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.