WHEELING, W.Va.— In fulfilling the requirement of the Holy Father, Pope Francis, that former Bishop Michael J. Bransfield make amends for “some of the harm” he caused during his tenure and related to actions of sexual harassment of adults and misuse of Diocesan funds for personal benefit, Wheeling-Charleston Bishop Mark E. Brennan has today outlined a detailed “plan of amends” that has been presented to the former bishop for his cooperation.
The plan calls for apologies to those adults whom he was found to have sexually harassed, as well as to the Catholic faithful of the Diocese for the harm he caused and the reputation damage to the Catholic Church in West Virginia. In addition, he is required also to apologize to members of the Chancery staff who were subjected to a culture of intimidation and fear of retribution in performing their responsibilities. The plan further defines significant financial restitution to the Diocese in the amount of $792,638.00 that is being required of former Bishop Bransfield, reflecting the amount determined to have been related purely to personal expenditures and unrelated to the performance of his official duties during his tenure.
The plan for amends has been detailed in a Letter to the Faithful by Bishop Brennan which can be accessed here
The full text is as follows:
My Dear Friends in Christ – In just a few days from now, we will begin our celebration of the Season of Advent – a time of renewed hope and anticipation, a season that culminates in the assurance of a new beginning. It is in this spirit of the Holy Season now upon us that I wish to address lingering matters concerning the former bishop, Michael Bransfield. Since becoming the 9th Bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, I have spent my days traversing this great state to get to know the people whom I am committed to serving and whom the Holy Father has asked me to lead as their pastor and shepherd. I have listened intently to your concerns, to your anger over the deeply troubling behavior and actions of the former bishop that have been widely reported – and to determine how we can begin to move forward in a spirit of unity, support for one another and renewed faith and confidence.
“It’s irresponsible and inaccurate to suggest that Bransfield alone should make reparations. It’s likely that dozens of Catholic officials – in both West Virginia and Pennsylvania – knew of or suspected his abuse but ignored or hid it.
Those individuals – and the institutions that likely still pay them – must be identified, admit their wrongdoing, and take steps to reduce the damage they’ve caused and are still causing by their secrecy and deceit.”