CHARLESTON, W.Va. —Pope Francis has handed down discipline against former Wheeling-Charleston Catholic Church Bishop Michael Bransfield.
In a brief communication released Friday, the Pope said Bransfield cannot live in the Wheeling-Charleston Diocese. He’s also prohibited from taking part in any Catholic Church services in West Virginia and must make personal amends for people he has harmed.
Bransfield resigned last September. An investigation by the diocese highlighted Bransfield’s lavish spending habits and called into question his conduct.
The diocese announced in March that Bransfield could not practice ministry services within the state.
The Washington Post reported earlier this month parishioners sent letters and emails as early as 2012 warning of Bransfield’s behavior, including misusing finances and abusing his power.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who previously filed a lawsuit against the diocese accusing it of knowingly employing pedophiles and failing to conduct background checks, spoke highly of the Pope’s move on Friday.
“Pope Francis’ call for Bransfield to ‘make personal amends for some of the harm he caused,’ is a first step, but it is just that — only one step — since the public cannot know the full extent of harm caused by Bransfield’s actions until the Diocese fully complies with our subpoena and releases the full Bransfield report,” he said.
“After decades of covering up and concealing the behavior of priests as it relates to sexual abuse, it is time for the Diocese to come clean with what it knows and release the Bransfield report and any other relevant materials. None of the allegations of financial improprieties and sexual abuse may have been revealed if not for our investigation — the public shouldn’t have to wait any longer for transparency.”
The diocese announced on Wednesday CLA LLP will conduct an independent audit of the diocese’ accounts.