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Bishop Bransfield offers ‘apology’, repays $400k to W Virginia diocese

The letter from Bransfield, dated August 15, was released by his former diocese on Thursday, along with a letter from his successor, Bishop Mark Brennan, outlining how Bransfield will “make amends” following an investigation into his conduct by the Vatican.

In this 2017 file photo, 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)

CNA Staff, Aug 20, 2020 / 08:15 am (CNA).- Bishop Michael Bransfield has repaid more than $400,000 to his former diocese and issued a narrowly-worded apology to the faithful.

The apology comes nearly two years after Pope Francis accepted his resignation amid accusations of personal and financial misconduct.

The letter from Bransfield, dated August 15, was released by his former diocese on Thursday, along with a letter from his successor, Bishop Mark Brennan, outlining how Bransfield will “make amends” following an investigation into his conduct by the Vatican.

“I am writing to apologize for any scandal or wonderment caused by words or actions attributed to me during my tenure as Bishop of the Wheeling-Charleston Diocese,” said Bransfield, who led the diocese from 2005 to 2018, when Pope Francis accepted his resignation just after Bransfield turned 75.

Bransfield did acknowledge that, during his tenure, “I was reimbursed for certain expenditures that have been called into question as excessive,” but insisted that he “believed that such reimbursements to me were proper.”

After Pope Francis accepted Bransfield’s resignation in 2018, Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore was ordered to investigate allegations that Bransfield had sexually harassed adult males and misused diocesan finances during his tenure. Investigators established that the bishop had engaged in a pattern of sexual malfeasance and serious financial misconduct.

In March, 2019, Lori banned Bransfield from public ministry within the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston and the Archdiocese of Baltimore. In July of that year the Vatican imposed additional sanctions, including a ban on Bransfield living in his former diocese.

Bransfield has denied the allegations of sexual harassment of seminarians and priests. He has said his staff was responsible for diocese’s finances.

The bishop also acknowledged in his Aug. 15 letter that “there have been allegations that by certain words and actions I have caused certain priests and seminarians to feel sexually harassed.”

“That was never my intent,” he said, adding that “if anything I said or did caused others to feel that way, then I am profoundly sorry.”

Multiple calls to Bishop Bransfield from CNA went unanswered.

Bransfield is reported to have sexually harassed, assaulted, and coerced seminarians, priests, and other adults during his thirteen years as Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston.

As head of the diocese, Bransfield spent thousands of dollars on jewelry and other clothing, including spending more than $60,000 of diocesan money at a boutique jeweler in Washington, D.C. during his time in office.

He also spent nearly $1 million on private jets and over $660,000 on airfare and hotels during his 13 years as Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston. He often stayed in luxury accommodations on both work trips and personal vacations, and gave large cash gifts to high-ranking Church leaders, using diocesan funds.

According to Brennan’s letter, Bransfield was required by the Vatican to “make a public apology to the people of the Wheeling-Charleston Diocese for the scandal he created. He is urged as well to apologize privately to certain individuals who reported abuse and harassment.”

Brennan said that Bransfield had also been ordered to repay his former diocese $441,000 “for unauthorized benefits received from diocesan resources,” confirmed he had done so, and said the funds “will be added to those already set aside by the sale of his former residence for assistance to victims of abuse.”

Brennan also confirmed that Bransfield will continue to receive $2,250 in a monthly stipend, in line with the amount recommended by the USCCB for retired bishops, and would still be covered by the diocesan health insurance plan.

“However,” Brennan wrote, “no other benefits, such as for a secretary or travel, will be provided.”

The release of the letters from both Brennan and Bransfield follows a July 28 letter in which Brennan said neither he nor the apostolic nuncio had heard anything from the Holy See for more than five months regarding his plans for Bransfield to make amends.

In his letter Thursday, Brennan thanked Pope Francis and the Congregation for Bishops for agreeing to the final terms of the settlement, and said that it accepted “in large part the outline of the amends plan I presented to Bishop Bransfield in November, 2019.”

“That plan combined an insistence on restorative justice with a gesture of mercy, which is how God deals with all of us,” Brennan said.

It has previously been reported that Brennan’s 2019 plan included a provision that Bransfield repay nearly $800,000 to the diocese.

“I hope that the people of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston will see in the decision of the Congregation for Bishops a fair and reasonable resolution of this unseemly matter,” said Brennan.

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  1. What a weasel. His non-apology is a pretense; he admits and apologizes for nothing. And where does a retired bishop have or get $400k to hand out? Smells rotten. Thoroughly rotten.

  2. McCarrick’s spirit lives on through Bransfield. Same MO. Big cash spendings. Sexual misconduct….. why are there no charges? If this were corporate , he’d be inside right now enjoying the sexual attentions of other like minded members of society.

