Witnesses have now come forward to thoroughly discredit a specious claim that Wheeling, West Virginia, Bishop Michael J. Bransfield committed abuse decades ago, yet one would hardly know this from reading the Philadelphia Inquirer, which has rebroadcast the charge.
Last April, during the Philadelphia abuse trial, media outlets fell over themselves to trumpet a double hearsay allegation from a witness in the trial. The witness claimed on the stand that 40 years ago in the 1970s that an admittedly abusive priest motioned to a car carrying Bransfield and some boys and told him that Bransfield was abusing "the one in the front seat."
Well, two grown men who were actually in the car years ago with Bransfield at the time, including the alleged "victim" of Bransfield, have now come forward to flatly refute the decades-old hearsay claim.
It didn't happen
Ron Rock has been identified as the alleged "victim" who was in the car with Bransfield and whom the abusive priest allegedly identified as being abused.
However, Rock asserts that no wrongdoing ever occurred. A statement from the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston explains:
Rock has confirmed that he was the boy in the front seat of the car and that Bransfield never engaged in any improper conduct of any kind. Rock has explained that his family owned a cabin near [an abusive priest's] farm, that he invited then-Fr. Bransfield, a teacher at Lansdale Catholic, to accompany him and a group of his friends to the cabin on one weekend, and that they had visited [the abusive priest's] farm that weekend.
According to Rock, Bransfield was "a guy's guy … There was no inappropriate anything." Rock currently lives in the Philadelphia area, is married, and has children. Another former student who accompanied Rock and Bransfield that weekend, Tim Love, has also confirmed that there was no inappropriate conduct.
Meanwhile, even the witness on the stand who originally aired the bogus hearsay allegation has admitted that that he does not have any personal knowledge of any abuse by Bishop Bransfield, and the abusive priest has since said that he has no information that Bransfield has ever acted inappropriately in any way towards anyone.
Not willing to acknowledge the facts
With the news that witnesses have now refuted the claim that Bransfield committed abuse, one would think that it would only be fair to report that the bishop was a cruel victim of outrageous slander.
But John P. Martin at the Philadelphia Inquirer did not see it that way. Even with the undisputed information that the alleged "victim" (Rock) denied anything inappropriate ever happened to him, Martin nonetheless published an article under the title, "Abuse probe dogs bishop, despite Rigali's unorthodox role."
In his lengthy piece, Martin repeats the hearsay allegation and gives the false impression that the claim against Bransfield still bears some legitimacy.
Most notably, Martin dishonestly waits until the very last paragraphs of his article to provide Rock's exculpatory remarks and report that Rock's statement have solid corroboration.
The real story here is how such a flimsy, hearsay allegation can result in having one's good name plastered across the media landscape as an accused child molester and badly tarnishing a reputation that one has spent a lifetime to establish. (For example, the highly viewed site Huffington Post has run two stories about the original allegation, but it has since not published the fact that the abuse claim has been discredited.)
Martin and the Inquirer not only did not choose to publish such a story, but they re-aired the calumny under the headline that the abuse charges somehow still "dog" the bishop.
Where is the outrage? It seems there is none, and it is open season on Catholic priests in the media.