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Catholic group launches Diocese donation boycott

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A message is being sent to the Catholic Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.

Members of a group calling for accountability from the Diocese in the wake of an independent report detailing alleged financial and sexual misconduct on the part of former Bishop Michael Bransfield are now encouraging the withholding of contributions to the Diocese itself.

The boycott is detailed in a letter sent this week to Rev. William E. Lori, the Archbishop of Baltimore, from those with Lay Catholic Voices for Change, an organization made up of hundreds of Catholics from across West Virginia.

Read the letter here.

Archbishop Lori has served as Wheeling-Charleston Diocese apostolic administrator since Bransfield’s resignation and retirement last September.

This week’s letter to him is a follow-up to one sent in June recommending several actions to “restore trust” in the Diocese which group members said went unanswered.

This latest communication indicated the boycott would continue “until and unless the Diocese hires a new, independent and trustworthy auditor to audit the Diocese’s finances and until and unless the Diocese announces a timeline for releasing an independently audited financial statement, complete with the auditor’s opinion.”

Affected funds included those for the following:

– Catholic Sharing Appeal,
– Priest Retirement Fund,
– Education of Seminarians,
– Diocesan Scholarship Association,
– Catholic Charities of West Virginia.

Excessive spending was among the allegations against Bransfield.

“We cannot presently trust the Diocese that launders tax exempt money for non-tax exempt purposes to properly convey our donations to these good causes,” the letter read.

The campaign does not call for a stop to individual parish donations, though the Diocese taxes those local parishes at nine percent.

There may be ways around that, the Lay Voices letter said.

Starting with the weekend of July 20th and continuing through August 4th, parishioners in all Catholic churches in West Virginia were being asked to place empty white envelopes into collection baskets with a statement: “Not a dime to the Diocese.”

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