Archdiocese of Baltimore offers explanation about names left out of Lori’s report

“Were he able to do it over again,” Archbishop Lori would have included names of churchmen who received gifts from disgraced Bishop Michael Bransfield in his report to the Vatican, spokesman says.

Left: Baltimore Archbishop William E. Lori answers questions from the local media about the church's abuse crisis during a Jan. 15 news conference at the Catholic Center in Baltimore. (CNS photo/Kevin J. Parks, Catholic Review). Right: Bishop Michael J. Bransfield, then head of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, W.Va., is seen at Wheeling Hospital. (CNS photo/Colleen Rowan, The Catholic Spirit)

The Archbishop of Baltimore, William Lori, is facing intense scrutiny over his decision to remove the names of several clerics — many of them senior churchmen — from a report he made to the Vatican after an investigation he led into the disgraced bishop of Wheeling-Charleston, Michael Bransfield, who is suspected of serial sexual misconduct and gross financial impropriety.

Archbishop Lori submitted his findings to Rome earlier this year. On Wednesday, the Washington Post reported that Lori removed from his report the names of high-ranking churchmen — including Lori himself — to whom Bransfield had given presents of money. The Washington Post obtained copies of a draft of the report and of the final version, comparison of which revealed the names of several cardinals and archbishops who received money gifts from Bishop Bransfield were removed before the final version was delivered to Rome.

In response to an email from the Catholic World Report, the senior spokesman for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Sean Caine, explained the intention in leaving the names out of the report.

“By deleting the reference to specific individuals who received gifts, and just noting the totals with a separate list of the recipients,” Caine wrote, “the thinking was that by selecting particular individuals to identify who received gifts is a distraction and raises questions as to why we selected some individuals and not others.”

Caine also told CWR, “The point the report tried to make is that the gift-giving was part of Bishop Bransfield’s excessive spending, which could be made by indicating the totals.”

“None of the members of the investigative team objected,” Caine wrote, “and the changes were made.” Caine went on to explain, “The Archbishop has said that, in hindsight, he can see how not sharing this information could be seen as protecting those whose judgment could have been compromised by such gifts.”

Caine told CWR, “[Archbishop Lori] has further said that, were he able to do it over again, the report would have included the names of those clerics who received gifts, including his own, with some notation that there was no evidence found to suggest those who received gifts reciprocated in any way that was inappropriate.”

In addition to Lori himself, among the churchmen listed in the draft version of the report are: Cardinal Bernard Law (+2017); Cardinal Edmund Szoka (+2014); Cardinal Donald Wuerl; Cardinal Timothy Dolan; Cardinal Raymond Burke; Archbishop Pietro Sambi (+2011); Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò.

Those last two men were Apostolic Nuncios to the United States. The Washington Post report quotes an email regarding a request to diocesan officials for reimbursement of a $500 payment to the current nuncio, Archbishop Christophe Pierre. Reimbursement from the diocese for these gifts was standard practice under Bransfield. The three Apostolic Nuncios reportedly received a total of $38,000.

Archbishop Lori himself received several gifts from Bransfield over the years. In a statement issued Wednesday, Lori claimed the monies he received included a $5,000 check at the time of his installation as Archbishop of Baltimore and several Christmas gifts. Lori says he received $7,500, though the Washington Post claims records show he received $10,500.

Caine confirmed for the Catholic World Report that the discrepancy was due — as the Post reported — to the fact Archbishop Lori received $3,000 in honoraria and travel reimbursement for celebrating two Red Masses — special liturgies to mark the opening of the judicial year — in West Virginia.

In a statement Wednesday, Lori said, “In light of what I have come to learn of Bishop Bransfield’s handling of diocesan finances, I have returned the full amount to the Diocese and have asked that it be donated to Catholic Charities.”

Several of the men received gifts while they were in office. Cardinal Kevin Farrell is Prefect of the Dicastery for Laity, Family, and Life. The Director of the Press Office of the Holy See told the Washington Post, “Cardinal Farrell was not aware of the accusations against Bishop Bransfield for abuses and mismanagement of the financial funds of his diocese.”

In the case of Cardinal Burke, it is unclear from the Washington Post story when he received money from Bransfield. A spokesman for Cardinal Wuerl, emeritus of Washington, DC, told the Post, “[Cardinal Wuerl] received honoraria for speaking invitations in the Diocese of Wheeling and other commemorative events, as well as modest gifts to mark personal celebrations, such as an ordination anniversary.”

Over the years, Bransfield allegedly practiced serial sexual harassment of priests and seminarians. Bransfield’s Vicar General, Frederick Annie, allegedly told those who complained of Bransfield’s behavior to raise the issue with the Vatican’s representative in the United States. “Tell it to the Nuncio,” the Washington Post story quotes Annie as saying, citing the Judicial Vicar, Msgr. Kevin Quirk, who says he heard the remark from Annie when he broached the subject with him.

The investigators Lori appointed recommended Msgr. Annie, Msgr. Quirk, and a third official, Vicar for Clergy Msgr. Anthony Cincinnati, be removed from office. The Washington Post says investigators also recommended that Bishop Bransfield, “be stripped of his powers as bishop, removed from ministry and forced to pay unspecified restitution.”

The Washington Post reports Annie as telling investigators that taking a complaint about the bishop to the Nuncio would have been “career ending.”

Revelations of systemic coverup going back decades devastated the credibility of Church leadership. Archbishop Lori has widely been seen as a leader in the US hierarchy’s efforts to achieve accountability for bishops in the wake of those revelations.

