CHARLESTON, W.Va. - A witness in a clergy sex-abuse trial in Philadelphia testified that he was sexually assaulted in a home owned by West Virginia's highest-ranking Catholic official, Bishop Michael Bransfield, and said he was told by his abuser that Bransfield had assaulted another boy.
The 48-year-old witness was on the stand Wednesday when he gave the testimony about Bransfield.
The man was testifying in a criminal trial against Monsignor William Lynn, who is accused of covering up sex abuse allegations for the Philadelphia Archdiocese.
Bransfield has not been charged with a crime.
The testimony came one day after news reports that prosecutors were having trouble getting Monsignor Kevin Quirk, Bransfield's aide, to testify.
Assistant District Attorney Patrick Blessington said Tuesday that Quirk had agreed to testify in Philadelphia but had to notify Bransfield first. Then the process stalled.
The witness told the jury he saw Bransfield bring several boys to a farm owned by Stanley Gana, a former priest in the diocese, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.
The witness told the jury the alleged incident occurred at Gana's Scranton, Pa., farm more than 30 years ago. He was building a flagstone wall when then Rev. Bransfield pulled up in a car with several teenage boys.
The man said Gana told him Bransfield was having sex with one of the boys.
The 68-year-old Bransfield, a Philadelphia native, was installed as the head of the West Virginia diocese in 2005, replacing Bishop Bernard Schmitt, who retired in 2003.
Bransfield came to this state from his position as the rector of the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.
Bryan Minor, spokesman for the diocese, said that Bransfield was not available Wednesday and that he had yet to speak with him about the allegations.
"The Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston is learning of media reports originating from legal proceedings underway in Philadelphia, and Bishop Michael Bransfield's name was brought up in court today," Minor said in a statement.
"Until such time that the facts and issues surrounding this testimony are made fully known to the Diocese, we cannot comment at this time."
The diocese on Tuesday called the trial a "circus" and said Philadelphia prosecutors were trying to smear people who have never been charged with a crime.
Monsignor Edward Sadie, rector of the Basilica of the Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart in Charleston, had not heard about the testimony concerning Bransfield Wednesday.
"I just find this beyond belief," Sadie said. "I just hope and pray it's not true."
Sadie said Bransfield has been "very diligent" in keeping church officials and parishioners looking out for "deviant behavior" involving children at the church.
He said all church officials and the parishioners who work with children are taught what to look for and are made aware of how and where they should report abuse.
"We have a very strong policy," Sadie said. "He's been very diligent in pushing that policy."
The witness told the jury Gana raped him for years and that Gana and Bransfield were close friends. He said Gana once sexually abused him during a visit to Bransfield's New Jersey beach house.
Another witness testified that Bransfield had a lewd conversation with him.