WHEELING, W.Va. — The apostolic administrator of the Wheeling-Charleston Diocese released an eight-minute video Friday in connection with the investigation into the behavior of former Bishop Michael Bransfield.
Archbishop William Lori, who said he hoped the video would provide further explanation and perspective, said he made a mistake in judgment by having the names of bishops who received checks from Bransfield removed from the preliminary investigative report.
“At the time I believed it would have been a distraction to select particular individuals for identification who received gifts and it would raise questions why we selected some individuals and not others,” Lori said. “But if I had to do it over again, especially at a time when we’re trying to create greater transparency and accountability, the report would have included the names of those bishops who received gifts, including my own, with some notation that there was no evidence to suggest that those who received gifts reciprocated in any way that was in appropriate.”
Lori received $7,500 of the more than $350,000 that Bransfield gave out over the years. Lori said it mostly came during the holidays. Lori has recently returned the money to the Wheeling-Charleston Diocese. He has asked it be given to Catholic Charities.
Investigative reporters with the Washington Post obtained a copy of the report with the names. Lori didn’t list any names when he summarized the investigative report in a letter to church members earlier this week.
The Post report also said young priests working under Bransfield received smaller financial gifts. None of those names were released.
The investigation showed the Diocese reimbursed Bransfield for the gifts calling it compensation.
Lori said Friday at least the names of the bishops should have been part of the report.
“Transparency also includes admitting when a mistake in judgment has been made. That is certainly the case here,” Lori said.
Lori has yet to release the full investigative report. He made no mention of such a release in Friday’s video. He repeated work that’s being done to tighten down on the finances of the Diocese.
“I’ve been working with members of the finance council of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston to assess lapses in financial controls and to revive good practices that were subverted while putting in place more stringent practices and safeguards to prevent abuses like this from happening again,” Lori said.
He did tell Catholic church members he was praying a new bishop would be appointed soon.
“I pray earnestly for the appointed of a new shepherd for that Diocese and for one who will embody Christ’s spirit of humility, compassion, care and concern and service. Friends this could not happen soon enough,” Lori said.