We are pleased and grateful that the Circuit Court of Wood County, West Virginia has concurred with the position of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston that the complaint brought by Attorney General Morrisey is not valid. Looking ahead, we are confident that the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals will affirm the Circuit Court’s decision. The Diocese wishes to again assert its full commitment to the protection of those young people entrusted to its care in its primary and secondary schools across the State of West Virginia through its “Safe Environment” program. We have no more sacred trust than the nurturing of these young minds and souls and have instituted rigorous standards for all who bear responsibility for their care: priests, religious clergy and sisters, lay educators, employees and volunteers. As part of its rigorous sexual abuse policies which have been in place for many years, the Diocese maintains “zero tolerance” of sexual abuse of a minor by any person in its employment, by those who volunteer and those responsible for ministry who have been credibly accused. Moreover, we are committed to working toward restoring trust where it has been broken and to bringing about healing among all who, in any way, have been harmed.
It is important to emphasize the following:
- There is no priest currently in active ministry or lay employee who has been credibly accused of abuse of a minor;
- The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston voluntarily initiated its own review of credibly accused clergy in July, 2018 with the aim of making the list public, months before the Attorney General’s initial subpoena;
- The Diocese is working toward instituting lasting reform, increased accountability and transparency, and many controls and policies have been adopted toward that end. Archbishop Lori in his role as Apostolic Administrator initiated this process of implementing more rigorous controls which has been continued by Bishop Mark Brennan;
- The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston has a strict policy of cooperating fully with civil authorities. We follow the state-mandated 24-hour reporting period for matters related to child sexual abuse, and our Safe Environment program is considered a model for other institutions and dioceses across the country.
- Our schools, parishes, camps and other ministry programs are considered safe places for young people as well as adults;
- The many good priests and deacons referenced by the Attorney General are the same ministers who are making our Safe Environment program one of the most successful and effective programs of its kind in West Virginia.
- We are committed to being vigilant in our efforts to ensure the safety and protection of all children enrolled in Diocesan schools, camps, recreation and pastoral centers and the Diocese maintains a “zero tolerance” for any employee, volunteer, priest, deacon or bishop credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor.