Reveal details on Bransfield

Until the Vatican clears the release of a report on accusations against former Roman Catholic bishop Michael J. Bransfield, his misdeeds will remain a matter of speculation. Clearly, allegations regarding him are more extensive than was understood by many last September, when he resigned his post.

In accordance with church rules regarding retirement age, Bransfield last fall submitted his resignation as bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. It was accepted immediately — and Bransfield was told to leave the diocese. Church officials said they would investigate reports he had sexually harassed adults.

On Monday, Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori announced a preliminary investigation has been completed. Lori was named by the Vatican to head the inquiry and to oversee the Wheeling-Charleston diocese temporarily. Results of the probe have been submitted to the Vatican for what church officials term “final judgment.”

During a press conference Monday, details of the report on Bransfield were not revealed. Presumably, that will have to await action by the Vatican. Even then, some facts, such as names of those allegedly victimized by Bransfield, are unlikely to be revealed.

But a press release noted Bransfield is accused of “financial improprieties” in addition to harassment.

However, the report concluded “that no criminal activity” was involved, diocesan spokesman Tim Bishop said during the press conference

Still, it was hinted strongly that the church hierarchy is not pleased with the former bishop’s behavior. “I have directed that Bishop Bransfield is not authorized to exercise any priestly or episcopal ministry within the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston,” Lori stated.

No one can say how long it will take the Vatican to review the report.

But releasing a mere skeletal list of offenses, if there were any, will not suffice. While victims’ identities should be protected, details of precisely what the investigation found need to be provided. So does an explanation of how, if Bransfield was guilty of misbehavior, he got away with it for years.

Many Catholics, as well as those of other denominations, have lost faith in the church hierarchy’s ability to protect the flock from a pack of wolves.

Only complete transparency will restore that faith.


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