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Morrisey: Bransfield punishment ‘only one step’ toward full transparency

CHARLESTON — A papal discipline of the former bishop of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston is “only one step” toward full transparency, the attorney general of West Virginia said.

The Vatican through its consulate in Washington on Friday said Pope Francis disciplined Michael J. Bransfield, who was investigated for financial improprieties and sexual harassment of adults, by prohibiting him from living in the diocese, prohibiting him from participating or presiding at any public celebration of the Liturgy and to make personal amends to be decided in consultation with the future bishop of Wheeling-Charleston.

“The allegations against former bishop Bransfield have caught the attention of nearly everyone in the Catholic faith, including the Pope himself, who has now given disciplinary measures for Bransfield,” Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said.

Morrisey in March sued the diocese over violation of state consumer protection laws by not disclosing to parents that it knowingly employed pedophiles and performed inadequate background checks of employees. The lawsuit was filed in Wood County.

Bransfield resigned in September and Archbishop William E. Lori of Baltimore was appointed by Pope Francis as apostolic administrator of the diocese with the instruction to conduct an investigation of Bransfield. A report of the investigation was forwarded to the Vatican earlier this year and has not been released, however, it was acquired by The Washington Post, which reported the investigation found lavish spending from diocese funds including on personal residences and gifts to other clergy.

The diocese in June announced the resignations and reassignments of three priests under Bransfield who were implicated in the report to the Vatican.

“Pope Francis’ call for Bransfield to ‘make personal amends for some of the harm he caused,’ is a first step, but it is just that — only one step — since the public cannot know the full extent of harm caused by Bransfield’s actions until the diocese fully complies with our subpoena and releases the full Bransfield report,” Morrisey said. “After decades of covering up and concealing the behavior of priests as it relates to sexual abuse, it is time for the diocese to come clean with what it knows and release the Bransfield report and any other relevant materials. None of the allegations of financial improprieties and sexual abuse may have been revealed if not for our investigation. The public shouldn’t have to wait any longer for transparency.”

Jess Mancini can be contacted at jmancini@newsandsentinel.com.

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