CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A new independent auditor will look over the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston’s accounts as criticism continues over allegations against former bishop Michael Bransfield.
CLA LLP will be responsible for conducting the audit, as well as publishing a report on its fundings.
Archbishop William Lori announced the appointment of CLA on Wednesday; the diocese and the Diocesan Finance Council made the decision.
Bransfield, who resigned in September, faces allegations of financial and sexual misconduct; his alleged financial actions include expensive renovations to residences in Wheeling and Charleston as well as cash gifts.
“Anytime that you make a promise that you’re going to be transparent, you’ve got to follow up on it,” said Tim Bishop with the diocese’s public information office. “The archbishop has made it very clear that that’s non-negotiable for him. Transparency must happen, and it must happen as soon as we can make it happen.”
Lay Catholic Voices for Change, a group made up of hundreds of Catholic West Virginians, announced last week a boycott of diocese funds and organizations — not individual parishes — until the diocese hired “a new, independent and trustworthy auditor” and made a timeline for releasing a statement.
Chuck DiSalvo with the group said Wednesday’s announced action was a step in the right direction.
“It’s a basic structural change that will help bring about what we consider to be a healthier distribution of power between the hierarchy and West Virginia Catholics,” he said.
Lay Catholic Voices for Change announced a suspension of the “Not a Dime for the Diocese” campaign, which was set to begin on Saturday.
“We’re gratified to see the reaction, and we’re hoping for that reaction to serve as the foundation of other measures the diocese can take to increase the amount of trust between it and the laity,” DiSalvo noted.
Bishop said while the action was announced Wednesday, work related to change has been happening for a while.
“I think we’re now seeing the fruits of many months of labor from the archbishop as well as the finance council for the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston,” he said.
Lori also said the Diocesan Finance Council is also implementing a review of its policies to ensure its accountability practices are enforced and policies are strengthened.