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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.”

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
4 years 10 months ago

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

Kevin Karam
4 years 10 months 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?

Craig B. Mckee
4 years 10 months 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:

Lloyd William
4 years 10 months 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

G Reeder-Ferreira
4 years 10 months ago

Wow! Bishop Bransfield made a lot of mistakes.

4 years 10 months 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
4 years 10 months 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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