Pope Francis issues disciplinary measures for Bishop Bransfield

In this 2017 file photo, Bishop Michael J. Bransfield, then head of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, W.Va., is seen at Wheeling Hospital. The Vatican announced his retirement from the diocese Sept. 13, 2019. (CNS photo/Colleen Rowan, The Catholic Spirit)

On July 19, the Apostolic Nunciature in the United States issued a statement informing the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston that Pope Francis has decided on disciplinary measures against Bishop Emeritus Michael J. Bransfield of West Virginia, following an investigation by Vatican officials.

According to the statement, Bishop Bransfield is no longer allowed to reside in the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, nor is he allowed to “preside or to participate anywhere in any public celebration of the Liturgy.” Finally, Pope Francis commands him “to make personal amends for some of the harm he caused,” though the exact nature of those amends are to be determined “in consultation” with Bishop Bransfield’s official successor as Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston.


Pope Francis commands him “to make personal amends for some of the harm he caused."

Pope Francis accepted Bishop Bransfield’s official letter of resignation on Sept. 13, 2018, following allegations of sexual harassment and improper handling of diocesan funds. On June 5, Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore detailed the extent of Bishop Bransfield’s activities in a public letter. “Regarding allegations of sexual harassment of adults by Bishop Bransfield,” Archbishop Lori said in the letter, “the investigative team determined that the accounts of those who accused Bishop Bransfield of sexual harrassment are credible. The team uncovered a consistent pattern of sexual innuendo, and overt suggestive comments and actions toward those over whom the former bishop exercised authority.”

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Additionally, Bishop Bransfield “engaged in a pattern of excessive and inappropriate spending” of diocesan funds. This included renovations to his private residences and the purchase of expensive food, drinks, gifts and other luxury items.

In the statement made public on Friday, the Apostolic Nunciature in the United States said that the Vatican “expresses its sincere concern for the clergy, religious and laity of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston” through its punishment of Bishop Bransfield.

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Cathy Taggart
1 month ago

Has “credibly accused” replaced “proven guilty beyond reasonable doubt”?

J Jones
1 month ago

No. One is the language of a Church erring on the side of caution by removing priests whose documented behavior suggests that priest is a risk to the safety of the Church's members, and the other is the language of the criminal justice system. One is preventive, the other is punitive.

Kevin Karam
4 weeks ago

In the Church's effort to safe face, due process is being violated for sure. If a State prosecutor issued a public statment like this before a trial, how could you possibly have a fair trial?

Eternal Life
1 month ago

The Lord Jesus Christ NEVER prohibited marriage for his disciples.

This 11th century man-made law should be reversed so that those who want to be get married and be priest can do so happily.

We can't continue to talk about sexual misbehavior among our clergy when we know the solution.

Michael Sheridan
1 month ago

If the solution was as easy as doing away with celibacy, the Church would have considered that. There are other Churches that have married clergy who are guilty of abuse, but that is not publicised. The vast amount of abuse is committed in homes where there is marriage. One cleric/religious who abuses a young person is one too many. Even in the Orthodox Churches where you have marriage, there are incidents of abuse. You say "that those who want to get married and be a priest can do so happily." Are you suggesting that someone who "wants" to be a priest would be required to get married? What if, for whatever reason, someone did not want to get married? Would they be told that they could not become a priest? What about religious orders, both male and female? You miss a point in that a man does not choose to become a priest. I have known many men apply and have been turned down. It is God who calls and it is those who are open to that call who are accepted and throughout their time in seminary are tested again and again. Finally, it is the Church who decides if and when a man is ordained.

Mister Mckee
1 month ago

Timing is everything!
Do you think it's just a coincidence that the Vatican released this decision on the tails of the "NOT A DIME FOR THE DIOCESE" movement among West Virginia's Catholics?
God forbid such a movement go NATIONAL based on previously gathered data from Voice of the Faithful ranking American dioceses' financial TRANSPARENCY:

J Jones
1 month ago

MM, whatever prompted the Vatican to move, IT WORKED. I am inclined to give credit to everyone involved --- except Bishop Lori. What we now know about him is that he is willing to get away with what he can get away with to save his own skin. We have been there, done that and it is destroying the Roman Catholic Church as I write. If he worked anywhere else - had he been caught amending his report to shield himself and then been caught by the Washington Post at any other job - he would have been offered the choice of resigning or being fired the day the article was published. He can be offered all the forgiveness in the world; SHOULD be offered that forgiveness and then removed from his position of leadership ASAP. Forgiveness and accountability and effective problem-solving are not contradictions and every Catholic learned that from the RCC and has now watched the RCC refuse to practice all three at once when a cleric's conduct required all three.

Until now. Once McCarrick was publicly exposed on a national scale, he was gone quickly. The Vatican just stripped a prelate in Europe of his diplomatic immunity so he can be prosecuted. As soon as Bransfield was publicly exposed on a national scale, he was gone quickly.


J Jones
1 month ago

CALL YOUR NEWSPAPER. Sin sells papers. The RCC leaders are rotting from the inside out. Let the papers help us out by exposing them.
CALL THE NYTIMES, THE WASHPOST, CHICAGO TRIBUNE, BOSTON GLOBE, SEATTLE TIMES, LA TIMES, HOUSTON CHRONICLE, DALLAS MORNING NEWS, DENVER POST, TAMPA BAY TIMES, OR ANY OF THESE https://www.infoplease.com/arts-entertainment/newspapers-and-magazines/top-100-newspapers-united-states

Once McCarrick was publicly exposed on a national scale, he was gone quickly. As soon as Bransfield was publicly exposed on a national scale, he was gone quickly.


3 weeks 6 days ago

If you've got a weird holy man named Ted (or whatever) sleeping in your bed, don't call 1-800-BISHOPS. Call 911.

Lloyd William
4 weeks 1 day ago

It’s easy to be angry and point fingers. The better way is to suggest and work for solutions to the process and organization that allowed this to happen
The first reform that is needed is transparency and a partnership among the laity, religious, and clerics in selecting and retaining bishops. Second, there has to be reform in how dioceses are managed and administered. Again, a strong partnership is needed to provide proper oversight. Only then can the risk of such wrongdoing be minimized and, in the event it does happen, it can be promptly exposed

Gabe Reeder-Ferreira
4 weeks 1 day ago

Wow! Bishop Bransfield made a lot of mistakes.

3 weeks 6 days ago

Such "discipline?" How do we know he does ANYTHING that the Vatican stipulated? The proper discipline is to be found in a penitentiary (and not a Roman one).

John Barbieri
3 weeks 1 day ago

Certainly, Bransfield's conduct was despicable and reprehensible. Unfortunately, his conduct may not be indictable in a civil court. Although, if the diocese paid him back for his many "gifts,"perhaps he and the diocese may have to do some explaining to the IRS. His only punishment may well be that given out by the Pope. At least, he'll have to stay away from the kind people of "almost heaven," West Virginia.

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