Baltimore, Md., Mar 11, 2019 / 09:40 am
Archbishop William Lori of Baltimore announced on Monday restrictions on the ministry of both retired West Virginia Bishop Michael Bransfield and retired Bishop Gordon Bennett, S.J.
The restrictions against Bransfield are the result of a months-long preliminary investigation conducted by Lori, into allegations of sexual harassment and misconduct, as well as financial improprieties.
“Pending the assessment of the findings of the Holy See, as Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston, I have directed that Bishop Bransfield is not authorized to exercise any priestly or episcopal ministry either within the Diocese of Wheeling-Charleston or within the Archdiocese of Baltimore,” Lori said in a March 11 press release.
Lori was appointed apostolic administrator of Wheeling-Charleston in September, five days after Bransfield turned 75 and submitted his resignation to the Holy See. Wheeling-Charleston is the only diocese in West Virginia.
Shortly after Bransfield’s resignation, Lori announced that Pope Francis had directed him to open an investigation into claims the bishop had engaged in repeated “sexual harassment of adults.”
Lori said in September that a hotline for the investigation received more than three dozen calls during his first two weeks as apostolic administrator of the diocese.
In the March 11 press release, the Archdiocese of Baltimore said the investigation was led by Archbishop Lori as well as five lay experts, including one who is not Catholic. The team interviewed 40 people, including Bransfield, as part of their investigation. The results have now been sent to the Holy See, where a final decision about Bransfield will be made.
In 2012, Bransfield was accused of covering up sexual misconduct by other priests, as well as molesting a minor. Bransfield denied these allegations, calling them “completely false,” and the alleged victim came forward to say that he was never abused by Bransfield.