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West Virginia bishop accused of abuse in hearsay trial testimony

Catholic World News - April 19, 2012

Bishop Michael Bransfield, who was appointed Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston in 2004 and installed the following year, was accused during a Philadelphia clerical abuse trial of sexually abusing a teenage boy over three decades ago.

Ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia in 1971, the prelate was named director (1986) and later rector (1990) of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington.

A 48-year-old man identified as “John” testified that over three decades ago, he was abused by Father Stanley Gana, a priest removed from ministry in 2002. “John” testified that the abuse took place at the future bishop’s New Jersey beach residence as well as at a Pennsylvania farm owned by Father Gana.

“John” testified that Gana had told him that the future bishop abused another teenage boy. While this testimony was hearsay, a second witness at the trial testified that he had a lewd conversation with the future prelate.

Bishop Bransfield vehemently denied the charges. He never owned a farm house, he said. As for the alleged abuse by Gana at his home on the shore, the bishop said that "I was not aware of the incident and was not present at the house at the time." He added that Gana has "confirmed those facts in prior reports."

"I have never sexually abused anyone," the bishop said. He protested that the release of testimony implicating him had gone "way beyond any sense of fairness and propriety."

“They seem to want to bludgeon witnesses, smear individuals not on trial, anything to bolster their persecution of the Church,” the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston said. “The trial appears to be evolving into a circus with no rules and boundaries.”

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