WHEELING, W.Va. — West Virginia Catholics are once again stunned by news about former Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston Bishop Michael Bransfield.
The Washington Post recently reported that Bransfield took millions of dollars from church-owned Wheeling Hospital for the bishop’s fund.
Mark Switzer, part of the Lay Catholics for Change said on Wednesday’s MetroNews ‘Talkline’ the reaction of church members has been much of the same with the most recent report.
“How does this happen without some kind of checks and balances,” he questioned. “How did the bishop get away with this for 13 years? I think we are all appalled, disheartened and wounded.”
The Post story revealed that in total $21 million in gifts were moved from the hospital to the Bishop’s Fund, a charity created by Bransfield with the stated purpose of helping the residents of the Mountain State, according to tax filings.
This report comes on the heels of Bransfield stepping down in September of last year after allegations of sexual harassment of young priests and financial misuse of the church’s dollars.
Switzer said more structural changes need to be made to ensure something like this never happens again. He said the bishop has too much responsibility and should be shepherding.
“We see the problem, not in the person, but in the structure that allows this kind of extreme abuse of finances and seminaries as a structural problem, not necessarily an individual,” he said.
The Washington Post also reported in September of the lavish spending by Bransfield including penthouses, private jets, and vacations with the church’s money.
Because of the repeated release of scandals, Switzer said giving is down diocese wide, but he understands.
“We certainly understand where people are coming from when they withhold their money,” he said. “That’s why it is imperative that the diocese becomes more transparent and accountable for the money that we do send out.”