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WV AG Urges Court to Advance Lawsuit Against Wheeling-Charleston Diocese

September 5th, 2019 by WCBC Radio

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey urged a circuit court to allow the state to proceed with allegations that the Wheeling-Charleston Diocese violated state law through its knowing employment of pedophiles and its failure to conduct adequate background checks for those working at its schools and camps.
 
The Attorney General’s response, served late afternoon Wednesday, argues the Diocese’s motion to dismiss mischaracterized the state’s intent and distorted state law.
 
“The Diocese’s motion to dismiss is yet another attempt to duck our calls for transparency,” Attorney General Morrisey said. “Our response proves the strength of our case and why it should be decided in court. The decades-long pattern of cover-up and abuse must end and public trust must be restored.”
 
Wednesday’s filing argues the lawsuit does not seek to dictate how the Diocese can hire, teach and operate, rather it seeks to enforce state law that requires honesty in advertising when the Diocese markets its fee-based schools and camps.
 
These facts include allegations that the Diocese hid its knowing employment of abusive priests and its failure to conduct the comprehensive background checks it promised.
 
The Attorney General contends attempts to dismiss the state’s lawsuit rely upon a flawed reading of the state’s Consumer Credit and Protection Act. The state argues a consumer transaction occurs every time a parent or other person pays a fee for the Diocese’s education and recreation services, and that enforcing the law’s requirement for honest communications does not intrude into any constitutionally protected area.
 
The state’s response also takes issue with factual disputes set forth by the Diocese. While it contends such differences are irrelevant at this stage in the case, it argues many allegations contained in the lawsuit were based upon documents the Diocese provided to the state, describing conduct purposely hidden from public view for 44 years after the state Consumer Credit and Protection Act became law.
 
The Diocese did not issue its list of credibly accused priests until after issuance of the Attorney General’s first investigative subpoena in fall 2018. The lawsuit that followed has been instrumental in educating the public on the issue, and the state’s response argues there is much more to reveal that can only be accomplished by advancing the state’s case.
 
The civil complaint alleges the Diocese’s conduct lacked transparency and stood in sharp contrast to its advertised mission of providing a safe learning environment.
 
The Attorney General, who initiated the investigation in the fall of 2018, brought the action against the Diocese and former Bishop Michael J. Bransfield for violations of the state’s consumer protection laws, in addition to seeking a permanent court order blocking the Diocese from the continuation of any such conduct.

 

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