In January of this year, Archbishop Lori implemented a third-party system — EthicsPoint — for reporting abuse and misconduct allegations against him and other bishops. The system sends complaints directly to Baltimore’s Independent Review Board. Members in turn report the allegations to civil authorities and to the Apostolic Nuncio.

Archbishop Lori is not the only high-ranking US churchman to face scrutiny this week. The president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo of Galveston-Houston, stands accused of seriously mishandling a sexual misconduct complaint against his former Vicar General. The Associated Press detailed the allegations against Cardinal DiNardo in a story published Tuesday. The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston has contested the account of DiNardo’s actions given in the AP story.

The US bishops are meeting in Baltimore next week, with discussion and voting on bishop accountability measures at the top of their agenda.

(Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story stated that the Washington Post had not specified the source of the discrepancy. The Post did report Archbishop Lori’s account of the $3,000 in reimbursements. We regret the error.)


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About Christopher R. Altieri 106 Articles
Christopher R. Altieri is a journalist, writer, and editor based in Rome, Italy. He spent more than a dozen years on the news desk at Vatican Radio. He holds the PhD from the Pontifical Gregorian University, and is the author of The Soul of a Nation: America as a Tradition of Inquiry and Nationhood.

22 Comments

  1. “Remember the poor.”

    Archbishop Lori was chosen to investigate the Bishop who paid him $10,500 in cash gifts, and other Cardinals and Bishops received a total of $339,500.

    And then Archbishop Lori states in his report that it cannot be explained how the sex abuser Bransfield got away with his malicious behavior for so long.

    Archbishop Lori would resign if he had any idea of what Jesus desires from his apostles.

    These men live lives that mock the crucifixion of Our Lord.

    • They are faithless hypocrites and liars who daily betray the crimson robes they flaunt. Bishop Liar, I mean Lori, is a prime example. His behavior is nauseating.

  2. Week in, week out, more scandals, one after the other. Always accompanied by putrid, cowardly remarks by bishops.
    One thing is constant and clear. Money. Always follow the money.
    And speaking of money, how is it the Church still supports McCarrick, who continues to live at the friary in Victoria, Kansas?

  3. Once again we see faithless, corrupt bishops living in luxury and covering themselves in wealth donated by the faithful, and this in the pitifully poor West Virginia that PervBishop Bransfield headed. We also see PervCardinals like Law and Wuerl and metropolitan archbishops like Lori greedily seeking after filthy lucre and then covering up their idolatry. Lori himself should resign or be pushed out for his dishonesty and duplicity in the cover-up. The whole subject of “honoraria” for prelates needs to be uncovered too. It is not hard to imagine the swamp of bribes and layoffs that McCarrick and Wuerl were do skillful in exploiting.

  4. Serious question here: Who gives those amounts of money as gifts? Who HAS money like that to give as gifts, especially if the person is supposed to be living modestly on a Church ‘income’?

    I also find it interesting that the recipients listed (Wuerl, Dolan, Burke, Vigano) span the theological spectrum.

    • “especially if the person is supposed to be living modestly on a Church ‘income’? ”

      As I understand it, they’re not, unless they’re members of orders sworn to poverty. So if a priest came from a wealthy family, or made a lot of money selling books he had written, for example, he could easily have a lot of money.

    • Ideologues never turn down an honest (dishonest?) dollar. They need all the help they can get – they have a culture war to fight!

  5. Why hasn’t Lori or the West Virginia diocese taken criminal and civil action against Bransfield for theft and embezzlement and for sexual abuse of diocesan personnel by creating an intimidating work space? Bransfield is not only a liar and hypocrite but also a grifter, a thief, and asexual abuser. Why is he not under criminal indictment or in prison now? If Lori did not take these steps, he should be prosecuted. Enough of meaningless apologies and phony prayers for healing.

  6. As repulsive as the financial mismanagement is, the far more shocking aspect of this situation is stated in a single sentence “Over the years, Bransfield allegedly practiced serial sexual harassment of priests and seminarians. One might suspect, however, that the two issues are related.

  7. Why would ANY bishop accept a gift that big from another bishop?

    Would he not know that giving bishop would be taking it from the diocese’s coffers?

    And just look at the amount – in the thousands.

    • You hit the nail on the head. Why don’t these bishops see it is wrong for them to take these financial gifts? The only money the dioceses or Archdiocese has comes from the people in the pews who are DONATING it for the support of their parish not to bribe bishops.

  8. Bishop Lori himself needs to be investigated. When he was in the diocese of Bridgeport 30 million went missing, and his response was poor investment. Also, he sold three nursing homes for 28 million dollars and the present bishop said he did not know where it went. Reall? It’s time to investigate him.

  9. When Lori was appointed to investigate Bransfield, I remember certain media releases heaping praises on him, confident that he was the right person to do the job. But the idea of bishops investigating themselves was already a sick joke. Now the sick joke plays out in reality. And the Church is still not going to learn from this? Frankly, I have little hope in that direction.

  10. Two words,Liar Lori. The bishops in this country have all graduated with a PhD in lying. That is their speciality

  11. Lori should be tarred and feathered and in jail. As bishop of the Diocese of Bridgeport he lived a very lavish lifestyle, he had napkins printed with his coat of arms.when he left the diocese it was millions in the red. He borrowed 16 million from the Knights of Columbus, and for all this he was promoted. What a crying shame, how could bishops police bishops. We the lay people need to rise up and stop these deceitful bishops, after all, it is our money that they are abusing. The next abuse that needs to be investigated in the Church is the financial abuse. God preserve us from these wolves in sheep clothing.

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