WHEELING, W.Va. — Mark Brennan, the Bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston said he has not heard from disgraced former Bishop Michael Bransfield in months since the diocese proposed Bransfield a plan of personal amends for his misconduct spanning more than a decade.
After an order from Pope Francis, the diocese laid out the plan in November following an investigation that concluded Bransfield sexually harassed young priests he oversaw and committed financial improprieties during his time leading the Catholic Church in West Virginia from 2005 to 2018.
The investigation into Bransfield by the diocese concluded last summer. Brennan said he has not heard from Bransfield since the plan of amends was released.
“I have not heard from him in many months and I would not expect to,” Brennan said on Tuesday’s MetroNews ‘Talkline.’ “Whatever he is doing, he is doing and is in a dark hole. We do not know exactly what he is up to, we have not been in communication.”
Brennan said the Pope’s ambassador to the church in the United States has not heard from Bransfield either. Pope Francis and the Holy See at the Vatican required amends by Bransfield following the investigation into his wrongdoing.
The proposed plan included for him to make public apologies to those he harassed and pay $792,638 restitution if he accepted his actions of financial improprieties and sexual harassment and abuse of adults and former students.
In reports detailed in The Washington Post, Bransfield misused millions of dollars of the church’s money such taking millions from church-owned Wheeling Hospital for the bishop’s fund, lavish spending on vacations and millions spent on the bishop’s mansion in Wheeling while the diocese looked the other way with abuse allegations.
The plan also included financial restitution such as a lower pension benefit of $736 a month, which is a significant drop from over $6,000 a month. Bransfield also would receive reduced health care benefits, give up a car that the diocese gave him upon retirement, and reimburse hundreds of thousands of dollars in personal benefits that were not declared for taxes.
If Bransfield, 76, ever accepts the plan, he also would give up the right to be buried within the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston upon his death.
“The Holy See in Rome imposed upon Bishop Bransfield the obligation to make amends for some of his wrongdoing. I wasn’t sent in to demand that, they demanded that. What they asked me to do was work with him and let me tell you, that was not easy to do,” Brennan said.
In meetings leading up to the plan of amends coming up, Brennan said Bransfield would not come up with his own plan and did not admit to his actions. Brennan previously told MetroNews that Bransfield told him he did not know who he needed to apologize to.
On Monday, the diocese announced two third-party reporting systems for people to use about concerns and allegations of abuse and harassment in the diocese.
“The phrase ‘If you see something, say something.’ If you are concerned about something you have to be able to speak up and do it without fear of incrimination and retaliation. That is what the EthicsPoint platform is all about,” Brennan said.
.@DWC1850 Bishop Mark Brennan talks with @HoppyKercheval about the two new third-party reporting systems at the Diocese for concerns and allegations of abuse and harassment, and Michael Bransfield. WATCH: https://t.co/wkudfIRZCB pic.twitter.com/RtabBQCQVx
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) August 4, 2020