  3. An additional scandal by unscrupulous clergy in the seemingly never-ending list of betrayals of the Catholic faithful! What has happened to ex-communication? What has become of stripping such offenders of their duties as priests? We will all be held accountable for those we scandalize either in this life or in the next. The Church Militant is called to respond by standing united in the call for exposure and justice under the law (religious and civil law). Clergy should feel obligated to address and assure the faithful regarding their opposition to such persons, practices and betrayals within the church on a regular basis, without fear of reprisals by their superiors. The same goes for abortion, same sex marriage and every other practice now accepted as mainstream by some religious in the Church by virtue of the practices of both “omission” (due to avoidance of the topics) and “commission” (by those who have actually committed the offenses andbetrayed their vows and their flocks).

  4. The plea of “His Excellency” Bishop Brennan, that the people of his diocese will view this as “a fair and reasonable resolution,” is a hope detached from reality.

    “His Excellency” Lord Bransfield is obviously at minimum a narcissist (if not a sociopath), as he refuses to admit even a single solitary offense. So the “public apology” has not happened.

    And is it “His Excellency” Bishop Brennan who has cut the required return of funds in half, from the originally planned $800 Thousand, to a mere $400 Thousand? Or was that arranged by the “Congregation for Bishops,” in exchange for Lord Bransfield’s silence on his long-time entanglements with “His Ex-Eminence” Lord McCarrick, both long-time of Washington DC, where “His Excellency” Lord Bransfield served as rector of The a Shrine of the Immaculate Conception?

    And how curious that “His Excellency” Bishop Brennan has let it be known that “His Excellency” Lord Bransfield was “required by the Vatican to make a public apology,” and yet, the Pontiff Francis has even more curiously NOT required “His Ex-Eminence” Lord McCarrick to make a public apology?

    Such required apology for one of “our wayward shepherds,” in the absence of a requirement for public apology by “the great wayward shepherd Lord McCarrick,” speaks volumes about the contempt for the truth by the Vatican and it’s Congregation for Bishops. And the appeal that this “resolution” be viewed as “fair and reasonable” speaks volumes about the contempt for faithful.

    As the prophet Ezekiel spoke: “Thus says The Lord, as I live…I swear I am coming against these shepherds who have pastured themselves…and left my sheep to be scattered and eaten by wild beasts.” Ezekiel 34: 1-11, on Wednesday, 19 Aug 2020, at Holy Mass.

  5. If Brennan is sincerely sorry, we’ll see how his conduct is from this point on. Most likely, he’s just sorry he got caught. How many more “Brennans” have infiltrated the Catholic church? God knows the total, but I’ll bet there are a lot of others covering up the abuse to continue to appear “righteous” for the lay people. A lot of people are the viewing the hierarchy as modern day Pharisees and Sadducees. The Catholic PR people are sure having to put in a lot of overtime!!

  6. It is horrifying that this man who represented the Church as Bishop was able to run amuck for decades before anyone in the Church hierarchy noticed and intervened. I agree with prior comments that he should be criminally charged and laicized. I’ve never heard of any organization that would provide a monthly retirement for someone who remained unrepentant after decades of criminal activity. The “amends” stipulated serve only to put a Band-Aid on long-festering gaping wounds sustained by the faithful in the Archdiocese of Washington and the Diocese of Wheeling. The broken and bleeding hearts of the body of Christ in these Dioceses cry out for justice.

  7. Yes, I have $400,000. in my checking account at the moment. And I am looking forward to collecting $2,225 a month when I retire. What a life. I did it all wrong.

  8. “I am writing to apologize for any scandal or wonderment caused by words or actions attributed to me.”

    Imagine one of us saying that to our Savior: “I’m sorry for any sins attributed to me.”

  9. The crisis will continue until every single Bishop and Cardinal connected to McCarrick and who benefited from his patronage is removed from office.

  10. Another nail in the hierarchy’s ball of wax. How the hell can we trust anybody after years of cover up of clerics that never see the halls of a civil justice? I have watched while my church and my GOP have abandoned me.

    • One of the marks of a true church is proper church discipline.

      catholic church only “apologizes” after they are cornered and caught. Then the P.R. people have to work overtime to clean up their mess. Meanwhile, the unsuspecting sheep are sacrificing their money to enable these false teachers to live in debauchery. Modern day Pharisees and Sadducees.
      “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!
      for you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee, first cleanse the inside of the cup and dish, that the outside of them may be clean also.

      Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you re full of hypocrisy and lawlessness”.

      Matthew 23:25-28

      • There you go again, quoting from a Catholic book. As a Fundamentalist and Evangelical Protestant, I spent time in numerous (dozens) of different “churches” and “para-church” groups. I always found the same thing: good people, flawed people, sinful people, and a few really rotten people. Same thing in the Catholic Church, which has never promised to be free of sinful people, flawed people, and even horrible people–but to be the means, established by Christ, through and in which people can be made truly holy. Everything that you hold dear: the Bible, faith, belief in Christ, love of God, etc., are from the Catholic Church. One day you’ll see it.

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