Former Bishop Bransfield reprimanded by Pope Francis
WHEELING — Pope Francis has issued a series of disciplinary measures against former bishop Michael Bransfield, including barring him from living in West Virginia.
Bransfield, who resigned from his position within the Roman Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston in September, was found by a clerical investigation to have engaged in a pattern of “excessive and inappropriate spending” of church funds, as well as having “credible” accusations of sexual harassment made against him.
In an announcement Friday, the pope laid out disciplinary measures that restrict him from residing within the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston and prohibit him from presiding over, or participating in, any public celebration of Liturgy. Additionally, Bransfield will be obligated to make personal amends “for some of the harm he caused,” the nature and extent of which are to be decided by the future bishop of Wheeling-Charleston, who has not yet been appointed.
“In taking these concrete actions, the Holy See expresses its sincere concern for the clergy, religious and laity of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston,” representatives for the Apostolic Nunciature in the United States said in a statement that was posted Friday afternoon on the diocese’s website.
Bransfield has been out of the public eye since his resignation. Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore was appointed as apostolic administrator to the diocese in his stead while the Holy See determines who will serve as the new bishop. There is no timeline for a new bishop to be appointed.
The diocese has been reeling since a Washington Post story last month published parts of a report sent to The Vatican as part of an internal investigation into Bransfield’s behavior.
Three high-ranking priests tied to Bransfield resigned from their managerial roles in the diocese. The Revs. Frederick Annie, Kevin Quirk and Anthony Cincinnati resigned from their administrative posts in the diocese and were assigned new duties elsewhere in West Virginia. All three were mentioned in the diocese’s preliminary investigative report of Bransfield’s conduct.
The situation also drew a rebuke from Lay Catholic Voices for Change, which threatened to withhold contributions to the diocese unless it hire a new auditor, disclose the audit’s results to the public and announce a timetable for the completion of the audit and the release of information. Lori announced Wednesday the diocese plans to do all three.