Disgraced Bishop Michael Bransfield has a four-paragraph message to the faithful: He’s sorry if he offended anyone.
Bransfield was supposed to make public apologies as part of a “plan of amends” for alleged sexual and financial misconduct. He can check the box.
“I am writing to apologize for any scandal or wonderment caused by words or actions attributed to me during my tenure as Bishop of the Wheeling-Charleston Diocese,” Branson began a letter dated August 15.
Bransfield served as bishop of the Wheeling-Catholic diocese from 2005 to 2018, when he retired. A church investigation examined multiple credible allegations of sexual harassment of adults, as well as financial improprieties.
The investigation findings were spotlighted by The Washington Post and other news organizations.
The Post last year published findings from an internal church investigation that found Bransfield spent millions of dollars from the diocese on chartered jets, lavish furnishings at his official residence and nearly 600 cash gifts to fellow clergymen.
An investigative report dated Feb. 21, 2019, detailed how Bransfield allegedly groomed and inappropriately touched young men.
Last year, Wheeling-Charleston Bishop Mark Brennan outlined the penance for Bransfield.
But earlier this month, Brennan said he had not heard from Bransfield at all.
“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 in early August on MetroNews’ “Talkline.”
Today, the diocese acknowledged that Bransfield has sent a letter.
“We have received his letter of apology to the Diocese, which is being made public on our diocesan website, and are aware that some individuals have received a letter from the Bishop,” Brennan stated in his own letter today.
Brennan continued, Bransfield has repaid a required $441,000 for unauthorized benefits received from diocesan resources. “These funds will be added to those already set aside by the sale of his former residence for assistance to victims of abuse,” Brennan wrote, adding that Bransfield has also surrendered a vehicle he was using.
Bransfield will continue to be paid $2,250 per month as his retirement stipend, but will not get other benefits, such as for a secretary or travel. He will continue to receive reduced health insurance benefits.
“This has been an ordeal for all of us,” Brennan stated.
“Now, I hope, we can move forward and not let the past distract us from the urgent work of faith that is so vital to the well-being of so many throughout this State who need the Church’s ministry.”
Bransfield’s brief letter touched on some of the accusations.
“First, during my tenure I was reimbursed for certain expenditures that have been called into question as excessive, and I have been advised that I should reimburse a certain amount of money to the Diocese,” he wrote. “I have now done so even though I believed that such reimbursements to me were proper.
“Second, there have been allegations that by certain words and actions I have caused certain priests and seminarians to feel sexually harassed. Although that was never my intent, if anything I said or did caused others to feel that way, then I am profoundly sorry.”
He concluded, “I hope this letter will help to achieve a kind of reconciliation with the Faithful of the Diocese.”
Then he wrote “Yours in Christ” and scrawled his name.