatantly disregard and defy them? Is this the metropolitan model that is supposed to end the Catholic clergy abuse crisis at the highest levels?”

He continues, “If the Catholic Church is going to claim and promote ‘Zero-Tolerance’ for clergy sexual abuse of minors, and if they expect their lists of clergy credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors to be taken seriously, then the Church much follow to their just conclusions the truths that their own reports, restitution programs, and members have revealed.”

VGD winds to a close, “If Catholic clergy sex abuse is resultant from a lack of power at the highest levels over the vulnerable, then by all means solve it by consolidating more power up to clerics and metropolitan archbishops. But if the abuse crisis is resultant from an excess of power of those clerics over the vulnerable, then remedy it by sharing that power down, between clerics and the very lay people, victims, and experts who are best suited to protect their own bodies, children, and church from abusive clerics.

“Until the Catholic Church can meet its own commitments and Sacramental duty to administer simple justice for clergy sexual abuse, including for high ranking clerics, I and other victims of Bransfield and other clerics will continue to work for justice trusting our legal system, with the hope that someday justice can be found in our church.”

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