WEST VIRGINIA: Vatican Declines To Defrock Bishop Accused Of Sexual Harassment And Lavish Spending

The Washington Post reports:

The Vatican on Friday announced sanctions against retired West Virginia Bishop Michael Bransfield, but stopped short of defrocking him, after investigating accusations of sexual harassment and financial misconduct.

The sanctions, ordered by Pope Francis and detailed in a letter posted to the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston’s website, prohibits Bransfield from public ministry and from residing in his former West Virginia Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston. Bransfield also has “the obligation to make personal amends for some of the harm he caused,” the nature of which will be decided by the new bishop.

Bransfield resigned in September 2018 when an aide came forward with an inside account detailing years of sexual and financial misconduct, including a claim that Bransfield sought to “purchase influence” by gifting hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash to senior Catholic leaders.

From my initial report on Bransfield:

The leader of the Catholic Church in West Virginia gave cash gifts totaling $350,000 to fellow clergymen, including young priests he is accused of mistreating and more than a dozen cardinals in the United States and at the Vatican, according to church records.

During his 13 years as bishop in West Virginia, one of the poorest states in the nation, Bransfield spent $2.4 million in church money on travel, much of it personal, which included flying in chartered jets and staying in luxury hotels, according to the report.

Bransfield and several subordinates spent an average of nearly $1,000 a month on alcohol, it says. The diocese also spent $4.6 million to renovate the bishop’s residence, which he decorated with daily floral arrangements to the eventual tune of over $180,000.