Diocese Releases Names of Clergy Accused of Sexual Abuse

This Feb. 21, 2005, file photo, shows incoming bishop of the Wheeling-Charleston diocese, W.Va, Michael Bransfield in his new office, in Wheeling, W.Va.

West Virginia’s Roman Catholic archdiocese released the names Thursday of priests or deacons who it said have been credibly accused of child sexual abuse since 1950.

Eleven of the 18 accused clergy are deceased, the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston said in a news release. None of the others are in active ministry.

The clergymen were named by the church’s local district in a document summarizing the complaints.

More than 2,000 files containing tens of thousands of documents were reviewed. The diocese hopes the release “will be one of many steps taken to restore trust with parishioners and the broader community in West Virginia,” Wheeling-Charleston Archbishop William Lori said.

The list included brief descriptions of accusations included inappropriate touching, abuse or solicitation.

One of the accused priests, the Rev. Felix Owino, was deported to Africa following his 2010 conviction in northern Virginia of aggravated sexual battery of a girl. Owino had served as an associate pastor at a Catholic church in Weirton and also taught at Wheeling Jesuit University.

The case of Brother Rogers Hannan, who served at two parishes in McDowell County, was referred to a prosecutor. He was convicted and sentenced in 2014 to up to 10 years in prison for solicitation of a minor.

The Rev. Victor Frobas, who served at multiple West Virginia parishes, was convicted in 1988 of molesting two boys at a parish in suburban St. Louis. He served more than two years in prison and died in 1993.

The Rev. Paul J. Schwarten, who served at parishes in Weston, Ronceverte and White Sulphur Springs more than a half century ago, served 18 months in prison for inappropriately touching a minor in Nebraska. He died in 1993.

Also released is a list of 13 accused priests from other regions or dioceses who served in West Virginia but had no claims filed against them with the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.

The list was released two months after Pope Francis accepted the resignation of West Virginia Bishop Michael Bransfield and authorized an investigation into allegations he sexually harassed adults.

“This list undoubtedly reveals the failings of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston to fully protect young people within the Church,” Lori said. “Rightly, many have a cause for anger and pain. I offer my sincerest apologies to all victims of sexual abuse and vow to strive to take proper action to ensure the safety of children and others in our care.”

A sexual abuse hotline created through the Diocese can be reached at 1-833-230-5656.