Vatican bans West Virginia bishop from public ministry over sexual misconduct allegations


The Vatican announced Friday it was banning retired West Virginia Bishop Michael Bransfield from public ministry following allegations of sexual and financial misconduct.

But the Vatican stopped short of defrocking Bransfield.

The sanctions, which included a ban on Bransfield residing in his former diocese, were ordered by Pope Francis and posted on the website for the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston.

{mosads}The Vatican, which conducted an investigation into the allegations against Bransfield after he resigned in 2018, went on to say the former bishop had an “obligation to make personal amends for some of the harm he caused,” adding that the “nature and extent of the amends” would be decided “in consultation with the future Bishop of Wheeling-Charleston.”

The statement detailing the sanctions against Bransfield said the Vatican’s inquiry centered around “allegations of sexual harassment of adults and of financial improprieties.”

Bransfield resigned in September 2018 after an aide unearthed years of sexual and financial misconduct, including allegations he spent millions of dollars on himself and sent expensive gifts to clergy members who accused him of harassment.

Records obtained by The Washington Post show that the West Virginia diocese reimbursed him for those gifts by boosting his compensation to cover the value. As a tax-exempt nonprofit, the diocese is required to use its money only for charitable purposes.

“Bishop Bransfield adopted an extravagant and lavish lifestyle that was in stark contrast to the faithful he served and was for his own personal benefit,” investigators wrote in the final report, according to the Post.

Bransfield spent $2.4 million in church money on travel, much of it personal, and he and several subordinates reportedly also spent an average of nearly $1,000 a month on alcohol.

Tags Catholic Church Pope Francis The Vatican West Virginia Wheeling
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